Eric Schmidt’s Israeli dream team

Gogobot co-founder Ori Zaltzman: ‘Israel is among the countries with the highest number of Internet users that log on to our site.’

June 18, 2011 22:44
The Jerusalem Post

Eric Schmidt’s Israeli dream team 311. (photo credit: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg)

This past March, Google chairman and outgoing CEO Eric Schmidt celebrated his tenth year at the giant searchengine company and made way for Larry Page, one of the two founders of the largest Internet company in the world.

One of the goals of installing one of the founders in the company’s hot seat is to take Google back to the way it ran in its start-up days. While Google is being rejuvenated, Schmidt is regaining his appetite for entrepreneurship.

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Over the past year, the venture-capital fund he set up, Innovation Endeavors, has been energetically searching for the hottest new technology start-ups. Although Schmidt is an expert in search from his years at Google, the scouting is being done by managing partner Dror Berman, who runs the fund.

There are no clear connections between the eight start-ups that Schmidt and Berman have invested in. But it is interesting that half of them have one thing in common: Israel.

Maybe this is a result of Berman’s connections with Israel, and maybe it is just because the talent that exists here. But the conclusion is obvious: Schmidt believes in Israeli brainpower and in the technologies, some of which could have become leading Google products in another incarnation.


‘It’s strange to travel around the world with a book.’

Whoever has traveled overseas knows the frustration of long and intense internet searches to find the right hotel, the tastiest restaurant and a few enjoyable outings.

Gogobot’s idea fills this need.

The company was founded by Israeli Ori Zaltzman and his American partner Travis Katz, who is the CEO.

“An itinerary written up in Lonely Planet may not work for everyone,” Zaltzman said.

“It’s strange that you read a book to travel the world in the internet age.”

Gogobot allows the internet user to share the trips, restaurants and hotels he found throughout the world with his friends.

According to Zaltzman, other trip advising websites, such as TripAdvisor, are full of recommendations from people whose goal is to promote their own business or to harm the competition, whereas Gogobot relies on recommendations based on the user’s friends.

“Gogobot organizes the recommendations according to the taste of the user’s friends and people they have something in common with,” he said.

The website also offers a virtual passport, where everyone can tag the locations they’ve visited around the world. Just two months after the site was launched, Gogobot won the Crunchies competition award for Best Design in the TechCrunch Annual Crunchies Awards.

The start-up relies on two business models: a fee for referring users to price-comparison sites, and advertisements on the side of the page. Gogobot has raised $4 million, and among its investors are MySpace cofounder Chris DeWolfe, Oren Zeev and Battery Ventures.

Half of the 10 employees are Israeli.

“Israel is among the countries with the highest number of Internet users that log on to our site,” Zaltzman said.


‘We will build a billion-dollar company.’

EyeView has become one of Schmidt’s favorite start-ups. After raising $500,000 in the first round, the Israeli start-up raised $1m. last month.

In total, the company has raised $6m. from Innovation Endeavors, venture capital funds Gemini Israel Funds and Light-Speed Venture Partners, as well as from 888 Holdings’ former CEO Gigi Levy.

EyeView was founded in 2007 by CEO Oren Harnevo, CTO Tal Riesenfeld and vice president for marketing and business development Gal Barnea, which makes it one of the most veteran start-ups in Schmidt’s portfolio.

The company’s technology enables advertisers to create targeted video ads in real time, so that each surfer will be exposed to a different version of the same video ad, based on geographic and demographic criteria, as well as each user’s surfing history.

“Dynamic advertising has been around for many years in banners and search-engine ads,” Harnevo said. “We are the first to incorporate it into video, and there is already a very favorable response from the industry.”

Among EyeView’s clients are AOL, Facebook, Youtube, Johnson & Johnson and McDonalds.

“A company that incorporated our technology in its campaign received 300 percent more hits on its ad,” Harnevo said.

EyeView is based on the pay-per-hit model, in which the company is responsible for creating a user-friendly interface and also for showing the ads on the various sites.

“Our goal is to provide a more personal, relevant, local and brand-effective video experience,” Harnevo said. “We are aiming to build a billion-dollar company.”


Schmidt invested in a new Google.

If you go to to the Quixey website, you might think that Schmidt invested $400,000 in Google’s competition, since Quixey is basically a search engine.

Quixey was founded 18 months ago and is developing a search engine that allows users to find a huge variety of applications. Until now, you had to go to Apple Store or Google’s Android to look for an app. Quixey is trying to organize all of the different types of applications, including for Firefox, Macintosh and Internet Explorer. Quixey also has plans for applications for Chrome and Facebook.

“The idea is to understand what the user is looking for and not just to give him a standardized answer,” said Quixey CEO Tomer Kagan, a cofounder along with CTO Liron Shapira.

“The search on Quixey works in a completely different way,” he said, adding the search engine automatically gathers information on every application from blogs, forums, Facebook and Twitter and analyzes them so that the search becomes the most far-reaching possible.

“Applications today don’t just do one thing, and it is difficult to describe their function in just a paragraph or two,” Kagan said. “How would you explain, for example, what a Photoshop application can do, since it has dozens of functions?” Like Schmidt’s Google, Quixey has a business model based on sender-based text ads and paid search results.

Kagan said his search engine currently has access to 1.5 million applications, and his goal is to reach 2 million to 2.5 million applications by the end of the year.


The cellphone can go to the grocery store for us.

The goal of is to make your cellphone your personal assistant.

“Our vision is that it will be possible to speak into your phone and it will fulfill day-to-day functions,” said Any.Do CEO Omer Perchik, who is one of the three cofounders. “The phone will be able to set appointments, pay electric bills and do the grocery shopping.”

CTO Itai Cahana and vice president for research and development Yoni Lindenfeld are the other cofounders.

So far, has raised $1m. from Schmidt’s investment fund, as well as from Genesis Partners, Blumberg Capital and Palantir Technologies CEO Joe Lonsdale.

Currently, works via an Android app, whose function is to run a daily organizer for day-to-day activities.

“One of our goals was to understand what people do on a daily basis and which tasks they record for themselves,” Perchik said. is currently running a closed beta version available to its employees only and is keeping information regarding the final application under heavy secrecy.

“The smart thing about our tool is not voice recognition, but understanding what the user wants to do,” Perchik said.

He wouldn’t reveal what’s business model is, but he said it is based on pay-per-hit technology and that advertisers will pay to serve their clients.

Two key figures in the technology world have already been bewitched by’s charm: Facebook head of mobile products Erick Tseng and Twitter search and locationbased services manager Elad Gil.

“We worked very hard to reach them,” Perchik said. “Today we talk on the phone on a weekly basis.”

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