Here are the 35 startups that presented at the recent Israel Innovation Marathon event in Tel Aviv.
Israel is a fun country, because it shows strength in a variety of markets — from chips, to security, to web development. The startups in Israel have less of the “me-too” feel you get at some Silicon Valley events.
Separately, yesterday, I published impressions from my first trip to Israel. My conclusion: The country is incredibly successful at starting companies, but it’s still dealing with the “small” problem.
The Innovation event, sponsored by BootCamp Ventures, was held week before last.
The following four companies are the ones that I found the most interesting or provocative:
Tucoola is a social platform that helps get kids ready for school. It enhances cognitive, social, and life skills for preschool children using fun online games (with patents pending). It targets children 2-8+, their parents and teachers. It offers skills analysis, progress reports and other tools to help help progress. The company has some competitors, but mainly in the mathematics space (such as IXL). The company said it is raising $1 million. It was clearly one of the favorites of the investors who were judging the presentations.
Above: Cell Buddy's Yossi Dagan
Cell Buddy wants to let you use your mobile phone and original number when traveling anywhere abroad. I liked the company, because of its ambition, though I heard some people in the audience dismissing it as crazy and unlikely to succeed (its customers have to think ahead to order the product, for example). Here’s how it works: Cell Buddy offers a small case that wraps around your phone, and which contains technology needed to offer its customers carrier-grade, low cost, voice, SMS and Internet service — all while travelling abroad and using their own mobile phone. The wrap-around case contains a modem that communicates with a local SIM card that is managed by Cell Buddy’s servers. The company says the global roaming market is more than $50 billion, and business people — its target market — represent 65 percent of this. The company is still in alpha and has only an early prototype of the device; see the device in the hands of CEO Yossi Dagan in the picture above (the wrapped iPhone is on the left). The company is looking for $900,000, and has already tested the device in Jordan and the U.S.
Above: eMotion bracelet
eMotion targets the games industry with a technology that interacts with players’ moods. The technology detects the player’s excitement and emotional condition using a biofeedback bracelet. The information is then transferred back to the game, helping it adjust the course or skill level. Developers can access the bracelet with an SDK, which will be sold or licensed. The company was founded in 2010, and is seeking $2-5 million. Apparently, Nintendo failed when it tried to do something similar. Sony has called eMotion one of the most innovative companies. The company is negotiations with Sony and Microsoft right now. The company says it will have an advanced prototype by the end of its first year.
ZImperium is a offering a very interesting mobile security product. If you’re on your mobile phone, and you walk into Starbucks, the company’s product can shield you from unwittingly having vulnerable access points such as your social networks hacked. The company has also developed a pretty slick mobile interface for IT administrators to scan security threats on devices under their control. The company was founded late last year by Itzhak Avraham, a well known hacker turned security expert.
Here are the rest of the companies. Many of them are promising. Others need more time to fix their business models or refine their pitches.
AdClarity is a business intelligence software-as-a-service (SaaS) product that provides insight into media campaigns, including how long they’ve run, over what period of time, and at what price. It does this using scraping and other monitoring technology, and provides information to outside parties who otherwise have nothing to do with the campaign. Media buyers, sales managers, affiliates and online advertising and marketing professionals want this information to make better decisions. CEO Orey Gilliam was previously CEO of messaging service ICQ, and head of AOL Messaging after ICQ was acquired by AOL.
AirBase has developed a low-cost air pollution monitoring device ($550) and a proprietary information cloud-based online platform. The device lets you know exactly what elements you’re breathing, keeping tabs on the various pollutants that can affect your health and environment.
BetterView provides better video conversion technology to content owners, helping them move from Standard Definition (SD) to true HD. The company says it uses a “Super-Resolution” discipline for graphic image processing, and that owners of old films and TV programs can use this to improve their offerings. Target customers include major studios, TV broadcasters, video-on-demand and cable firms, IPTV companies, and so on. The product is in beta testing, and the company is looking for $1 million.
