Along with Silicon Valley and Cambridge, UK, Israel is one of the world’s leading technology centres and one in which disruptive start-ups are becoming increasingly common. Tackling big markets with big ideas, these start-ups are finding new ways to do things, solve problems and improve current solutions. Here we look at five up-and-coming start-ups, and examine why they are disrupting their markets so effectively.

Along with Silicon Valley and Cambridge, UK, Israel is one of the world’s leading technology centres and one in which disruptive start-ups are becoming increasingly common. Tackling big markets with big ideas, these start-ups are finding new ways to do things, solve problems and improve current solutions. Here we look at five up-and-coming start-ups, and examine why they are disrupting their markets so effectively.

 

Waze

What is it?

Waze is a community-driven GPS navigation application, downloadable free of charge, that provides users with up-to-date driving directions. The maps are generated by the applications’ users, and are therefore constantly updated, along with road names, traffic jams, speed traps, etc. Users can fix errors in the maps to ensure the information remains relevant in spite of changes to infrastructure.
Recent additions to the software include real-time fuel prices, aggregated from prices submitted by the user base, as well as community-curated points of interest.

Who’s behind it?

Israeli tech startup Waze Mobile created the application and the software that powers it. The company was founded in 2008 by Uri Levine, Ehud Shabtai and Amir Shinar. Originally called Linqmap, the company now employs 80 people, mostly in Israel but with a small team in Palo Alto, California.
Waze raised $25m in funding in 2010, along with an additional $30m in 2011 following plans to monetize the app and expand into additional markets.

Why it’s disruptive?

Creating maps is an extremely expensive business. Because of this, the number of companies in the world who actually own global maps can be counted on one hand, because only they have the time and resources available to create them. Waze makes the process far more accurate, constantly updated, and essentially free. The consumer builds the maps as they travel; updates are also made in real time, giving users of the app an up-to-date picture of the road network. Routes suggested by Waze are much more intuitive; they take into account current driving conditions, as reported by other users. And because the data is provided free-of-charge by consumers, Waze’s costs are inordinately lower than if they had to create this data for themselves.

A ‘perfect’ future

Waze builds a real-time, constantly updated map of the world’s land, air, sea and rail traffic, then builds a user-friendly front-end so that consumers can type where they need to be and where they want to go and be offered the best possible route, taking into account current driving conditions, accidents, political instability, social events, etc.

 

Jinni

What is it?

Jinni is a recommendation system built on a proprietary taste-and-mood engine, providing users with far more control over how movies are suggested. By building a ‘genome’ of the user, Jinni provides a personalised experience based on thousands of individual genes, each of which is related to a very distinct plot, style, actor, or sub-genre. Natural language processing helps to update and improve the genome over time, improving the recommendations made.

Who’s behind it?

Jinni was founded by long-time business executive Yosi Glick, and research and development leader Izik Ben-Zaken. It is based in Israel.

Why it’s disruptive?

Recommendation systems are typically stilted affairs, providing recommendations based on very basic information such as genre or actor. So, if you watch a Woody Harrelson movie, the software will likely suggest another. By giving semantic meaning to natural language, e.g. ‘dark but rewarding plot,’ Jinni delves deeper into what we actually look for in our entertainment, and begins to pinpoint precisely what we feel like watching depending on who we’re with, and how we’re feeling at the time.

Adding semantic meaning that can be interpreted by a computer is a new field; finding a way to build a usable and data-driven ‘genome’ of a person that can be used to power recommendations is a very tough task. Now that Jinni are making progress and learning more about the challenges and benefits that come with semantic-driven data processing, they are in a good place to make even more headway in this exciting new industry.

A ‘perfect’ future

Jinni branch out from entertainment and start powering product recommendations – many of the world’s top companies build Jinni’s systems into their customer databases. Jinni pack additional data into the genomes to build a ‘virtual’ mind that has a personality that mirrors the consumer. As neuroscience matures, these genomes become more and more complex; when virtual reality arrives, these now highly-complex genomes are converted into avatars which allow consumers to enter virtual reality and experience a world very like their own life.

 

VivoText

What is it?

VivoText have developed a text-to-speech programme that massively improves on the tell-tale signs of human emotion (intonation, pitch, emphasis) that are lacking from the current crop of software programmes. By inferring the meaning of the text, VivoText allows the computer voice to say the sentence as it’s meant to be read by a human being, and also offers editing tools that allow the user to change the emotional inflection manually.

