Sherwin Pomerantz

The Start-Up Nation Changes Direction

Israel, since the beginning of the high-tech revolution in the early 90s, has rightly earned the title of “Start-Up Nation” given that it is one of the top five centers of technical creativity in the world.  I say the top five because rankings vary but clearly outside of the United States, Israel has more start-ups in absolute terms than any country in the world, bar none.  With approximately 3,000 of them extant at any given moment, most other country’s stats pale by comparison.

But, of late, there has been a perceptible change in the makeup of the technology coming out of Israel.  That change can be described as a switch from developing products to developing features and enhancements.

For example, in the past the things for which Israel was famous and which everyone acknowledged as transformational products included:

  • SanDisk’s flash drive that enables people to store tens of gigabytes of data on a USB-accessible key.
  • Computer chips that allowed Intel to dramatically increase the storage and operational capabilities of laptops without increasing the heat output of the processor.
  • Development of the stent that allows patients with clogged arteries to have them opened and kept open permanently.
  • Mobileye’s collision avoidance technology (using sophisticated vision algorithms) that ‘interprets’ a scene in real-time and provides drivers with an immediate evaluation based on its analysis. Automakers are now adopting this technology into their rapidly expanding safety feature applications known as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).
  • These are just a few examples of the tech product development that went on for years in Israel and contributed to Israel’s start-up nation reputation.

    But lately, as we meet young startups seeking funding and strategic partners, we are noticing that the focus has turned to developing features and enhancements rather than specific products.  Some current examples:

    • SCREEMO helps retailers to engage with their customers in real-time and to create a call to action by using fun, engaging games that run on digital screens and attract customers to interact using their smartphones. This enables retailers to drive up sales, create a social buzz or promote their products and services.
    • Rail Safe has developed an infra-red based technology that provides locomotive engineers with the ability to “see” up to two kilometers down the track, even in the dark and independent of any negative weather conditions such as rain, snow, sandstorms, and fog. For example, the technology would have averted the head-on collision of two commuter trains in Germany last week that killed so many people.
    • TriDiNetworkshas developed an innovative cloud based platform for wireless M2M (Machine-to-Machine) and IoT (Internet of Things) networks.  The platform enables unprecedented low total cost of ownership and quick ROI based on patented algorithms, methods, tools and products.  It is applicable for lighting and HVAC control, smart meters, home automation, smart appliances and wearable devices.

    In each of these cases the developers have created a feature or enhancement that makes current activities either safer, more efficient or more profitable.

    For those who worry about whether Israel as start-up nation is at risk of losing its “Mojo,” these new directions emanating from local techies clearly illustrate that the creative community here is well ahead of the curve and fully understands where the new opportunities are in technological development.  This response augurs well in favor of Israel’s continued superiority as the start-up nation.

    About the Author
    Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 32 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, regional entities and Invest Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Former Chairperson of the Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and a Board Member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.