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Israeli innovation met American business know-how (and money) today at the Israel Mobile Showcase. Fifteen of Israel’s best and brightest new mobile startups had the chance to strut their stuff in front of an audience of American investors and tech industry leaders at the Microsoft Campus in Mountain View.
Sponsored by the California Israel Chamber of Commerce (CICC), the showcase was part of a three-day CICC blitz of the Silicon Valley. Participants were selected from a highly competitive pool of Israel’s estimated 3,000 startups (that’s a lot of tech companies for a country with fewer people that the state of Virginia).
Israel is fast emerging as of the world’s hottest tech markets. The country has more engineers and sees more scientific articles published per capita than any other country in the world (Israel has 135 engineers per 10,000 people; the US has 85). Experts speculate that the strong math and science education and mandatory military service, which puts young people in charge of highly specialized technology, are two contributing factors.
CICC Executive Director Shuly Galili says entrepreneurship is simply in the DNA of the Israeli people. She also cites another advantage: From day one, Israeli developers must think global. “They have absolutely no market at home,” she said. “The country is too small. So when they get started building a business, they are already thinking about how this product is going to work in the United States.”
Here is a sampling of the companies that stood out at the Thursday showcase.
fellowup: This is a service just about anyone who isn’t Dustin Hoffman in Rainman can use. The ultimate automated, personalized executive assistant service remembers all your names, dates and events so you don’t have to. A web-extension memory service running through a private dashboard for PC and mobile, it automatically syncs personal connections in one place. But the secret sauce is the algorithm that filters through the noise of all your social networks to let you know who and what is important every day. The more you use it, the smarter it gets. The service notifies and suggests different ways to leverage connections, from congratulating a colleague when he publishes a new article to calling a client in China during the Chinese New Year. It also pulls relevant data from the web on any contact you’re looking for.
RingBow: This elicited one of the biggest rounds of applause from the crowd. Named one of Microsoft Israel’s most promising startups in 2010, Ringbow has created a universal “task ring” that links our fingers and our phones, adding mouse-button and other functionality but maintaining a touchscreen’s ease of use. Consumers can use the ring to play games, draw, and operate apps without ever touching the screen. While they are primarily targeting the gaming market, the company says it sees this product in use by everyone from kids to the business community. And they aren’t just going after tech geeks. The company is pitching a high-fashion line of rings as well as those branded to cartoon characters.
DudaMobile: Duda Mobile makes small- to medium-size business websites mobile. The platform allows businesses to enter their web addresses into the system and customize and publish mobile-friendly sites. Businesses choose a template and can then tweak the page, changing logo sizes, colors and photos and adding widgets such as click to call. The company says it has an existing network of 75,000 website and has deals with AT&T, webs.com and HP logworks. Still in beta, it plans to open a self-service model in July. The company didn’t release its pricing info but says hosting is somewhere along the lines of “a couple dollars a month.” The company has already secured Series A funding and is renting office space from 500 Startups.
Zooz: Everyone and their mother is trying to capitalize on the burgeoning mobile payments market, but few have figured out how to do it in a non-clunky, secure way. Zooz is an end-to-end software solution for point-of-sale mobile payments that incorporates mobile payments, customer loyalty , club memberships, coupons and loyalty points in one space. The company stores all data and payment details on a dedicated central server using a secret (patent pending) encryption technology it claims is hacker proof. The company is currently targeting POS system operators and already operates in retail and restaurant chains in Israel.