Binfire offers a collaboration and project management SaaS software. It boasts things like document sharing, group chat, and event notification. The company argues that its real-time features give it a leg up on competitors like Basecamp and Huddle. However, the company could not articulate to the investors who judged the presentation how it was markedly better than Google Docs. It’s priced beginning at $9.99/month.
Cellarix offers a digital wallet that allows the user to purchase services and products via a mobile phone, incorporating things like pre/post payment, coupons, customers’ clubs, and sales campaigns. The company says its unique proposition is its Mobile Marketplace that connects thousands of subscribers and merchants. It uses SMS and Bluetooth technology, and will embrace near-field communications (NFC) when that technology truly takes off. It focuses on “unbanked” consumers in developing markets.
DiffDoof says it offers enterprises the ability to fuse formal, informal, and social knowledge for achieving their business goals. The company said its product, named ClearMash, enables control of this knowledge. However, I found the pitch somewhat vague, as did some of the investors judging the presentations. The company is trying to boil the ocean, and so our advice was for it to quickly find a focus.
Dropico Mobile develops and distributes a network of iPhone photography apps, providing users a wide set of apps to create and share professional-looking photos with no photo editing knowledge.
Evolero is an online system which empowers event organizers to set up event websites that manage registration and clearing while activating event’s speakers, sponsors, and attendees. A challenge for this company is that there are lot of competitors, and many event organizers don’t have large margins to spend money on management software.
Folloyu is a service that provides continuous browsing between devices as a solution to reduce online content abandonment. It strives to create a seamless environment between different devices.
Friendize.Me is a social service allowing consumers to get personalized trusted advice from friends on purchasing products and services (“Quora for Consumers”).
iAlbums says it wants to bring your music to life by automatically curating interactive magazines for every album and track in your library. iAlbums likes to call itself the Flipboard for music. The company says the spread of popular services like Spotify, YouTube, and iTunes has reduced music to a single line of text in your play list, and that the cover art and wider experience of great music has been lost. It filters, optimizes, and parses all info and media sources. It is raising $1.5 million.
Itweetlive changes the way companies engage on social networks by using conversational, artificial intelligence tools (natural language processing and computational linguistic tools) to enhance one-to-many responses. The team boasts hard-core AI talent. It is building a one-to-many service that is based on a conversational tree, where you develop answers for all kinds of activity in advance, so that conversations can be automatically responded to. [Update: The company just corrected me: "Nothing is being sent in an automated way," said entrepreneur Agmon Porat, "but organizing search results and providing suggested responses means the conversation can move 50 to 100 times faster. We suggest to the community manager a statistically appropriate response, which they can change; and every change teaches the system new responses that will also be measured. Another point that could have been better explained is that there is no need to pre-define responses; the system learns along the way and provides responses according to other user's input."]
Mijits Media offers a light-weight, brandable self-service video player — the mijitTV — that enables anyone to customize it and then run collections of video in any web site. It is an HTML5-wrapped app, targeting small businesses, bloggers, and publishers. Ad-supported, lightly branded product is offered for free. More customization and personalization features come in a premium version. It lets anyone create their own “TV Station,” something that fills a void now that YouTube has stopped playlists as of last July.
Mobiappi is an online platform that lets anyone easily self-create and manage dynamic smartphone apps; uniquely focused on native apps and large distributors. It focuses on B2B distribution – via large distributors.
NoviSign offers a real-time signage broadcast solution to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which enables managing and broadcasting marketing campaigns from the cloud to any IP-based sign worldwide.
NovoSpeech has built a proprietary speech recognition platform. The company says it provides a consistently superior user experience in real-life environments than Apple-owned competitor Siri and Nuance-owned Vlingo (Nuance powers both Siri and Vlingo). Indeed, NovoSpeech cited the recent class-action lawsuit against Siri (stemming from complaints about performance problems) as evidence that Siri just isn’t doing a great job. NovoSpeech says its version does much better in environments where there is background noise, for example. And Siri requires a lot of computation, and so struggles to tough bandwidth environments like tunnels. The company is seeking $500,000 to $2 million.
