Just a month after being recognized for excellence by the UN Economic Commission for Europe, the founders of the Israeli air pollution monitoring application BreezoMeter were among 72 start-ups worldwide invited to participate in the White House’s Emerging Global Entrepreneurship event on Monday.
BreezoMeter, which went live in Israel at the end of June 2014, offers real-time access to air pollution monitoring stations around the country – and now in the United States as well – by means of an algorithm that calculates a user’s air-pollution level at any given location.
According to the BreezoMeter’s founders, the app’s mission “is to improve the health and quality of life for billions of people worldwide, by providing accurate air quality data for consumers and businesses in a format as simple, intuitive and actionable as weather data.”
The start-up was founded by three Technion graduates: environmental engineers Ran Korber and Ziv Lautman and software engineer Emil Fisher, after they raised $200,000 in seed funding from the venture capital firms Jumpspeed and Entree Capital. Korber, Lautman and Fisher serve as the company’s CEO, chief marketing officer and chief technology officer, respectively.
“What I learned from this visit at the White House is that I was in the same room as 72 other entrepreneurs that are all driven to make a real difference – if it’s in health, if it’s in education, if it’s in environment, if it’s in food,” Lautman told The Jerusalem Post the day after the meeting, on Tuesday.
The White House event was held “to highlight the importance of investing in women and young entrepreneurs to create innovative solutions to some of the world’s toughest challenges, including poverty, climate change, extremism, as well as access to education and healthcare,” ahead of Obama’s trip to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya this summer.
“We have more than 20 countries represented here today,” President Barack Obama said in an address to the participants. “We have a lot of brainpower here – we have innovators and investors, business leaders, entrepreneurs.
We’ve even got a few sharks.”
Setting a goal of generating $1 billion in new investments for emerging entrepreneurs around the world by 2017 – with half of the funds supporting young and female entrepreneurs – Obama also launched the Spark Global Entrepreneurship Initiative at the meeting.
“We’re here today because we believe in the power of entrepreneurship – the basic notion that if you’ve got an idea, and if you really work hard, and if you’re able to pick yourself up if you stumble a couple of times, you can eventually turn that idea into a reality,” the president said. “And this matters to us because encouraging the spirit of entrepreneurship can help us to tackle some of the greatest challenges that we face around the world.”
As far as BreezoMeter is concerned in particular, Lautman and his colleagues stress that the app was initiated in order “to make air quality visible.”
The application’s circular indicator loop, using an elephant trunk as a pointer, provides the user with an air quality index number as well as a corresponding color, ranging from a clean green, to yellow, to orange, and to an alarmingly dark red. An “air quality heat map” below the results appears in the color corresponding to the air-pollution levels.
In addition to providing the real-time pollution score, the application instructs users as to what physical activities are suitable in their environment.
Although the application identifies air pollution based on the user’s GPS location, the user can also specify a different location.
Although the app is currently available only on Android phones, Lautman said that the iOS version for Apple devices will be available in a few days.
In Israel, BreezoMeter harnesses air pollution monitoring data collected by both the Environmental Protection Ministry and Israel Meteorological Service monitoring stations, while in the US the app makes use of data from the Environmental Protection Agency.
While the app for private users is free, BreezoMeter also offers a paid service so that private developers and businesses can access the start-up’s data through an application program interface (API). The company is continuing to forge a number of partnerships in the health, weather, smart cities and motor vehicles sector, among others, Lautman explained.
“Our real focus is the business- to-business side – there we launched an API so that every company or private developers can access our data and use it as he needs it,” he said.
One example of such a partnership is a new Android tool created by private developer Liron Vaizer, which uses BreezoMeter data as part of a new app called Breath. Among other things, the Breath app enables users to choose an optimal route for sports activities based on air quality, allow children to play in areas with cleaner air and help people look for apartments in areas with better air quality, according to its description.
Several real estate websites in both Israel and the US also already make use of BreezoMeter in their residential search engines, to provide neighborhood air quality levels.
The White House recognition on Monday is by no means the first of BreezoMeter’s international accolades.
Last month, BreezoMeter was among six finalists to be honored in Geneva by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s Ideas for Change start-up competition. While the first place team was Orange Fiber from Italy – which produces functional textiles from orange juice pulp – BreezoMeter and four other start-ups were chosen as finalists among 150 teams from 25 countries, according to the contest.
Previously, the company was also named the most promising start-up company in 2014 by Global Entrepreneurship Week, after winning the Washington-based organization’s 2014 Start-up Open.
Following the White House event, Lautman marveled how he “was in one room with people who are really trying to make our life better – our real life, our environment, our health, our education.”
“That was exactly what the president said, and I am happy that the White House is supporting these kinds of initiatives and putting them on the map and showing that this is the real stuff that matters the most,” Lautman added.
“It was really inspiring, and also this kind of event comes with a big responsibility – all eyes are on us now, and we need to prove ourselves and keep improving and keep being the best air quality solution out there.”