Tech Talk: E-commerce in Israel is struggling

Venture builders have become very popular around the world, and this concept is catching on in Israel, too.

PHREE CAN be used with mobile apps: OneNote, Skitch and Google handwriting keyboard. (photo credit: KICKSTARTER)
PHREE CAN be used with mobile apps: OneNote, Skitch and Google handwriting keyboard.
(photo credit: KICKSTARTER)
The Knesset Science and Technology Committee recently convened to discuss e-commerce among small and medium businesses. The committee, which included representatives from the Israel Postal Company and the Digital Israel Program, discussed current difficulties that business owners face due to recent surge in e-commerce and the failure of Israel Post to handle the increased traffic.
“It’s time we dealt with the elephant in the room,” said Ilai Avni, an e-commerce expert and CEO of, who participated in the committee discussion.
“Israel Post is killing e-commerce in Israel. We can spend huge amounts of money building e-commerce sites using the most advanced technologies available, but if our customers don’t receive their purchases, then these sites have no value. Our customers tell us that the products they purchase simply never reach them. A person goes onto a website, gets all excited about what he sees, so he purchases the item. If we’re lucky, two months later he receives the shoes or shirt he bought.
“Israel’s a small country. There’s absolutely no reason it should take 48-72 hours for a product to reach the customer. I’d like to point out that no reasonably priced alternative exists today in Israel for businesses to deliver products to their customers. The state does not need to be paying money to businesses. But the state is responsible for providing the proper infrastructure – electricity, Internet, roads and yes, postal services, too. The post is not dead. It is the keystone in our ability to engage in e-commerce, to improve the market and to lower the cost of living in the country.”
Phree Phree is a smart mobile input pen that can be used on almost any surface. Whatever you write or doodle can be moved quickly to your cellphone and it allows you to dial and answer calls, and send text messages.
Engineered and designed by Israeli start-up OTM Technologies, Phree is a product that falls in an absolutely new category.
Whether you want your text to end up in your smartwatch, smartphone, TV or virtual reality glasses, Phree will get it there via Bluetooth.
Phree’s key feature is a laser sensor at the end of the pen. It follows 3D movements on surfaces and before you know it, the numbers or letters you just wrote have been transferred to your computer or mobile device. It can transcribe your handwriting to Word, and send the document to your colleagues.
“It’s incredibly accurate – about 2,000 DPI,” says Dr. Opher Kinrot, co-CEO and co-founder of OTM Technologies, “and people who use Phree say that it feels natural, like they’re holding a pencil, so it’s very easy to write with.”
Phree has a small screen, a speaker and a microphone, which enables it to be used as a speakerphone. So if you get tired of writing, you can just dictate your message verbally.
Phree has already well surpassed its Kickstarter goal of $1,000,000, which was the minimum amount it needed before it could begin production. Phree devices will be sold for $200 when they are launched next year.
Venture builders come to Israel Venture builders – also called start-up factories, venture labs, or start-up studios – are teams of start-up veterans who take their own ideas and resources from the various start-ups they’re involved in and begin developing them into independent companies by taking advantage of their shared experience and resources.
Venture builders have become very popular around the world, and this concept is catching on in Israel, too. What venture builders do is gather web developers, user-interface designers, graphic designers, experts and even digital lawyers and financial advisers, bringing them all together in one space.
OpenValley is an example of an Israeli venture building group that is located in Ramat Yishai in the North. OpenValley offers a place for entrepreneurs and freelancers to come together and get work done in a whole new way. The OpenValley offices overlook the green hills of the Jezreel Valley, and its four partners, all of whom are from the region, provide an affordable and professional working environment that is be available for short-term rental and is a great solution for self-employed entrepreneurs and start-ups. The OpenValley project saves participants from having to deal with the distractions that accompany the daily management of a business, such as property tax, water, electricity, telecommunications network maintenance, cleaning, coffee or to purchase printers or other office furniture.
Aside from dealing with these matters, OpenValley also offers the people renting its space to be part of a growing entrepreneurial business community.
In most venture builders models overseas, the business people who initiate them gather ideas from their own network of resources and assign internal teams to develop them, including engineers, advisers, business developers and sales managers.
Sometimes the entrepreneurs take a percentage of a start-up’s equity, but in Open- Valley, the business model does not work that way. Instead, they rent out space in their offices to interested parties and offer office services to make it easier on them.
OpenValley expects to expand its operations to other centers around the periphery of Israel in the future.
If you run a young start-up, have developed an interesting app or have a question, please feel free to contact [email protected]
com. Tanslated by Hannah Hochner.