PickN’Tell is a location-based mobile service which provides customers an uninterrupted shopping experience from store to home, while providing retailers with real time information about their customers. The company offers retailers a “magic mirror,” which lets customers see what they look like in certain clothing, and also an app where users can review usage history and connect with friends.
PlugWallet offers a payment method based on a personal device (key), email and password, which enables users to pay, receive and transfer money over the Internet easily. This lets people buy goods and services online without using their credit card or bank account details. The company is targeting the 1.3 billion people who use the web, but who don’t have credit or don’t want to use their credit card. The company said its clearing commissions will be 1/5 of the current rate. It’s not competing against PayPal, which the company says has a maximum target market of 500 million users. PlugWallet wants to go after vast markets like India and Russia.
Pluralis provides online advertisers with a crowd-sourcing platform for optimizing their website performance. It aims to be the 99 Designs for landing page optimization.
PTech HM lets users diagnose sleep breathing patterns using a common smartphone along with PTech’s application. The app provides graphical reports and other data about your breathing and snoring patterns, and lets doctors and dentists track the data and thus offer better treatment for things like apnea, coughing, rhonchus, and wheezing. The company says the U.S. market for this sort of therapy is $2 billion and it’s only 10 percent tapped so far. There’s a $5 billion market worldwide. The company has raised $300,000 and is looking for another $3 million.
Ridefrog is a location-based marketplace for ridesharing that leverages social networks such as Facebook, offering relevant rides with like-minded people to create a positive social experience on the road. For example, it lets you contact find other people who are going to the same event you are going to. The company said competitors Zimride and RideJoy are both start-ups, but are not focused on events, and are not very social.
Ringbow offers a pretty cool ring device, worn on the index finger, that acts as a touch-screen accessory — it lets you touch devices, and adds layers of new touch functionality and accessibility. It also lets you bypass having to separately pull down menus, access secondary menus, etc. It focuses on gaming, but will move to other support forms of entertainment, as well as vehicle, medical, security and military applications. Judges were somewhat skeptical, however, that a separate device like this could take off in a big way.
ShopZooky is social shopping application that allows local merchants and shoppers to communicate and interact with each other to share and discover products people buy every day at their nearby stores. The company will launch in cities like NY, Atlanta and SF, and is co-founded by Tareq Maayah, who co-founded the G.ho.st, the web-based operating system.
Skiller says it offers the only multi-player mobile social gaming platform, allowing game developers to increase user engagement and revenues. It says it already operates in more than 200 countries with more than 3 million users. If offers things like cross-operating system support, in-app billing, a cross-games virtual currency, community management and analytics tools. Business model: in-app billing, virtual currency and advertising.
Sygen says it is the “Mint” for the European market: an anonymous social financial network that puts users in control of their personal finances. It has launched in Israel, and will launch in Europe next year.
SyncFu provides online retailers and users with a way to create, manage, distribute & track their own group buying deals. Online vendors can easily install SyncFu’s group buying widget. SyncFu wins by sharing in the revenue generated by fulfilled deals.
Touchoo provides parents and children with a growing selection of high-quality, well categorized, educationally-sound and professionally reviewed interactive children’s book-apps.
Tygor Traffic Solutions says it has developed innovative technology to provide over 50 percent time improvement in metropolitan urban transportation as measured at peak congestion hours. It will provide a cloud-based in-vehicle application to connect drivers to the urban network to allow them to optimize their traffic routes.
VeriShow lets you use video-conferencing, live chat, and screen-sharing to improve things like website sales and customer service. It lets you share, edit and annotate content such as documents, images, video clips, co-browse, complete forms together, accept e-signatures and more. It targets the financial, healthcare, consulting and retail sectors.
Widgex provides a system for “do it your self website building” specifically designed for right to left Arabic sites.
W.S.C Sports Technologies developed an interactive video platform for sports, allowing sports media-rights-owners to enrich the possibilities and exploit their video rights; fans can control, filter, watch, share personalized highlights.