Israel Innovation 2.0

Inside Israeli Technology

Browsing Posts published by Lisa Damast


Volkswagon Group, the world’s third largest car manufacturer is looking to Israel for cutting-edge technologies for its cars. Here’s a look at four technologies Volkswagon should consider. Image via Mike Babcock.

Ynet is reporting that the Volkswagon Group, made up of SEAT, Skoda and Lamborghini and others, has hired an Israeli company founded by former minister Yossi Beilin to assist it in its search for Israeli tech companies to work with.

According to the article, Volkswagon, which is the third largest car manufacturer in the world after General Motors and Toyota, is presumably looking at Israeli companies that can help it develop an electric car: “One of the areas in which the technology industries in Israel could aid The Volkswagen Group is in developing the electric car. On Tuesday, Volkswagen announced plans to launch sites around the world to develop electric cars, at an investment of five billion euro.”

Here’s four Israeli technologies that can help Volkswagon with its electric car and other green efforts: continue reading…

The Jerusalem Post, the main daily English Israeli newspaper, has implemented SemantiNet’s Headup application and is currently running a pilot with it. At first glance, Headup, which has been added to this blog too, seems to be potentially another annoying widget that will underline certain keywords (that may or may not be relevant) and include a pop up when the word is clicked on.

Offering three different linking options – tabs, snippet, and link – SemantiNet takes the idea of information gathering to a different level though. The tab option, includes, when it pops up, a description of the word or phrase from Wikipedia, along with other tabs for news related to that word from that site and other sites, photos, videos, Tweets and anything else that is relevant to the link, giving viewers the chance to see the word in real-time.


The snippet includes a description, a picture and related articles, while the link option is just a link to a page. Not just any page though. It is a page that gathers all the information that was in the tab option and displays it on one page (see below). When the settings are set to link, viewers who would click on a highlighted word are taken to a page on the Headup domain with all that information, plus a way to see what friends are interested in via Facebook Connect and an advertisement on the side.

Semantinet Headup Topic Page

In the case of the JPost, the topic pages stay on the JPost domain. Called the JPostPedia, the JPost’s intention is to create the ultimate source of information related to Israel and the Middle East using these pages.

The “authoritative source of information on a wide variety of topics relating to Israel and the Middle East” as Shai Tsur of Giza Venture Capital, which is invested in the company, puts it in his post on this. Such a source signifies a change in the content generation, aggregation and distribution game.

By utilizing Headup, news sites provide their readers with a more complete context as well as an easy way to consume additional content. By creating topic pages, publishers can essentially unearth archived material that users would not generally think to look for and present it to their users within a particular and more complete context. Users get more information about the articles they are reading and sites get more pageviews and provide a better user experience.”

It also gives publishers more pages to monetize. In the case of blogs, such as this one, it can offer visitors a chance to find/discover additional relevant content on this site and other sites. In addition, there is an option to have publisher content syndicated.

All this related to the topic pages leads to the question, except for wikipedia, are most wikis about to become obsolete? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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During the week of July 11, 2010, Fring, a mobile VoIP network that lets users make video calls over 3G and other things, unveiled its new app for the iPhone 4 and set off a heated debate with Skype. Motorized bicycling is taking off in Israel and Conduit is continuing to report big numbers. For these stories and more, see this week’s headlines below.

1. Israel is catching on to motorized bikes as the next best urban solution

2. MST becomes 1st Israeli technology firm to connect to grid

3. BGU receives first US – Israel energy independence grant for light water reactor research

4. Vocaltec shares shoot up 150% after merger agreement with magicJack maker Ymax

5. Ormat Tech raising NIS 600m in unrated bonds

Information Technology
6. Self-healing software is on its way

7. Fring Unveils 3G Video Calls

8. Conduit Reports Big Numbers: 250,000 App Publishers, 170 Million Users

9. Tufin Technologies Wins International Stevie(R) Award in Seventh Annual International Business Awards(SM)

10. Promisec: Securing Networks from Within

11. Modu 1 modular phone hits UK, touchscreen Modu T to come: Android Modu-like?

12. Record number of tourists visit Israel


IDF treats Haitian girl

The Israel Defense Forces’s ongoing efforts to embrace the Internet continues. A few days before IDF representatives explained to 140Conf participants how the army used social media to update the public about its efforts in Haiti and to help save lives there, the army announced that it created and is using a website modeled after eBay for the purpose of selling and buying surplus equipment.

