Drones that deliver your lunch on the golf course, cellphones that manage your lives (but safeguard your privacy), solar energy managers, some of the most successful technology in the world has come out of Israel, and the country continues to produce high-tech solutions that disrupt entire industries.
Officially named global startup leader by the OECD, Israel has unquestionably built a high-tech innovation eco-system that operates with relatively little support from the country’s government. More than 300 global technology companies operate in this country of 9 million people and funding for new tech reached US$7 billion in 2018.
The secrets to Israel’s high-tech success: Engineers there get fantastic hands-on experience while doing their stint in the army, Israeli IT entrepreneur Ofer Tziperman told Gli Occhi della Guerra in an interview. And the ability to combine the strengths of tiny, innovative startups with high-tech giants is another.
But let’s talk about bras. That’s right, women’s bras.
In 2011, a young Israeli software developer named Orit Hashay set out to found a company that would use high-tech to make it possible for women to find the perfect bra (for male readers, female friends assure me that this is one of the great challenges of modern day existence).
Hashay devised a solution involving crowdsourcing, combined with artificial intelligence, and convinced an investor to lend her $350,000 to get started. Isreali VC firm FirstTime was also an early supporter.
“I founded Brayola using Israeli tech to start up in New York City,” Hashay told Gli Occhi della Guerra in an interview. “We wanted to get going in the US, because the warehouse system for fashion there functioned well with our logistics.”
The idea for Brayola was, and still is, to ask women to talk about their favorite bras, and to share that experience with other women. “I was looking for a bra myself, and a friend told me about one she really liked, and that a friend of hers really liked. So I thought, why can’t women find all this information in one place?”
Thanks to a specialised algorithm and artificial intelligence, women can easily source the bra they’ve always wanted, as the technology works with their requests to find very similar profiles among the five million Brayola has online.
Today, Brayola earns more than US$30 million per year thanks to the five million bras for which it has data online, along with 200 brands in partnership.
Even selling a product for women, Hashay says that it was difficult to get the overwhelmingly male high-tech crowd to take her seriously. But, having won them over, she’s ready to expand Brayola to new markets. “We are going to expand to Europe soon, and Asia too eventually. Europe is a bit of a challenge, because of the variety of sizes and styles involved, but we are working on it – we have a lot of experience to draw on.”
High-tech solutions to real-life problems are what Israeli tech is all about, and recent startup SolarEdge addresses some of the most basic issues involving energy.
“SolarEdge started with five guys who met in the Israeli army, where we learned a lot about technology,” explains Lior Handelsman,VP of Marketing and Product Strategy and Founder at SolarEdge, in an interview with Gli Occhi della Guerra.
When they got out of the army, the group decided to work in the solar energy industry, which had begun a period of intensive growth. “It struck us, at the time, that solar energy was being produced all over the world, but it was rarely being managed proactively – it would either be sold to the grid, or, when the grid didn’t want it, it was wasted.”
Want to have solar energy power almost everything in your home? The SolarEdge devices manage the power that comes from the photovoltaic cells on your roof so that you can use the energy when you need it – to power your air conditioning, charge your electric car, or whatever.
“Our smart energy technology also controls how locally produced solar energy can be made most useful to the grid. For example, if one part of the grid needs more power, we can transfer it there from a local solar source – this makes using solar energy cheaper and more versatile to the power utility,” Handelsmann explains.
Starting in 2006, SolarEdge was listed on Nasdaq in 2015 – today the company earns close to $250 million per year.
“And there’s no stopping us – anywhere the sun shines is our market, Handelsmann points out. Recently, the company acquired the Umbertide, Italy-based S.M.R.E SpA, which has mobility solutions that can work with electric batteries for cars.
Speaking of mobility, did you ever get hungry while on the golf course, and wish you could find a snack on the 10th hole? Flytrex, a drone specialist, will fly the snack to you there with its specialised drone.
Calling itself “the Fedex of drone deliveries,” Flytrex is disrupting logistics, because drones can get packages to local destinations without getting stuck in traffic.
Started by Israeli entrepreneur Yariv Bash, Flytrex can deliver anywhere – it avoids landings by lowering packages to the ground with a cable.
Bash is determined to revolutionise logistics as drones are environmentally friendly as well.
Another industry being changed forever is that of the use of private data by companies selling goods and services. With nearly all providers now using data to personalise sales, there has been much controversy over the protection of personal data.
Israeli startup Anagog has invented a way for companies to use your personal data decoupled from your personal identity. “Companies can learn all about you from your mobilee telephone – when you go to the office, where you park, whether you play golf or go to the gym, etc.” explains Anagog CEO Ofer Tziperman in an interview with Gli Occhi della Guerra.
“But, using our JedAI app, the company can access your data while it cannot ever access your identity. What’s more, you can choose the service providers with which you prefer to share your data,” Tziperman says.
Automobile firms were among the first to see value in the idea, as they could interpret consumer trends based on personal data without raising privacy issues. Mercedes and Porsche are now investors, and many other companies are in discussions with Tziperman.
Finally, did you ever want to eat like an astronaut? Israel’s Strauss Group thinks you should try it.
A nutritional cube made from freeze-dried and pressed vegetables, fruits, and grains, the Astro cube will probably never make Michelin chefs happy. But you can get everything you need for the day in a quick serving.
Skeptics may say that they can perfectly well get through their day without any of these high-tech wonders. But the technology is changing the world around us – it’s only a matter of time until you find Made in Israel in your living room.