Israel Innovation 2.0

Inside Israeli Technology

Browsing Posts tagged Industry pulse

Tomorrow kicks off the first of the three-day Eilat International Renewable Energy Conference and Exhibition that takes place in the the resort town of Eilat, in Israel’s southern tip.

Two companies that I’ll be paying close attention to during the conference are the solar energy companies, BrightSource Energy and Aora. Brightsource recently inked the largest solar energy deal ever that will help provide Southern California with more energy, while Aora just raised $5 million in funding.

Here is a little more about each company according to their websites.

brightsourcelogoBrightSource: BrightSource Energy, Inc., based in Oakland, California and Jerusalem, Israel, designs and builds large scale solar plants that deliver low-cost solar energy in the form of steam and/or electricity, at prices competitive with fossil fuels, to industrial and utility customers worldwide. Its Jerusalem subsidary, Luz II, Ltd., provides product development and engineering, project engineering and management, and solar field manufacturing and supply services.

aoralogoAORA: Formerly known as EDIG Solar, AORA is an Israeli solar thermal company that is based on research and development by Prof. Jacob Karni of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel. The company’s technology offers solutions for providing smaller quantities of solar thermal that are closer to residential communities. 

techaviv_logoAfter watching some of the livestream of the TechAviv founder-investor’s meetup in Herziliyya last month and posting  about it, I had the opportunity to attend the monthly meetup last Thursday and listen in person to Israeli startups, SundaySky, FlyScreen and HYPick present their technologies. 

After SundaySky co-founder Yaniv Axen spoke about the company’s impressive dynamic video production technology, Gilad de Vries of Carmel Ventures, which recently led SundaySky’s $8 million A round, talked about what he looks for when considering funding a company. It can be assumed that de Vries and his colleagues applied these same things when Carmel Ventures agreed to lead news and blog recommendation engine, Outbrain’s $12 million B round that was announced this week.  

Here is a video of de Vries’ presentation at TechAviv last week.

Globes reported yesterday that Google Israel, which has been behind Google Trends and YouTube Annotations among other features, will be restructuring its presence in Israel and creating a Google – Israel R&D Center.

According to the article, the new center will combine Google’s R&D operations in Tel Aviv and Haifa but will still allow them to function as two separate offices, though the longterm fate of the Haifa is questionable. It will also add data analysis and search to its responsibilities.

The article drew my attention because it indirectly raises the questions:

  • How long will the Google -Israel R&D Center continue to function in two separate locations? (It sort of addresses it – “At this stage we are keeping the existing situation.”)
  • Will it be hiring or firing based on this? (Google Israel currently only has openings in Tel Aviv)
  • Given Microsoft Israel’s and EMC’s recent outsourcing and recruiting programs in Israel, will Google follow with its own program and incentives?

Expanding on the last question, in a post a few weeks ago about Microsoft Israel’s efforts, some of the benefits I listed of implementing such programs included: additional exposure, new products and a large pool of potential future employees. Of course, there’s also the cost-efficiency advantage. It seems now would be the perfect time for Google Israel to implement its own program. 

What do you think?

sni-2

During the week of January 18, 2009, business was back to normal for better and for worse. Announcements were made that Israel is planning the largest desal plant and Varonis and SAManage received funding. On the other end, the Israel Venture Capital Research Center released VC funding numbers for the fourth quarter of 2008 that were expectedly very low and promising social search engine, Delver announced that unless it receives more funding or gets acquired in the next few weeks it will cease its operations. For these and the rest of the 18 Israel-related headlines from the week of January 18, check below. 

Cleantech

1. Israel plans largest desal plant in $513M deal

2. Cleantech Expert: “In Financial Crisis Context, Israeli Solar Energy Companies Could be Shining Stars”

Investments and Economy

3. Aviv VC raises half of what it hoped

4. EMC leads $15m round for Varonis

5. Global crisis hits local venture capital industry

6. Nokia, Intel Slump Torpedoes Israel Economy as Rockets Grounded 

7. SAManage Secures Series A Funding from Xenia Venture Capital

Information Technology

8. BPM VIEWPOINT: The Opportunity in Unstructured Business Process Management (ActionBase)

9. Cordys Process Factorytrade; Wins Best Cloud Management Solution

10. Leading Industry Analyst Positions Magic Software in Three Quadrant Reports on Application Infrastructure

11. ClickSoftware launches new system for customer interaction management

12. Kontera and Advertising

Telecom

13. Which companies will Nortel take down in its crash?

14. Skuku Embeds GIPS VoiceEngine

15. AudioCodes Announces Availability of VoIPerfect and High Definition VoIP on MIPS Technologies’ Cores

Miscellaneous

16. Michigan, Israeli companies share business growth ideas

17. Peres invites new envoys to join science and tech R&D council

18. Social Search Engine Delver On Death Watch

Though 2008 was clearly a tough year for companies and venture capital funds in Israel and worldwide, several announcements this week have given a better picture of the extent of its impact on Israel’s Silicon Wadi.