The new site, called The Arena, is the army’s new effort to keep better track of inventory while potentially saving itself millions of shekels on “duplicate and wasteful equipment”. It is also partially a response to the poor capabilities it had in moving around equipment and materials that soldiers needed during the Lebanon War in 2006.

According to Bloomberg, Brigadier-General Maran Prozenfer, financial adviser to the chief of staff, explained,

“Every unit in the Israel Defense Forces will be able to put up for sale any equipment that it doesn’t need, so that other units can see and bid on it.”

Prozenfer expects the new site to significantly reduce equipment costs, which according to him currently accounts for nearly 40 percent of the army’s NIS 50 billion shekel ($12.9 billion) annual budget.


Image via IDF Spokesperson Blog.

During the week of July 4, 2010, Venrock, the venture capital arm of the Rockefeller family, raised $350 million. The Silicon Valley-based fund has invested in several Israeli companies over the years including Check Point, Bhive Ltd., P-cube, and Imperva. IBM Israel and the EU will be partnering open source and cloud technologies to improve the efficiency of EU governments and Amdocs and OpTier are partnering to make OpTier’s business transaction management (BTM) more widely available. For these stories and more, see this week’s headlines below.

1. Evogene Castor Oil Demonstrates Suitability as Biojet Feedstock

2. TaKaDu has VCs buzzing about smart water monitoring

Investment and Economy
3. Venrock showcases VC trend, raises small $350M fund

4. Crisis Shmisis: Q2 2010 Closes with 40 deals and more than $400 million raised in Israel (Deal Summary)

5. Soho OS Lands $1M, Opens Business Management Suite To All Small Businesses

Information Technology
6. IBM, EU partner on open source projects

7. Amdocs Teams Up with OpTier

8. MiniFrame Introduces New SoftXpand Product for the Consumer Market

9. Palestinians, Israelis Come Together Through Entrepreneurship

10. Empeeric To Unleash Social Media Box For Sites

11. Israeli Army Takes EBay as Inspiration to Cut Inventory Waste

12. State of Israel? There’s an app for that

Yesterday Jeff Pulver’s second Tel Aviv 140conf took place. Conference speakers (“characters”) discussed how they’re using social media in real-time for different things from fashion and food to promoting Israel abroad. Speakers included Kfir Pravda, Yosi Taguri, Yoni Bloch and CEO Bob Rosenschein.

Special thanks to Niv Calderon and Roniet Berci who took these photos and let me use some for this video. Check out more of their photos from the conference on Facebook.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has launched an Israel MFA app for the iPhone.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the app (which is in English and free) can be used to,

“Get up-to-date information directly from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs right to your iPhone. Access the Information Department of the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s app in order to receive the latest official news from the website, newsroom, featured videos, and photos of current events going on in Israel and the Middle East.”

It was developed by the Israel Ministry of Finance and is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, and provides up-to-date information directly from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to your iPhone, Pod or Pad.

It is available for download in the Apple app store.

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RIP First Else and the Israeli tech industry?

Janvest-IsraelThe investment gap in Israel that has been left open by VCs in recent years is about to be partially filled with the recent launch of JANVEST.

JANVEST is an investment fund that pools together the money of angel investors in the United States and invests in Israeli startups with it. Founded by Danny Yatom, former Director of the Mossad, the fund seeks to fill the investment gap left by VC funds who have for the most part turned away from seed and early stage startups.

Unlike other companies currently investing in Israeli startups, JANVEST’s business model will enable a broader range of US investors to participate and help build deeper and stronger ties between US investors and the Israeli economy.

Starting out with a fund of $5 million, JANVEST plans to invest in 10 companies in six sectors: Information Technology, Alternative Energy, Software, Security, Internet and Telecommunications.

