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August 11, 2015

#TelAviv is where the money is. The #startupnation became the exit nation in 2014, with Israeli tech sales and IPOs hitting $15 billion



WIRED's 100 Hottest European Startups 2015: Tel Aviv is where the money is when it comes to an emerging startup culture (Wired UK)

Europe's hottest startups 2015: Tel Aviv

                       
Corbis
Oliver Franklin-WallisOliver Franklin-Wallis

Assistant Editor, WIRED
This article was first published in the September 2015 issue of WIRED magazine. Be the first to read WIRED's articles in print before they're posted online, and get your hands on loads of additional content by subscribing online
Tel Aviv is where the money is. The startup nation became the exit nation in 2014, with Israeli tech sales and IPOs hitting $15 billion (£9.5bn) according to analysis by PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
Expect 2015 to be another huge year, with $910 million raised in one January week alone and Outbrain and IronSource preparing IPOs. "What sets Israel and Tel Aviv apart is its openness," says Naomi Krieger Carmy, director of the British embassy's UK-Israel Tech Hub. "You can meet almost anyone, and everyone knows and talks to -- and about -- each other."
The next step, says Windward CEO Ami Daniel, is scaling up. "Entrepreneurs will focus not only on innovative technologies," he says, "but on building disruptive companies out of Israel."
Corbis

Consumer Physics

11 Galgalei Haplada Street, 
Herzliya 46773
Consumer Physics wants to build a molecular map of the world. Founded by Dror Sharon and Damian Goldring in 2011, it makes the $250 USB-sized SCiO molecular spectrometer that can identify the chemical make-up of objects. It raised $2.7m on Kickstarter, and says it will be ready to ship its first SCiO this autumn, with 1,000 developers signed up.

PlayBuzz

37 Menachem Begin Street, 
Tel Aviv 65220
PlayBuzz is an app and tool for creating listicles and personality quizzes. Founded in 2013 by Shaul Olmert -- son of former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert -- the company now claims 80 million unique users per month. In March 2015, it announced $16m in funding to expand, and has hired 60 staff. It has also opened an office in New York.

StoreDot

16 Menachem Begin Street, 
Ramat Gan 5270003
Spun out of Tel Aviv University in 2012, StoreDot has developed a smartphone battery that can be charged in one minute. It has raised $42m in Series B funding from private investors to develop the battery, which uses bio-organic compounds to create ultra-fast charge storage. It is now working on partnering with smartphone makers and plans a 2016 launch.

Windward

2 Har Sinai Street, 
Tel Aviv 65816
Founded in 2010 by former Israeli Navy officers, Windward analyses commercial satellite feeds and maritime data to track the location and contents of every major seafaring vessel in the world. The company secured £7m in funding led by Horizon Ventures in April 2014. Its aim: real-time updates and insights for maritime markets and intelligence agencies.

Moovit

3 Pinhas Sapir Street, 
Ness Ziona 74063
Moovit's transport app provides real-time public navigation on buses, trains and tubes. Using a combination of public-data feeds and feedback from users, it claims to provide travel times more accurately than its rivals. Founded in 2011, the company had 15 million users worldwide and, in January 2015, raised $50m from investors including Nokia Growth Partners and BMW.

SimilarWeb

23 Menachem Begin Street, 
Tel Aviv 6618356
SimilarWeb is a tool that lets you analyse the performance of websites and apps. It provides traffic rankings and insights by analysing a pool of data from various sources. In November 2014, it raised $15 million in series D funding with plans to expand into app analytics and to open a New York office, having already expanded to London and Dubai.

Zebra Medical Vision

Shefayim Commercial Centre 
Kibbutz Shfayim
Zebra Medical teaches computers to diagnose diseases. Founded in 2014 by Eyal Gura, Eyal Toledano and Elad Benjamin, the startup has partnered with Israeli imaging centres and universities worldwide to build a database of images. "We have millions of diagnosed MRIs, CT scans and X-Rays," says Gura. In April it secured $8m in funding led by Khosla Ventures.

August 10, 2015

Global spending on #BigData is expected to reach $125 billion in 2015 @bobsguidedotcom

This from Bobsguide.com

Some of the hottest big data start-ups of 2015

If predictions are correct, global spending on big data will reach $125 billion in 2015 and so far this year there have been a number of product launches from start-ups that are proving to be extremely hot within the fast growing big data and analytics space.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe predicts that data growth will be 350 per cent higher in 2019 than it is in 2015, which means that this area is only going to get bigger and firms require technology solutions to help them effectively deal with and make predictions from such large volumes of data.

1. Big data and analytics company, Kyvos Insights, launched with a bang at the end of June 2015 with their solution named Kyvos and has already been named one of TRN Magazine’s coolest start-ups of the year during their tech mid-year review. The team behind Kyvos, which enables corporates to derive insights from any sized data, is made up of veterans from Yahoo!, Impetus and Intellicus Technologies.