Globes reported this past week that Aviv Venture Capital raised $52 million for its Aviv II Fund last month but had originally set out to raise $100 million. It was also announced that social search technology startup, Delver, will be ceasing its operations in the next 30 days unless it raises necessary funds or gets sold.

In addition to these, research on venture capital funding in the fourth quarter of 2008 from the Israel Venture Capital Research Center shows how the global recession affected fundraising in Israel overall. According to a Jerusalem Post article on the research, in the fourth quarter, 109 Israeli hi-tech companies raised $394m. which was 34% below the $600m. raised in the previous quarter and 22% below the $503m. raised in the fourth quarter of 2007.

It’s not just on the funding side. Nortel’s recent bankruptcy filing has raised questions about what toll it will have on Israeli companies that were financially intertwined with it through business contracts and partnerships. Israeli companies expected to take a hit include AudioCodes and TTI and possibly Radvision and Alveron.

Things might continue to be gloomy and hard in 2009, but it won’t be the end of innovation and entrepreneurship in Israel. The layoffs that have been a result of the economic crisis are producing a new crop of entrepreneurs and startups that will have better skills to succeed in the long term using less money should they survive the downturn.

sni-2

During the week of January 11, 2009, the war in Gaza escalated and news about Israeli tech companies continued. The biggest news of the week was that multi-touch technology company, N-Trig raised $24 million in its latest round of funding, the majority coming from Microsoft. Better Place announced its partnership to bring electric cars to Canada while Aladdin agreed to be acquired after months of talks with Vector Capital. Other information security companies, Trusteer and Commtouch also made headlines with important security threat findings. For links to these stories and more, check out the complete 12 Israel-related headlines from the week of January 11, 2009 below. 

Cleantech

1. Better Place Partners with Ontario to Bring ‘Car 2.0’ Electric Car Infrastructure to Canada

2. Eilat to host major international energy conference

Investments and M&A

3. Information security provider Aladdin is to be acquired by Vector Capital for $160 million

4. Microsoft leads $24m round for touch screen co N-trig

Information Technology

5. Phishing attack uses pop-up message on bank sites

6. Shunra Software Joins Microsoft Visual Studio Industry Partners Program 

7. IDV Solutions and Eternix Announce Technology Integration for Innovative Geospatial Solutions for the Defense & Intelligence Industry

8. RiT Technologies launches Paladin environment and security management suite

9. User Generated Content Sites Breeding Ground for New Internet Security Threats Says Commtouch Trend Report 

N-Trig

10. N-trig Secures $24 Million of New Funding to Fuel Hands-on computing™ Growth in Global PC Market

11. Microsoft Betting Big on ‘Touch’

12. CyberLink and N-Trig Introduce Next-Generation Multi-Touch Enabled Applications at CES

Over 120 people attended the “Greening of Jerusalem,” cleantech forum that took place at the Jewish Agency yesterday. The event was sponsored by the Jerusalem Business Networking Forum (which I’m a co-organizer of), the CleanIsrael Network, the Renewable Energy Association, the Movement for Strengthening Jerusalem and the Ministry of Industry and Trade and featured presentations by local government officials, including Naomi Tsur, and representatives from Jerusalem-based cleantech companies, including The Patent Factory and 3G Solar.

The event came at the suggestion of David Waimann, Founder and CEO of Cequesta Water, a wasterwater company, and was intended to build momentum among government officials and the general public to be more active in reviving Jerusalem’s business environment through cleantech and to inspire Jerusalemites to take a more active role in practicing cleantech to make it the cleantech center.

Naomi Tsur and panel

Naomi Tsur and panel

Speaking after the government representatives and before the cleantech comanies was Glen Schwaber, Partner at Israel Cleantech Ventures. Schwaber gave an overview of Israel’s cleantech history (dating back to early agricultural innovations after the State was established) and mentioned some of the most successful companies to date as well as company funding from the VC point of view. 