In an interview with Managing Partner Brian Rosenzweig, Rosenzweig explained that the first three things the company will look at in startups seeking funding are: the founders, the quality of the technology and market trends.

“We first invest in people. We look at the management team, the integrity of the founders, their track record, along with their vision and enthusiasm,” Rosenzweig said.

The company is currently raising its first round and will start investing in Israeli companies in the next few months. Along with Rosenzweig, JANVEST is lead by Managing Partner and CEO Felix Zilberstein and Managing Partner Gerry Sapir.

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During the past week, Emblaze announced that it is ending its production and marketing of the First Else. First Else was intended to be the first Linux-based smartphone device offered by wireless carriers but Emblaze couldn’t find a partner that met its demands. Meanwhile, IDB invested NIS 8 million in the Jewish-Arab incubator NGT and BrightSource Energy’s planned solar plant in the Mojave Desert is expected to be the world’s most efficient. For these stories and more, see this week’s headlines below.

1. Israeli IDE gets 2nd contract with China power plant

2. Is Ivanpah the World’s Most Efficient Solar Plant?

3. Photovoltaic Power Plants in Israel – a reality?

4. IDB to invest NIS 8M in Jewish-Arab incubator

5. Israeli Group Signs Tech Investment Deal With Chinese City

Information Technology
6. RIP: Emblaze kills First Else

7. Cotendo Selected as 2010 Red Herring North America Top 100 Winner

8. Web startups tap into brainpower (Fixya)

9. Intel may use Comsys to boost handset comeback

10. SanDisk CEO Eli Harari proves he’s no flash in the pan

11. Best Places to Work Academia 2010

Emblaze Mobile, a subsidiary of Emblaze Ltd., announced yesterday that it was ending its efforts to bring the First Else, its linux-based smartphone, to market.

The announcement had been expected for quite a few months, especially when it failed to meet its Q2 goal of partnering with a wireless carrier. The phone, which debuted in London last November, was hailed for its user-interface which made it easy to access all of the phones functions and features with just the scroll of the thumb. The quality of the device, from the phone to the camera and everything else, wowed those who got to play with it. In fact, it was named the First Else, because it wasn’t just a smartphone, it was something else.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about its failure is that it was a completely Israeli device. All the hardware and software was developed in Israel. Had it taken off, it had the potential to create lots of jobs in different sectors and to revive Israel’s long-lost manufacturing industry. There’s so many things it could have done for Israel’s tech sector and the Israeli economy overall. On a personal level, I was looking forward to the day when I could sport the First Else and show it off to friends and acquaintances here and abroad.

Instead, it’s failure is a reminder of the poor condition Israel’s tech industry is in. When I first read Emblaze’s announcement yesterday, I, of course, went on to Twitter and shared the article. I noticed afterward that a few friends had already shared the news with me, and one’s response was “add it to the list of magic tricks coming from Eli Reifman’s sleeves. Now you see it, now you don’t.”

Eli Reifman, the current President of Emblaze, co-founded the company in 1994, and is the one mainly responsible for growing it into a publicly traded company. At its height, the company came close to breaking into the FTSE 100. The company’s glory days didn’t last long though due to many factors.

One reason for its most recent failure with the Else is the approach the company took with developing it. In 2009, Emblaze shareholders tried to take control away from Reifman in protest of the Monolith project that he envisioned would “transform the world of mobile phones” when it launched in 2010. While a visionary with seemingly the right ideas, Reifman’s role in the management and execution of the project was less than stellar.

Unfortunately this isn’t the only such story and is connected to the performance of the rest of the industry. For all the success that Israel has had in innovation on the startup level and for multinationals (R&D for them), it is not sustainable. All of the conferences that I attended this past May and June reflected that in the discussions that took place. The solution is to try to grow big FTSE 100 companies but to do so requires good managers who can transform their startups into large companies and then lead these companies. Emblaze’s story reflects the current and past failures of the industry, and, if things stay the same,  the future of the Israeli tech industry.