Who’s behind it?

VivoText was founded in 2008 and is a portfolio company based at Mofet B’Yehuda Technology Accelerator in Israel. The team is made up of experts in linguistics, software engineering and signal processing, among other disciplines. Gershon Silbert, an internationally-acclaimed concert pianist, serves as the company’s current CEO.

Why it’s disruptive?

Text-to-speech programmes are no doubt advanced, but they have historically focused on clarity, often at the expense of sounding robotic and stilted. Because of this, their use has been fairly limited to business and accessibility as they lacked the emotion necessary to replace humans in many markets. VivoText has bridged this gap, opening up massive possibility for resource-saving changes in markets such as audio books, personalised greetings, online training modules and more.

A ‘perfect’ future

VivoText perfect their algorithm so that the computer voice is indistinguishable from human beings. As robotic technology improves, all new models are embedded with VivoText’s technology that allows them to sound more life-like to human beings, paving the way for more enjoyable and harmonious relations between robots and humans (with mechanisms built in, of course, to avoid the uncanny valley).

 

Outbrain

What is it?

Outbrain is a content recommendation system that helps consumers find the most relevant content online, while providing a platform that allows brands to connect directly with their target audience. The Outbrain network includes over 70,000 sites, including 250 premium sites, such as Sky News. Currently generating over 40 billion content recommendations per month, Outbrain is building a sizeable database of top content and developing new ways to get the most important content in front of people who will respond most strongly to it.

Who’s behind it?

The company was formed in 2006 by Yaron Galai and Ori Lahav, and is headquartered in New York, with offices throughout the US, Europe and Israel.

Why it’s disruptive?

In a world where consumers are drowning among a never-ending sea of new content, publishers are panicked as they try to find new ways to connect their content with its audience. It’s very difficult to get noticed, and click-through rates are down. Outbrain is disruptive because the technology behind it, and the way they choose content for audiences, works extremely well. The widget boasts click-through rates of between three and 12 percent. Furthermore, the software is free to install on sites.

The practice of showing adverts online is much less effective than it used to be; as companies try to find new ways to engage with their audience and push relevant information to them, the ability to join a content distribution network with proven results will be a very tempting proposition.

A ‘perfect’ future

Outbrain powers content recommendations across the globe; the technology used to select which content is most appropriate is rolled out to new markets, such as consumer products and B2B services. Companies spend less time marketing and more time on converting leads that Outbrain has identified. Online, consumers spend far less time searching and much more time jumping to relevant information based on a trusted ‘tour guide’ that sends them on a personalised journey through the World Wide Web.

 

Cell Buddy

What is it?

Cell Buddy makes use of something called virtual SIM technology to deliver massive savings on mobile roaming charges – when abroad, a virtual connection is created between a person’s phone and a bank of SIM cards located in Cell Buddy centres so that all cellular activities are routed via the SIM card, which will typically be a local SIM card hooked up to an inexpensive network. This means the phone does not need to pay expensive roaming charges, instead functioning like a normal local handset.

Who’s behind it?

Formed in 2010, Cell Buddy has a management team made up of experienced managers from companies including Microsoft, Infineon, Comverse Network Systems and Cisco.

Why it’s disruptive?

Roaming technologies are not expensive per se, but piggybacking on other carriers, and legacy agreements and systems, make it expensive. Until the advent of mobile virtual operation i.e. Cell Buddy’s virtual link, no service existed that could reduce the costs of roaming without switching out handset/SIM cards etc and causing downtime to the consumer.

According to Cell Buddy, they will be the first mobile virtual global operator (MVGO) in the world once their system is up and running. With prices far lower than traditional roaming charges, and a streamlined user experience where cellular activities can continue without having to make any physical changes, the roaming industry will need to move quickly to stop Cell Buddy from rapidly gaining market share.

A ‘perfect’ future

Cell Buddy bring their global network online, benefiting from economies of scale to deliver the cheapest cellular charges across the world. Devices, with proprietary, lightning fast wireless links to the Cell Buddy network, allow consumers to browse the internet, talk, send texts and buy products from anywhere on Earth. Cell Buddy then expands the network to include broadband, providing fibre optic speeds direct to mobile phones.

 

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