2. Named by Analytics India Magazine as one of India’s start-ups to watch in 2015, Infinite Analytics is a predictive marketing and analytics company which was co-founded in 2012 by two MIT graduates and has its genesis in a class taught by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Based in Boston and Mumbai, the team is made up of MIT graduates and advisors in the form of Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web) and Deb Roy (Chief Media Scientist at Twitter).

3. Another one of TRN Magazine’s coolest big data start-ups of the year is real-time stream data management company, Confluent. Founded in September 2014 by the creators of Apache Kafka, Confluent enables companies to gain business value from live data and at the beginning of July the company hit headlines for raising $24 million in Series B funding.

4. Medio is a B2B analytics provider based in Seattle. Acquired by Nokia’s mapping, navigation and intelligence venture HERE in June this year, Medio’s predictive analytics capabilities will be used to strengthen HERE’s platform and ability “to deliver more personal experiences in cars, on mobile devices and to businesses,” said Michael Halbherr, CEO, HERE.

5. According to CB Insights, banks are also investing heavily in the area of big data analysis and Goldman Sachs invested in a number of start-ups in this area. Two notable start-ups which gained investments from the bank last year are small US-based financial start-up Kenso, which received $15 million in an investment round led by Goldman Sachs and Context Relevant, a company that concentrates on big data analysis software, which raised $13.5 million in a Series B-1 funding round from big names such as Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. 

August 06, 2015

#Venezuela ruling party games #Twitter for political gain

In Venezuela everything is political, especially Twitter.  Check out this story by Hannah Dreier on how the Venezuelan government uses Twitter to give a fake impression of its popularity.



Maduro...has become the third most-retweeted public figure in the
world
, behind Pope Francis and the King of Saudi Arabia, according to
public relations firm Burston Marsteller



Using a program written at the request of the Associated Press to
test for bots, researchers at the Utah State University Data Science Lab
found classic bot characteristics among hundreds of accounts that
retweet government posts, including messages sent at impossibly fast
typing speeds, repetitive content and tweets posted from different
accounts within seconds of each other
.
"We can conclude that there
is a bot alliance
," computer science professor Kyumin Lee said. "It's
not that they just happened to repost the exact same content; this is
not normal human behavior
."
Von Bergen, who writes for El Nacional, the last major Venezuelan
daily critical of the government, said social media manipulation makes
his job harder.


"They try to hide how things really are. You get
to a point where you're not sure how much support they really have, and
how much they're just gaming things
," he said.
Read the whole story online here: Venezuela ruling party games Twitter for political gain




July 07, 2015

No #Internet? No Problem. Inside #Cuba's Tech Revolution - #ElPaqueteSemanal #Vistar #AlaMesa

An excellent article on the young tech entrepreneurs leading the way in Cuba from Forbes. 

No Internet? No Problem. Inside Cuba's Tech Revolution





Elio Hector Lopez helps to put together El Paquete Semanal, a weekly digital package of movies, TV shows, digital magazines, software and apps that gets copied and distributed throughout Cuba. (Alejandro Gonzalez for Forbes)
Robin Pedraja, a lanky 28-year-old former design student from Havana, walked into the Cuban government’s office of periodicals and publications early last year seeking approval for a dream: starting an online magazine about Cuba’s urban youth culture. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans in recent years have been able to obtain licenses for small businesses, albeit only in a limited set of service categories such as restaurants, hair salons and translation. Media remains under strict government control. An online magazine? Pedraja was laughed off even before he could finish his pitch.

He decided to publish anyway, without identifying the magazine’s creators. The first issue of Vistar came out last March. “We had nothing to lose,” he tells me on a recent visit to his office, a room the size of a walk-in closet in his Havana apartment. Vistar is packed with attitude and eye-catching photography, covering music, art, ballet, food and celebrities. “It’s a reflection of a new Cuban generation,” says Pedraja, who grew up among artists and musicians in Havana. Soon the artsy young Cubans who were reading Vistar all seemed to know who was behind it. So Vistar published its masthead a few issues later, with Pedraja’s name at the top, e-mail address included.

June 24, 2015

The Critical Role of the #Startup Ecosystem - The Startup Revolution Series Part 4: Compass

How do you get your #startup started?



blue chip companies are becoming less and less able to be the primary drivers of the global economy and that the startups rising in their place are the only creators of net new jobs.
So if our entire global economic future rests on our ability to support the growth of startups, how do we help them thrive?

The Startup Revolution Series Part 4: The Critical Role of the Startup Ecosystem

— by Max Marmer and Cheyenne Richards

In our previous posts (The Great Transition: Industrial to Information RevolutionThe Decline of the Blue Chip and The Rise of the Startup), we’ve argued that we’re in the middle of an epochal societal transition from the Industrial Age to the Information Age, that blue chip companies are becoming less and less able to be the primary drivers of the global economy and that the startups rising in their place are the only creators of net new jobs.

So if our entire global economic future rests on our ability to support the growth of startups, how do we help them thrive? With a flourishing local ecosystem.

Wait... what? Aren’t internet businesses inherently global? Haven't tools like Skype and Basecamp made location meaningless? If successful traditional businesses get started every day around the world, why do startups need the special support of an ecosystem?

If you’re an experienced entrepreneur, the challenges described below may seem all too familiar and we invite you to provide your own thoughts in the comments section. For the rest of the world, still trying to understand the complex and unique drivers that either support or suppress startup growth, we hope this provides some additional perspective on the importance of the ecosystem.

High growth technology startups are very different from other businesses.

Different success rates

If you begin a traditional business, your odds of succeeding for the first two years are pretty good, around 75%. On the other hand, if you found a startup, even if your idea, team, product and plan are good enough to gain VC backing, you are 75% likely to fail.

That said, you’ll never find a local auto-body shop that reaches a Fortune 500 market cap or hires 10,000 employees, but there are hundreds of startups quickly pushing into those top echelons. This is such a critical point, it bears repeating. Startups rarely succeed, but when they do, they can succeed brilliantly.

Different financing needs

Banks invest in traditional small businesses. If you want to start a dry cleaners, you can make a good business case to a bank for why their loan to you is a solid investment. The bank can compare your projections to millions of other dry cleaners and plug it all into the time-worn risk/reward ratio for making loans. For a well-run bank, this is like being the house at a casino. You may win some and you may lose some, but at the end of the day, the odds are clear and in your favor, so you will win a lot more than you lose.

Venture Capital firms invest in late-stage, proven startups. If your startup has achieved profitability and can show a hockey-stick growth chart, you’ll have to hire a team of bouncers to keep away VC firms from all over the planet looking to fund the next stage of growth in exchange for a piece of your company. VC firms are, by and large, structured to make multi-million dollar investments in a small number of late-stage startups that they can shepherd from strong to stratospheric results.

If you want to start a SaaS company from ground zero, you are likely to fail before you can even agree on a catchy name. Plus, from the point of view of any standard bank your business model is so new there’s almost nothing to compare it to, which makes you a completely unacceptable risk. From the perspective of a VC firm, you’re also too new to be worth the time of day. So who fills the gap for early-stage startups?

The A team: Angels and Accelerators.

The angel investor spreads their investment over a large number of early-stage startups and takes a larger percentage of equity in return. The vast majority of their investments fail, just as one might lose many hands of poker. But the hope is that eventually that royal flush will come up and they’ll find themselves owning a huge chunk of the next ZenDesk or Salesforce.

Accelerator programs are essentially angel investors on steroids. Their business model centers around ‘hacking’ the early stage funding by preparing companies for their first investment, usually within 3 months from their own cash outlay. They invest at market terms, provide access to mentors and training on a broad set of startup-related subjects, and take 5-10% equity in the company.

How do angels and accelerators decide how to invest their resources when a startup entrepreneur has neither a traditional business plan nor multiple years of strong start-up results to show? Is it that killer idea that grabs their imagination?

The ‘great idea’ is perhaps one of the most mythical and misunderstood elements to the entire startup process. Ask anyone in Silicon Valley these days and they will tell you there are no more new ideas. The secretive culture of the late 90s that operated on 10-page non-disclosure agreements and NSA-like hierarchies of classified knowledge, has given away to a culture that understands execution trumps ideas. Today, to walk into any coffee shop south of Market Street in San Francisco, is to hear a dozen fully transparent pitches, challenges, value propositions, target customers and funding needs. It’s not that ideas don’t matter, it’s that they’ve learned that the hard work that differentiates winners from losers comes not in dreaming things up but in getting them done.

So the A Team doesn’t invest primarily in plans, results or ideas. What does that leave for companies that don’t yet have traction? People.

For all the modern tools the information revolution has produced, early-stage startup capital investment still relies on an old fashioned network of trust. Video-conferencing may allow people to communicate, but the ‘growth hack’ for building human trust has yet to be discovered. The majority of investment goes to people an investor has met at an in-person event.

Where can founders and early-stage investors find each other? In a thriving local startup ecosystem.

Different talent needs

Rare personalities

Working for a large company requires having the appropriate experience to match a job description. Day in and day out, there are written goals, established processes and predictable routines to help facilitate output. This type of work is analogous to traveling in a first world country where the trains run on time and the hotel can be booked in advance with your credit card.

Working for an early-stage startup requires figuring out what your job should be every day, how to accomplish things that have never been done before and when you should throw out everything that’s already been done and start over. This type of work is analogous to traveling in a third world country where the ferry is suddenly delayed at least two weeks and you don’t even know if the next town will have a hotel. Myers-Briggs typology? Keirsey temperament sorter? Pick your personality classification system and it will tell you that it is a rare sort of person indeed who has just the right combination of vision and execution, risk-taking profile and fear of failure motivation, leadership qualities and listening skills to be successful on a small start-up team.

Rare talent

Many people can read, write and solve math problems. Very few people can design a user experience to make a completely new process feel intuitive, or decide the right way to parse and visualize data to generate useful insights, or write a string of C# code that solves an unprecedented problem in a scalable way. To gain a sense of just how rare some of these necessary talents are, consider the Silicon Valley Competitiveness and Innovation Project 2015 report that demonstrated a stunning 70% of Silicon Valley software developers are foreign born. This finding is even more astounding considering an immigration environment that requires considerable work and investment by companies to get and keep visas for non-US employees.

Single geography

In-person conversations lead to innovation, especially for early-stage startups where the strategy is likely to change three times between 9am and 5pm, and the best work is often done by a core team after midnight over late-night pizza delivery. Success requires moving fast and pivoting even faster, in a race to find product/market fit before the money runs out. Often there is precious little time to send thoughtful updates to far-flung employees or account for multiple time zones. Look at the office layout of early-stage startups and often you won’t even find desks separated. Instead, the whole team sits around one large table so they can all hear every conversation and informally stay on the same — fast moving — page.

Where can an entrepreneur find the doubly rare combination of personality and talent necessary to build a successful start-up team? In a thriving local startup ecosystem.

Different inputs

If you start a pool cleaning service, odds are you don’t need several months worth of research to tell you what customers need. But for startups, the strategy changes and pivots mentioned in the previous section happen because good entrepreneurs get feedback from potential customers. Lots of feedback. This means founders need ready access to potential customers to shape their product as much as they need access to talent to build it. They need to sit down with these customers, ask questions, watch their processes, uncover their needs. They need structured usability sessions as well as tons of informal conversations about a particular space or pain point. Whether the target is a teenager for a mobile game or a CFO for an ERP system, easy access to a wide variety of potential customers is a requirement.

The same holds true for inputs from mentors. In a fast-paced world, no small early-stage startup team can be expected to know everything about growth strategies, financing, taxes, hiring laws, new technologies, marketing and how to set appropriate expectations internally and externally. Enter the mentor to provide crucial perspective, advice, context, contacts and inspiration to the founding team. This role is so critical, a Compass.co study, The Startup Genome Report, found that entrepreneurs with mentors had three and a half times more growth and raised seven times more money than those without.

Again, for all the technology being glamorized behind startup success, the truth is it is the human relationships that nourish it while the technology is playing catch up.

Where can an entrepreneur find the right concentration of many different types of customers and engaged mentors? Where the culture runs so deep that even the local gym offers free services in exchange for equity in your startup? In a thriving local startup ecosystem. (And yes, this is a Silicon Valley reality.)

Ecosystem winners and losers

All of these factors have led certain geographic locations to have dramatically higher concentrations of startups for decades. While it hasn’t yet been proven if a thriving ecosystem improves the success rates of each startup individually, it does act as a giant factory, producing massive numbers of startups by lubricating every step of the process. After that, it’s a numbers game. You produce enough startups and many of them are bound to be successful. Several of them even wildly successful.

“If you look at a list of US cities sorted by population, the number of successful startups per capita varies by orders of magnitude. Somehow it’s as if most places were sprayed with startupicide. I wondered about this for years. I could see the average town was like a roach motel for startup ambitions: smart, ambitious people went in, but no startups came out. But I was never able to figure out exactly what happened inside the motel—exactly what was killing all the potential startups. A couple weeks ago I finally figured it out. I was framing the question wrong. The problem is not that most towns kill startups. It’s that death is the default for startups, and most towns don’t save them.” — Paul Graham, founder of the leading startup accelerator YCombinator

To extend Paul’s analogy, startups are like seeds sprinkled onto the earth. Most will die. A few will cling to life. A few will take root and thrive into huge fields that feed entire populations — something needed by the entire world economy. So what is fertilizer for startups?

Paris in the 20’s was a hotspot for art. It wasn’t just the presence of painters alone that created the environment, but their support by a vast network of art dealers who could sell paintings and wealthy people who could buy them, which in turn attracted more painters, who saw what people were buying, who helped inspire the existing painters, who created more interesting work, that better supported the art dealers and so on.

So too is the word ecosystem applied to a successful startup environment for a reason. There is no one item that makes an ecosystem fail or thrive, but a combination of many contributing factors. The Startup Ecosystem Report 2015 from Compass.co and many global partners will delve deep into these factors and provide answers, ecosystem by ecosystem, across the globe. You can look for the report’s release in July 2015.





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