TMTI competition defines Israel as the Start-up Nation

Day three of the TMTI challenge summit, the biggest start-up competition in Israel, pits 70 companies against each other

By DAVID DIMOLFETTA
July 24, 2019 14:02
4 minute read.
The TMTI Summit at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange

The TMTI Summit at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. (photo credit: DAVID DIMOLFETTA)

Cups of coffee, rugelach, and good laughs are exchanged on the lower level conference floors of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange as start-up leaders and investors network and share ideas about world markets, innovation, and other venture ideas at The Marker TAU Innovation (TMTI) Summit and start-up competition, known as “The Challenge.” However, expert judges and nervous tension in the presentation rooms give a whole new meaning to what Israeli start-ups are capable of.

Day three of the TMTI challenge summit, the biggest start-up competition in Israel, pits 70 companies against each other, chosen to present on the semifinal before the final top 10 companies are picked at the end of the day to present later at Tel Aviv University.

Cybersecurity, blockchain, and digital health are just a few of the industry verticals that competitors touched on as they seek to change the world with their ideas. Presenters – typically C-level persons in their start-ups – presented in front of judges and audiences of around 100 people, discussing the problem the firm intends to address, statistics backing the purpose of their company, their projections to-market, and the global impact they hope to achieve.

In the world of artificial intelligence, companies like Xenia help users generate an optimized architectural plan using machine learning to measure factors like customer views from a store entrance.

Shmulik Bilgoray, CEO of Xenia, said the company is seeking investors to help it expand to retail in the United States and to individual architects and designers.

“Xenia is for companies of all sizes,” he said. “I hope you will join our architectural revolution.”

Dipsee, another AI start-up founded by Yaniv Vaknin after his three-year-old son drowned in a residential pool, utilizes deep learning algorithms to detect when an individual is in a swimming pool, allowing users to track anomalous behavior during swimming activities and notify the user via a smartphone alert.

“Surprisingly, we found this was a worldwide problem,” Vaknin said. “Every minute and a half around the world, someone is drowning.”

In the blockchain vertical, companies like Tovah, run by Israeli teenagers, use “Tovah Coins” as a store of exchange for favors, such as helping a peer with homework or walking someone’s dog.

Shir Rubin, CEO of Tovah, led the team’s presentation as they emphasized that teens don’t have a lot of money and when favors are done there is no way to “return recognition” to an individual. Tovah Coins are traded for favors and can later be used to finance another favor from someone else.

 

THE E-COMMERCE vertical room saw tight competition among start-ups aiming to change the playing field in online shopping and retail. Crazy S.O.B, for instance, allows online viewers of cooking videos to order ingredients used in a video by clicking and having them placed into a digital shopping cart.

Another stand-out e-commerce firm was RestAR, an augmented reality platform which allows users to render their goods into a 3D image for more realistic viewing during the online shopping experience.

RestAR CEO Bar Saraf told The Jerusalem Post that he flew to Israel from San Francisco to present at the competition and to meet potential investors. He has been pitching the company for two years.

“I was in the army for four years on a cybersecurity team,” he said describing his background and the background of his co-founders. “We have a good combination: tech, business, sales - you name it.”

Saraf cited retail statistics and discussed how his start-up is able to step in and help, saying that 54% of online consumers continue to visit stores because they are unable to visualize what products look like.

“This is where we come in – to improve the online visualization of products and use the power of AI to do it in the best way possible,” he added. “Doing this increases revenues and allows retail to reach customers more efficiently because it [RestAR’s technology] gives them that competitive advantage.”

Saraf described the process used by customers to render their products into a 3D form. They take a video of the entire product and it is uploaded to the cloud for rendering.

“Today only big companies can do this because it costs a lot of money, requires a lot of man power and a lot of technical knowledge. With us, it’s just a one-minute video, and done!” he said happily.

“The biggest challenge is developing the technology without seed funds and investing money from your own wallet,” he added, outlining the struggles he’s faced in building and pitching the start-up.

He concluded by saying the winning prize will allow RestAR to expand into a larger realm of augmented reality where users can “try on” products digitally. Their main verticals are toys, bags, and footwear.

“We are looking for investors to join us,” Saraf said. Companies such as RestAR will be competing in the 500 Startups competition in San Francisco next month.

But for now, such start-ups will have to see what comes of the TMTI results at the end of the day on Tuesday and on the evening of the finals on Wednesday. Presentation moderator Dror Tamir made the directions for competitors very clear.

“Start-ups, you have four minutes to present your idea,” he said with a smile. “And, please, don’t touch the laptop on the podium when you’re up here. It’s all ready for you.”

The winning firm, awarded $250,000, will use their money to continue growth and innovation in their respected companies and become top leaders in their industries.


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