Jerusalem tech to watch: The capital's rising innovators

As new companies spring up in the city, there is no question that the talent pool will also increase, and Jerusalem’s role as a global tech ecosystem will firm itself in place. 

  (photo credit: SHUTTERSTOCK)
(photo credit: SHUTTERSTOCK)

Hi-tech companies in Jerusalem and throughout Israel come in many sizes, shapes and sectors, with Israeli innovation touching practically every industry and solving any problem imaginable. Despite this, many people can find it very intimidating to break down the industry to understand what is going on. Here’s some information that will help you navigate the ecosystem.

The broader hi-tech industry can be broken down into sector groups. The sectors that Israeli start-ups generally fall into are fintech (financial technology); foodtech (food-related technology); proptech (real estate technology); cybersecurity/defense technology; agtech (agriculture technology); smart mobility; cannatech (cannabis technology); and deeptech (solutions to complex, deep problems). Among these sectors, there are subcategories that more specifically separate these companies.

For simplicity, companies in any of these respective sectors fall into groups of B2B/SaaS (business to business/software as a service); B2C (business to consumer); B2B2C (business to business to consumer); and B2G (business to government). How a company is determined to be in either of these groups depends on whom the company sells to.

So, what is hot in Jerusalem, and where can you find them?

Smart mobility 

Smart mobility is the field of technology that focuses on optimizing modes of transportation. This can be anything from public transportation, autonomous driving and freight to logistics, and drones. Israel, and Jerusalem specifically, has emerged as a global powerhouse in the field of smart mobility, birthing some of the largest companies in the world.

 A view shows a self-driving electric shuttle that Mobileye, Benteler EV Systems and Beep, plan to launch in the U.S. in 2024, in this undated artist's rendering handout picture. (credit:  Benteler/Handout via REUTERS ) A view shows a self-driving electric shuttle that Mobileye, Benteler EV Systems and Beep, plan to launch in the U.S. in 2024, in this undated artist's rendering handout picture. (credit: Benteler/Handout via REUTERS )

One cannot think of Jerusalem start-ups without Mobileye coming to mind. The mobility behemoth was founded at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem by Prof. Amnon Shashua; it was ultimately sold to Intel for $15.3 billion, with Shashua remaining as CEO. The company develops technology for autonomous vehicles, with practically every major carmaker using its services. Based in Har Hotzvim, Mobileye has more than 2,500 employees and is a great contributor to the ecosystem at large. 

Another notable company founded in Jerusalem in the area of mobility is Freightos, one of the largest maritime and freight marketplaces in the world. Founded by Zvi Schreiber, the company operates an online marketplace for optimizing pricing, booking and capacity utilization for importers and exporters. 

Eytan Buchman, chief marketing officer of Freightos, remarked that “we started in our Jerusalem office and have no plans on leaving; the ecosystem may be smaller than Tel Aviv, but the talent pool is strong.” 

He further pointed out that Jerusalem has advantages, such as “[Hebrew University] and multinational tech companies.”

Smart mobility companies are either B2B or B2G, depending on the technology.

Fintech

Fintech is a broad term to describe companies that sell consumer or business tools that assist with finance. Fintech innovations disrupt [cause a radical change in] fields such as insurance, banking, investments and digital assets. It is a space where Israel has become a global leader and continues to grow. These companies are generally B2C but also have B2B use cases.

Housetable, a relatively new fintech company founded in Jerusalem, is changing the way homeowners are able to obtain loans to finance renovations. Using artificial intelligence (AI), the company is able to deduce the future value of a home based on estimates post-renovation. This allows families that would typically fall below a bank-lending threshold to obtain financing. 

Housetable’s CEO, David Benizri, when asked what makes Jerusalem special as a tech scene, says: “People come to Jerusalem from all over the world; some for religious reasons, but many have very specialized skills that they want to bring to the workplace. This, coupled with the native Jerusalem population, makes it a very special place.”

One of the fields in fintech that is the fastest growing and arguably the most disruptive is digital assets – specifically in web3 and blockchain-related technologies. And the fastest-growing fintech company in Israel today is SolidBlock, a company that seamlessly helps to “tokenize” (a term for turning something into a digital asset) real estate for transactions, capital raising, and general investing. They’ve raised more than $3.5 million to date to grow their real-world blockchain use case.

