We posted about the company winning the 2013 European Technology Innovation Award last year, and now they have come out with the CamMe app that leverages their gesture prompting technology so your camera can be set to take pictures without a selfie arm, or toying with an annoying timer. The app was recently on CNN’s list for 20 fun and useful new mobile apps and is a must for anyone who wants to get that perfect selfie. Read more at PointGrab’s website.
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Last week Jewish WhatsApp cofounder Jan Koum sold his company to Facebook for $19 billion; next week he is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to discuss hi-tech opportunities in Israel.
Netanyahu, traveling Sunday to Washington and a meeting with US President Barack Obama, is to go to Silicon Valley on Wednesday in an effort to promote hi-tech investments in Israel. In addition to Koum, Netanyahu is expected to meet with heads of Apple, Flextronics, Linkedin, Ebay and the Sequoia Venture Capital fund.
Netanyahu has made promoting Israeli hi-tech and turning the country into a cybersecurity hub a top priority.
“They speak a lot of Hebrew there [in Silicon Valley], I want to draw our friends back from there to Israel to invest,” Netanyahu said at the Israel Manufacturers Association’s annual event in Tel Aviv on Thursday. “It is very important for me that Israelis, and non-Israelis, will come here and see the talent we have here, the initiatives and the potential of the Israeli economy.”
In addition to meeting the Ukrainian-born Koum, Netanyahu – according to his office – will sign a “strategic cooperation” agreement with California Governor Jerry Brown to promote Israel- California economic ties.
This agreement would give Israeli companies access to iHUB, the California innovation program centered around 16 specific research clusters through state.
The iHubs, according to the California Governor’s Office, “leverage assets such as research parks, technology incubators, universities and federal laboratories to provide an innovation platform for start-up companies, economic development organizations, business groups and venture capitalists.”
An Israeli start-up claims to be able to combat viruses and hackers by predicting them – that is, anticipating, in the company’s words, “how hackers will evolve today’s malware into tomorrow’s advanced threats.”
CyActive, a 10-member company who boasts the slogan “Stay ahead of your attacker and place the unfair advantage in your hands,” says its engine is capable of predicting “hundreds of thousands of future malware derivatives… in mere hours,” then generating “future-proof detectors” which prevent malware attacks.
“When a threat is exposed, we predict that malware’s evolution to protect an organization before the black-hat hackers even write it,” Danny Levy, the company’s chief marketing officer, told Foxnews.com. “We have the ability to see the future and prepare for it.”
A whole crop of successful new entrepreneurs is coming out of Israel. The latest wave started last summer, with the news that Google paid $1.1 billion for the cutesy mapping-and-traffic app Waze. There’s the Israeli-Canadian team that just won the Global Startup Challenge. There’s the rise of Israeli venture firms, from Tel Aviv to Palo Alto. There’s an incubator just for Israeli entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley. And there’s the 52 percent spike in demand for web developers that Israel — and its $243 billion economy — saw in 2013.
Move aside, MIT, Stanford and Y Combinator — even IT and Tsinghua. It looks like the best entrepreneurial incubator in the world might actually be created via conscription … the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
What’s behind this budding startup and consumer-facing product industry? One guess, posited in the 2009 book Startup Nation by authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer, is the chutzpah explanation: Maybe there’s just something about the Israeli people and their scrappy survivors’ anything-is-possible mentality that makes the startup boom in their backyard anything but surprising.
Still, it’s got to be more than that.
There’s about “one degree of separation” between people in the country of 8 million, says Yaron Galai, CEO of New York-based media company Outbrain.
“There’s definitely a great entrepreneurial spirit … and one success story means a lot. When people heard I had sold one company, they think, ‘I can do this.’” (Galai sold his previous company to AOL for $363 million.)
Plus, the military is a powerful networking tool. Especially when it’s mandatory.
Compared with the U.S., where less than 1 percent of the population serves in the military, or even India, where only around 3 percent join the military, about 50% of Israel’s population joins up, and they find an organization that prides itself on being tech-driven. The experience delivers all the obvious byproducts: loyalty; a tough-as-nails attitude, instilled at a young age; a strong alumni network; and future partnerships aplenty.
“You see a lot of founding teams coming out of the same army unit,” says Galai. In fact, Galai and his co-founder met during their younger days, in the navy.
Think what you will about the IDF, but from a skills standpoint, it’s hard to find a better training ground than a war room. Forget hackathons: If you can code and decrypt with the fate of a nation dripping from your sweaty pores, you’ll barely have to wipe your brow in a job interview.
The IDF hopped on the data train well before the rest of us: and those same skills they use to gather the data to track down al-Qaida are being used by savvy new Israeli entrepreneurs to tell you what to read online, what clothes to buy, what your tastes should be.
One Israeli success story is New York-based Adam Singolda, CEO of content-distribution company Taboola (one of those data-driven companies). He’s soon to become an American citizen, but only after having spent six years in an intelligence unit of the IDF.
“The Israeli Army is unique because it actually has an ‘HR function,’” Singolda said. “The whole concept of recruiting is very advanced.”
Which might sound counterintuitive in a country where so much of its population winds up in the military anyway — but there’s enormous competition leading up to the moment when teenagers are assigned to their specific unit. So from the very beginning, future CEOs are groomed and grown through a process that could make the Harvard admissions department shudder. Proving yourself early means proving yourself often is not such a big deal — it’s a habit that’s tough to break.
Getting accepted into the high-pressure units like intelligence also means being among the most impressive scientific or mathematical minds in the country.
Perhaps the bar is a little easier to reach in a nation where state-funded schools (with strong math programs) are the norm, and where you can “major” in engineering (much like Asian schools) as a teenager. Picture then, if you will, a bigger, more driven pool of STEM-savvy talent coming through the Israeli system earlier than their peer countries — and emerging army-strong to put their finely honed skills to use.
To hear Singolda describe what he values in a new hire is to hear the new mantra of tech culture — and perhaps the next wave of mainstream corporate hiring culture.
“For me, experience is a much more important part of thinking about hiring than education.”
Sure, that’s not exactly new thinking. But contrast it to the last wave of engineers to power the tech boom: IT-trained Indian immigrants and Stanford stop-outs. Previously, universities offered smart, hungry students a kind of cushy (often Ivy-clad) home to try things out. And sure, the University of Tel Aviv is well and good, but Singolda, Galai and others swear their military time — rather than classroom time — mattered much more: the army was a better incubator and a better network driver. It’s how they grew up.
“It’s our college,” Galai said.
Certainly, the new emphasis on experience over education isn’t arising just thanks to Israelis or even Asian immigrants; indeed, it’s been a big factor for years in tech circles. But it’s one way the rise of Israeli business minds could be pushing their industry in new directions.
What’s ahead could be less obvious. Immigrants have a habit of influencing corporate culture in subtle ways. Once they’re so ubiquitous as to not be oddities anymore, their previously peculiar penchants become mainstream. Take the Polish and Irish influence on manufacturing to, more recently, the Indian impact on the tech boom (you can find tandoori chicken in any big tech company’s cafeteria, after all).
So what might be the fruits of this latest incarnation of globalization? Not just challah in the boardroom, we’re guessing.
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The prime minister, who made the announcement with the president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the mayor of Beersheba, said turning Beersheba into a cyberhub was an effective realization of the vision that Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, had for the Negev.
“There is huge development in [Israel’s] south, and housing prices are significantly lower than in the Dan region. Whoever has common sense should head there,” Netanyahu said, according to Israel Hayom.
The cyberpark will include a high school geared towards science and technology, and a cyber studies center. Staff members have already been recruited.