The event was partially in Hebrew and partially in English.

In this video David Waimann explains his company, Cequesta Water’s technology:

Earlier this week Daniel Cohen of Gemini Israel Funds posted on his blog his predictions for Israel’s tech community in 2009. Topics he made predictions for included cleantech, Google making acquitisions, Web 2.0 companies being acquired and that “there is a world beyond Atlanta/Southeast, New York and Silicon Valley, specifically in Asia.” 

Asia might gain ground in 2009 in terms of, according to him, “companies starting in Israel and marketing to Asia directly without having anything to do with the US market,” but Atlanta/Southeast, New York, and most parts of California (particularly San Diego) will still continue to thrive. My prediction is that Silicon Valley, in specific, will probably lose ground.

Regarding the Atlanta/Southeast region, towards the end of 2008, the AICC-Southeast region created a blog for posting the latest news related to any of its companies and partnerships. To get an idea of what can be expected this year in that region and why it will still thrive, here are titles of some blog entries about Israeli companies and the Southeast region from the end of November to the end of December 2008:  

What do you think? Will the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce continue to help Israel thrive, stay neutral or lose ground in 2009?

techaviv_logoTechAviv, a global group for hi-tech Israeli entrepreneurs, had its first meeting of 2009 at the Inter-Disciplinary College (IDC) in Herzilyya last night. During the event, which was only open to Israeli entrepreneurs, representatives from Outbrain, 2Pad and Boxee spoke about their companies. The event was streamed live over the Internet on the TechAviv website. Watching part of the event online, the most interesting thing for me was noticing that out of all who attended the event, there was not one woman in the audience.

Sadly, this isn’t very surprising. Of the hundreds of Israeli companies that I have become familiar with in the past year and a half, the only company that I can think of that was started by a woman is eSnips (founded by Yael Elish and her then-husband). This isn’t just in Israel though and it’s not limited to just women starting companies in technology.

I started planning this entry back in November after Charlene Li, the former Forrester Senior Analyst, posted on her blog about the shortage of women speakers at technology industry events. (In it she mentioned that though there are few women in tech to begin with, there are fewer women who can make the time commitments required for conferences due to familial responsibility.)

My intention at the time was to answer the questions, “Where are the women?” “Why aren’t women in hi-tech?” and “Are women less innovative than men?” Questions that were also brought up today on Twitter in an interesting discussion between @TechAviv (Yaron Samid), @OurielOhayon, @israluv (Ahuvah Berger) and others about the lack of female entrepreneurs in Israel in relation to last night’s event.

The following are a few ideas based on what I found when I did preliminary research a few months ago on these topics.

Regarding the last question first, statistically it would certainly appear that men are more innovative than women. Go to any conference (in the United States) on technology and there will be few women speakers and only a few more in the audience. The biggest female entrepreneur in tech that comes to my mind is Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, while when I think of men, several come to mind (Steve Jobs for example). In Israel, though Yael Elish is the only female tech entrepreneur I can think of, two of the biggest bloggers/consultants I can think of in the Web 2.0 space, are female: Ayelet Noff of Blonde 2.0 and Orli Yakuel of Go2Web2.

 

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

 

In an online search I conducted on major scientific breakthroughs of the past 200 years that were made by women, About.com seemed to have the best list that was solely of female inventors. It includes:

  • Randice-Lisa Altschul (invented the world’s first disposable cell phone)
  • Mary Anderson (invented the windshield wiper)
  • Marie Curie (discovered radium and furthered x-ray technology)
  • Ada Lovelace (wrote a scientific paper in 1843 that anticipated the development of computer software artificial intelligence and computer music)
  • Krisztina Holly (Co-invented the telephony software called Visual Voice) 
  • and Bette Nesmith Graham (invented liquid paper, also known as White-Out™).

In addition, the CS (computer science) department at Yale University has a list of women who contributed to CS that includes:

  • Alexandra Illmer Forsythe (During the 1960′s and 1970′s, she co-authored a series of textbooks on computer science, published by Wiley & Sons and Academic Press, including the first textbook written in CS.)
  • Erna Schneider Hoover (She invented a computerized switching system for telephone traffic, to replace existing hard-wired, mechanical switching equipment. For this ground-breaking achievement — the principles of which are still used today — she was awarded one of the first software patents ever issued in 1971 ). 

