Israel has always been on the cutting edge of technology across all industries: Waze, Iron Dome, the Uzi, and electric cars (the latter suffering a recent setback). One of the reasons for why Israel is on the cutting edge is because they design products out of necessity (they are constantly threatened by war, so they need to think on their feet and quickliy) not just because it’s a great product to have. Ok, maybe CupsTelAviv isn’t exactly an app out of necessity for anyone except the overly caffeinated yet who in America isn’t already looking to get a deal on the three or four Starbucks they drink every day?
These apps are just the start of the trend showcasing how Israel is the Silicon Valley of the Middle East. Democratic country, disciplined work force, entrepreneurial mindsets, and great beaches. If you don’t have millions to invest in Israel like Warren Buffett (his words – “Israel’s the best place to invest because of it’s people.”), at least you can download their apps!
4 Israeli apps every college student should know about
Hot on the heels of Waze, four ideas from the Middle East hub of innovation.
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Getting stuck behind miles of cars is no fun. Israeli iPhone app Waze, acquired last week by Google, uses crowdsourcing to reduce wait time by providing users with up-to-the-minute traffic data.
The blockbuster deal — Google paid more than $1 billion — marks what may be a turning point for tech companies based in Israel, the first country outside of the United States in which Warren Buffet invested.
Here are four applications whose creators hail from the Middle East hub of innovation that college students need to know about.
1. Parko : What Waze did for traffic, Parko does for parking. Co-founder Tomer Neuner used to drive upward of 40 minutes daily searching for an empty spot in Tel Aviv, annoyed that there wasn’t a better way to find his car a temporary home.
Neuner, originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, transformed his frustration into innovation, developing an application to connect drivers looking for parking spaces with drivers vacating them. Smartphone location technology senses when users are about to leave their curbside spots and rewards them with prizes including free coffee, gas and cash.
The app’s Tel Aviv pilot program has had wide-scale adoption; almost 10% of the 700k drivers signing up in just a few months.
Why should college students care? Implementing pilot programs on U.S. campuses with major parking problems is a high priority.
Neuner says the large North American target market is appealing, and “within a year, we’ll be there for sure.” Parko plans to partner with leading navigation apps to give users a full “door-to-door” experience.
2. CupsTelAviv: CupsTelAviv allows users to drink unlimited coffee from local cafes for the price of a 169-NIS (about $45) monthly subscription fee. Customers may order any type of coffee-based drink — whipped cream, hazelnut shavings and caramel drippings are all fair game — but they must wait 30 minutes between cups.
CEO Alon Ezer, who has said he is “currently the biggest consumer of coffee in Tel Aviv,” pays for every cup bought, passing along part of his quantity discount to users. Ezer has thousands of subscribers in Tel Aviv and plans to expand to the U.S. eventually, where 41% of adults ages 18-24 drink coffee daily.
Coffee every half-hour might be just the fuel college students need halfway through all-nighters.
3. Invi: Helping Google put Israel’s tech prowess on the map is Ashton Kutcher, who last month contributed to Invi’s latest round of $3 million in funding.
Invi is an Android-based (coming soon to iPhone) mobile message app that attempts to “reinvent texting” with features such as the ability to watch YouTube videos while sending text messages. A major challenge for Israeli entrepreneurs looking to break into the U.S. market — including Invi’s founders — is understanding how the young audience acts.
“Without being exposed to what a U.S. consumer is like, they oftentimes miss the opportunity to really create something the consumer wants,” says Shuly Galili, co-founder of Israeli start-up incubator UpWest Labs in Palo Alto. Invi, one UpWest’s 100-plus alumni, took her advice to heart, visiting California high schools and colleges to observe how youth interacted with mobile devices.
“U.S. consumers commute differently, share differently and view privacy differently” than their Israeli counterparts, Galili says.
It is precisely for that reason that all of her companies — recruitment for a sixth round of entrepreneurs is underway — undergo an extended three-month U.S. stay. Each start-up aims to establish an American satellite to its Israeli office. Invi is quickly becoming a success story, and the perfect media-sharing tool for SMS-loving students.
4. Veed.me: As unemployment rates push 10% for recent college graduates who studied the arts, this start-up — not technically an app — fills an important niche.
Veed.me was founded by Israeli film graduates who recognized that it was difficult to make a living as videographers, even in a $5 billion video production market experiencing annual growth of 25%. [HKB1] They created an online “Video Creation Marketplace” where businesses hire videographers for projects. Through a system of requesting videos and submitting proposals, firms find talent — often recent graduates — to produce film content.
According to a recent study by Georgetown’s Public Policy Institute, “Hard Times,” the median salary for recent graduates who majored in film, video and the photographic arts was $30,000 per year. Aspiring producers need not fret: Although Veed.me is in the “alpha” stage, which refers to early development and testing, it may prevent future artists from starving.
Veed.me’s customers include Duracell, Google Tel Aviv and Waze.
Daniel Blas is a summer 2013 Collegiate Correspondent.
Henry Isaacs Marketing | Isaac Hyman, Founder