- Middle East
- Ben Jakob
Tel Aviv has long been the epicenter of the so-called Startup Nation. Home to hundreds of hi-tech companies and scores of hubs and accelerators, it has arguably the highest app-per-capita rate in the world. Here are the ten startups you need to know about this year.
Windward – Digital Masters of the Sea
Imagine if you knew where every ship in the world was, at any time, as well as exactly what cargo it was carrying. That’s the vision behind Windward—a maritime data company based in Tel Aviv that offers real-time information on everything taking place within our great seas. Founded in 2010 by two former Israeli navy officers, Windward’s platform allows clients to create their own maps and track the information they need. It is already being used by different governments to deal with everything from smuggling to fishing issues. With over 90% of world’s trade dependent on maritime shipping, it’s easy to understand why big names like former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus and Startup Nation Co-author Dan Senor would want in.
Intuition Robotics – Grandma’s Robot
Though films and literature have long envisaged humanoid robots capable of following our every command, as technology develops the robots we’re actually creating seem to be less human in look but more humane in attitude. Though stylized more like a sleek designer lamp, Intuition Robotics’s ElliQ robot could not be more humane. Billed as an “active aging companion,” this smart bot uses “natural communication” to help your grandma or grandpa stay safe and up-to-date even when they’re alone at home.
This proactive little friend takes the initiative, offering seniors online content like ebooks and videos, and helps them keep in touch with family through platforms like Facebook—all without them using anything but their voice. But it’s not just confined to digital fun and games—ElliQ will also recommend physical activities to keep your loved one healthy and will even remind them to take medication on time. It has recently completed a successful round of fundraising, securing support from the likes of robot powerhouse iRobot, making it well poised to take the market of personal robots by storm.
WOO – Dream Job Tech
For young and talented techies, looking for your dream job can sometimes mean losing your real job. It’s hard to gauge your worth and map your options when even sending a CV can get you fired. That’s where WOO comes in: whether it’s more money or a relocation you’re after, WOO lets you put together a list of criteria and see what the market has to offer while you remain completely anonymous. With a high response rate and serious clients (ranging from juggernauts like Microsoft to field leaders like OutBrain), WOO makes you smarter about yourself, which is an invaluable service in an already volatile market.
Keepod – New Life Into Old PCs
Like its namesake, Keepod (which means porcupine in Hebrew) is strong relative to its size. Just a slim USB stick, Keepod allows you to turn every computer into your own. Running a special version of Google’s Android operating system, just plug in the black drive and your desktop appears—a steal for only $7 a pop.
This smart technology can also breathe new life into your old PC or notebook, with a newer $14 version able to resurrect computers made as early as 2007. Not your classic business, Keepod identifies as a “social enterprise” and is dedicated to improving digital access for all the world. Even in Africa, Keepod brings computers to those who can afford them.
Upright – Sit Up, Sit Straight
Notice how your back arches as you slouch towards the screen? This digitally induced posture is, in the long run, bad for you. But remembering to sit up straight up when you no longer live with your mom is close to impossible, and can lead to some serious back pains. Luckily, Upright will shock you straight, literally. Using a (gentle) vibration, this wearable tech helps to keep you upright as well as helping to train your body to remember to do so even when you’re not strapped up. Partnering with businesses and medical centers alike, this is both healthy and bound to make you more productive.
Jolt – TED for Offices
As most tech companies know, keeping your employees motivated and up-to-date does not always fit in with the work schedule, but Jolt could change that. Mixing together talks by professionals and live video conference technology, Jolt allows teams to engage with field leaders without leaving the comfort of the office. By headhunting the best and the brightest tech professionals, the startup offers once-a-month video talks on a wide array of topics, ensuring your team remains engaged and informed.
For those who just can’t find good music on the internet, you’re in luck—Rotation, a Tel Aviv-based start up now beginning to gain speed, has just the streaming service you need. Aimed at anyone who can’t stand YouTube or Soundcloud, Rotation is the closest thing to losing yourself in the record stores of yesteryear, digging through piles of rare vinyls that simply no one but the coolest DJs have ever heard of. With an exclusive hand-picked catalog, Rotation claims to have the best online archive of rare music from across the world, 20% of which have never been online before. With super high quality and an ingenious search and filter function, Rotation allows you to take a musical journey and discover something completely different in a world of repetition.
While the online world has allowed everyone to post their own words, creating high-quality videos remains a fickle and costly undertaking. Tel Aviv-based startup Showbox.com wants to change that and “democratize” video creation by giving companies a platform to produce the content they need together with their followers and fans.
With features like customized graphic themes, a virtual studio, and even an online green screen technology, Showbox’s unique platform makes visual storytelling easy and at a fraction of the cost by harnessing user-generated content.
Lemonade – Sweetening Insurance
“If you ask the entrepreneurs what they want to do next it’s usually not ‘I want to do insurance,’” Israeli-startup Lemonade’s founder recently said. There’s little doubt that he’s wrong, but that’s exactly what makes Lemonade so smart. Tapping into a market as lucrative as it is unsexy, this Tel Aviv firm is making lemonade from lemons, using AI to revolutionize the field of insurance. Instead of long documents written in legalese, Lemonade offers simplicity and efficiency, banking on an ever-growing customer dissatisfaction from classic insurers. It is already raking in clients and profits, and has recently raised funds from the likes of GV (of Google Venture fame).
VATbox – Monetizing Taxation Mayhem
Like Lemonade, VATbox offers a straightforward solution to a convoluted problem: value-added tax returns. When visiting or doing business in a foreign country, you generally do not have to pay VAT. However, getting your money back is a massive headache, as the long line of disgruntled people waiting at the airport will tell you. It bills itself as the only tech firm focusing on “simplifying the laborious VAT recovery process” and has recently raised another $20 million. Monetizing the mayhem of indirect taxation has helped VATBox get some big returns for some big names, working with the likes of Nike, Dell, and Amazon, and it says its service will seriously increase your bottom line. Who doesn’t want that?