From these lists, it is clear that women too have invented things throughout the past 200 years, but not in significant numbers and none at the level of fame or being as prolific as men such as Thomas Edison, Eli Whitney or Henry Ford.

 

Ford Model T

Ford Model T

 

Since the 1990s, psychologists have conducted several research studies on what the reasons are for why there are fewer female innovators than male ones.

One reason psychologists have found is that women perform lower in math when conscious of gender stereotypes and get turned off that way. Another study explains that young women tend to avoid careers in math, science and engineering “because they view science as a solitary rather than a social occupation” and uninteresting. Instead many are in public relations, education and psychology. The main theory that has been presented in recent years is based on the amount of confidence given by parents and teachers in these areas- “the self-confidence instilled by parents and teachers is more important for young girls learning math and science than their initial interest.”

Now that there is proof that males and females have equal cognitive abilities for math, incentives and programs are more actively being put in place to change female perceptions and stimulate more interest among them in math and science. Through these there should be changes seen in the near future of a new generation of new generation female inventors/entrepreneurs. 

Regarding what can be done in Israel, going back to the TechAviv and the Twitter discussion, Yaron Samid suggested that Israeli entrepreneurs start an Israeli female entrepreneur group. I think going beyond that group, a national program or wider organization should be created that nurtures women’s interest in science from at least high school age and provides resources to them and older women.

What do you think should be done in Israel?

Update: January 11, 2009 – Joel Katz has notified me that in a video taken by Oren Todoros of SeoVice at TechAviv last week, there are at least two women. You can view the video on seovice.com.  

sni-2

Much attention in the news was paid to Israel’s operation in Gaza during the week of December 28, 2009, including to online technology related to it. Different Israeli government branches, from the IDF to Israeli Consulates in the U.S., began to leverage popular social media tools, such as blogs, YouTube and Twitter, to explain the purpose of Israel’s operation and its objectives, while supporters around the world used the same mediums and others, such as Facebook, to show their support for Israel and its troops. During the week it also became clear that the conflict wouldn’t be bound to physical operations as several Israeli sites became the targets of cyberterrorism.

Despite the conflict, there was plenty of news of unrelated innovations coming from Israel. Funds were raised and contracts were signed in Israel’s IT and cleantech sectors and announcements of foreign companies opening R&D offices were made. Not all the news that wasn’t related to the conflict was good though. For all these stories and more, check out this week’s special edition of Israel-related headlines from the week of December 28, 2008 below.

Israel-Hamas Conflict (Technology side)

1. Israeli news site down, blames cyber attack

2. Muslim hackers attack Israeli websites as Gaza strikes continue

3. Israel Backed by Army of Cyber-Soldiers

4. War sickens me, but I stand with Israel (HelpUsWin*)

5. The Big War You Never Hear Much About

6. Israeli Consulate to tweet about Gaza war

Cleantech

7. Israel’s SolarEdge Raises $23M to Crush Shady Solar

8. BrightSource Energy signs contract with Siemens for solar-powered generator

Investments and deals

9. 2009: Year of the survival of the fittest

10. Bluephoenix Announces Multi-Million Dollar Modernization Contract With a Large Scandinavian Bank

11. Intrinsyc Signs Soleus Licensing Agreement With ODM for Industrial PDA and LBS Phone
12. Oy Vey! Israeli VCs Exceptionally Gloomy on 2009

Information Technology

13. HCL opens office in Israel

14. Invention: Software research assistant

15. EMC continues to move forward

Miscellaneous

16. The American Idol for blogging superstars

17. One to Watch: Tvinci

18. Israeli’s documentary is drawing wide acclaim

19. MyHeritage Makes Family History Research Easier With Launch Of Family Tree Builder 3

20. Crude oil rises after Israeli attacks on Gaza roil Middle East

Israel Innovation 2.0 content related to Israel-Hamas conflict

21. Direct from the streets of Gaza… and Israel. How TechCrunch UK’s post could have read regarding UGC

22. Cyberterrorism against Israeli and American sites: How to Stay Secure

Video from IDF Spokeperson’s Unit TouTube Channel (Capt. Benjamin Rutland on the ground forces entering Gaza on 3 Jan. 2009)

*HelpUsWin is an online grassroots campaign helping to ensure that international coverage of the Campaign Against Hamas is balanced. To learn more about it or how you can become involved, please check out the HelpUsWin website.