Foodtech

Foodtech comprises companies that are disrupting the traditional food space. This generally takes the form of alternative meat sources, either from cells or plants. Israel is at the forefront of the foodtech industry and is leading a global culinary revolution. 

For instance, Future Meat Technologies is an alternative food source company that develops chicken from chicken cells and is in the process of doing the same for lamb and beef. 

Founded by Prof. Yaakov Nahmias at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the company cultures cells that mimic the natural development process in an animal. As a result, they are able to create a product that is just like real chicken. First established in Jerusalem, Future Meat recently relocated to Rehovot.

All foodtech companies are primarily B2C, but they will also wholesale to other businesses, such as fast-food restaurants.

Deeptech

Deeptech is defined as innovations that require a “deep dive” into complex scientific or engineering problems. These companies are typically founded by exemplary university professors who have dedicated their lives to such research. As such, the Hebrew University, one of the foremost research institutions in the world, has given Jerusalem a jump-start in this sector.

Ayyeka is a deeptech company that developed a solution to make the delivery of data from smart infrastructure to decision-makers simpler. Headquartered in Jerusalem, the company has grown rapidly since its inception in 2015 by Yair Poleg and Ariel Stern. Much of their technology helps with energy efficiency, as well as providing clean drinking water to residents in water-scarce or unsafe environments.

Ception, another Jerusalem-based company, has developed an AI solution for reducing accidents and increasing productivity in manufacturing settings. Founded by Tal Israel, Yossi Buda and Amiad Solomon, the company’s technology works heavily in construction and mining settings. They have helped to decrease workplace accidents across the world.

Deeptech companies generally find themselves selling to either businesses or governments but can create tools for consumers as well.

What else?

There are other companies that touch on the sectors mentioned above and highlight the immense knowledge base that exists in Israel and Jerusalem specifically. One major investor claims that “almost all exits and the most successful companies in Israel have at least one founder who is originally from Jerusalem.” 

This is an understatement. But most of these Jerusalem-founded companies, however, end up resettling in Tel Aviv or elsewhere in Israel. This underscores the importance of building the ecosystem as a place where innovation and growth can continue to be fostered.

As new companies spring up in the city, there is no question that the talent pool will also increase, and Jerusalem’s role as a global tech ecosystem will firm itself in place. 

The writer, a Jerusalem Post staff member, is an entrepreneur and Hebrew thinker, known as Osher in Hebrew. A recent oleh, he also helps oversee the start-up ecosystem in Jerusalem with Made in JLM. On Twitter: @troyfritzhand.

Tech terms to know

  • Agtech – Agriculture technology. This is where you find tools such as drip irrigation and other agriculture-related innovations helping countries around the world.
  • B2B – Business-to-business solutions, generally sold as SaaS (software as a service).
  • B2C – Business-to-consumer, general consumer-related technologies or goods.
  • B2B2C – Business-to-business-to-consumer. B2B2C companies will often resell or wholesale technologies that then can be sold to consumers.
  • B2G – Business-to-government. These companies sell to governments at the local and national levels. 
  • Cannatech – Cannabis technology. Companies develop processes to grow and sell cannabis more efficiently, for medical or recreational use.
  • Cyber/defense – Cyber and defense technology. Israel has gained a reputation for developing the foremost tools in this area. They defend companies, organizations and governments from bad actors and fraudsters.
  • Deeptech – Technology that solves complex theoretical problems that have real-world impact. This is an area in which Jerusalem has made a name for itself.
  • Fintech – Financial technology that develops tools to change the way transactions take place and how money is utilized. Generally, consumer or business tools dealing with finance.
  • Foodtech – Food-relation technology. These companies make plant-based or cell-cultured alternative meats. Israel is home to the largest foodtech companies in the world.
  • Proptech – Property technology. Real estate tools that better optimize how developers, brokers and buyers interact with real estate processes.
  • Smart mobility – Transportation technology, a fast-growing sector that is disrupting traditional driving through autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles.