Kobi Marenko had been waiting a year for the sixty seconds when he would publicly unveil his new company, Arbe Robotics, at the first ever Israeli TechCrunch Meet-Up and Pitch-Off in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night.
TechCrunch, a leading U.S. technology news site, hosted the event to provide a platform for entrepreneurs like Marenko to present their visions for the future of Israel and high tech.
Marenko, one of ten entrepreneurs selected from a pool of 150 applicants to pitch his company in under a minute, walked confidently on stage, carrying a regular drone in one hand and a small radar device in the other.
“Here is a groundbreaking radar, the first made for drones,” he said, addressing a panel of TechCrunch editors. “It can see obstacles 200 meters [away], in 360 degrees, and offers us the ability to see cables of electricity, cranes, trees, things that are not mapped. With this technology, Amazon can deliver goods inside a crowded city without being afraid of crashes.”
Both for the entrepreneurs pitching their products and the audience in attendance, the presence of an industry heavyweight like TechCrunch provided a form of validation and international recognition for the thriving entrepreneurial spirit of Israel.
“This kind of event creates the credibility of us as a start-up nation,” Marenko said. “And then there will be more companies and more investments that will come to seek new technologies and invest; so it helps the eco-system run.”
Other companies featured in the Pitch-Off included 6over6, an app for vision care, Insert, a codeless app builder, and FieldIn, which uses data analysis to optimize agricultural growth.
In addition, the event included a “fire-side chat” with Shimon Peres, in which the ninth President of Israel reflected on the importance of maintaining a culture of innovation and ambition.
“Technology has changed, because until now we thought that technology is something tangible: you build a new machine, a new organization,” Peres said. “No. I mean, you have to to invest not in robots that will be like human being but to improve the human being itself. Direct your technology to make a better man, a better society.”
“I know entrepreneurs that dream with courage. Leave your mind open and don’t be afraid to dream. And that is what we have to do in the whole Middle East.”
After Peres, the event included a series of panels on emerging trends and issues in the high tech industry, such as the future of online advertising and self-driving cars.
“Today we have software that can recognize faces at levels of human perception and recognize cars and pedestrians and avoid collisions at very high levels of perception, and this is the basis of going to self-driving cars,” said Amnon Shashua, founder of Mobileyes, a company producing technology for visual algorithms to assist in car navigation.
“The car industry is getting up on their feet, and within a few months, a few weeks, we will see car companies building consortiums and putting the technology such that by about 2020, 2021, you will see fully self-driving cars, without a driving wheel or a driver,” he said.
Another speaker, Moshe Friedman, a Haredi rabbi, explained the necessity of creating a more inclusive start-up nation. His company, Kamatech, is an accelerator focusing solely on assisting the development of Ultra-orthodox startups.
“I believe that a lot of communities like the Ultra Orthodox, those on the periphery like the Druse, Ethiopians and Arabs, they have a lot of talent but don’t have the connections and tools to succeed,” Friedman said. “If you just give them the tools, you will all of a sudden see a lot of talent all over, creating amazing opportunities both for these people and the state of Israel.”
TechCrunch offered such an opportunity for the individuals who shared their start-ups before the crowd of industry journalists, venture capitalists, and fellow entrepreneurs.
For Marenko, the week of preparation and the year of waiting to announce the release of Arbe Robotics paid off, as the panel of judges and the audience choice awarded him the top prize in the ten pitch off.