Entrepreneurs compete for NIS 1 million prize

Exit ’11 competition invites Israelis to submit a video explaining their idea for an Internet or mobile application.

A new iphone app for Jerusalem 521 (photo credit: Courtesy Jerusalem Municipality)
A new iphone app for Jerusalem 521
(photo credit: Courtesy Jerusalem Municipality)
Israel may well have earned its reputation as a global innovation leader, but the options are limited for grassroots entrepreneurs, according to the co-founder of a competition that promises a NIS 1 million package for the best new Internet or mobile app idea.
“If you know what you’re doing and who to speak to, the opportunity is endless in this country,” Ben Hirsch told The Jerusalem Post Sunday. “But the typical person with a burning idea – the one that’s with them when they go to sleep and still there when they get up in the morning – doesn’t know how to find developers, [nor] about patents, setting up companies, writing business models or getting funding. They are forever caught not knowing what to do.”
Enter exit ’11, the brainchild of Hirsch and his sister Sandy Hammer, both olim from the UK. Now in its third year, the competition invites all Israelis over the age of 16 to submit a one-minute video explaining their idea for an Internet or mobile application. The 10 best ideas are selected by public vote and then narrowed down to the final two by a panel of professional judges.
This year’s finalists will face off against each other next Sunday for the grand prize: SportiWe is an idea developed by two Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center students for an online social network that helps its members organize amateur sporting events; m2m is an idea created by a married couple to use high-frequency tones to transfer information (such as coupons or details on a particular supermarket product) into a person’s smartphone.
The winner will receive up to $100,000 in investment capital, 300 hours of training from start-up software developer specialist Sergata, 12 months planning and auditing advice from PricewaterhouseCoopers and use of Microsoft’s cloud development environments. They will also have access to patent attorneys, legal services, a PR agency, marketing support and advice from one of Israel’s leading start-up incubators.
Despite its relatively short time on the scene, exit’11 has already provided a pathway for budding entrepreneurs to develop and promote their ideas.
The inaugural winner was Today Job, a real-time online search engine for immediate temporary positions such as pizza deliverers or home removal services. Pnina First, who developed the idea, has since won the Prime Minister’s Prize for Young Entrepreneurship, received investment from Benchmark Capital and launched her application for the American market.
Last year’s winner was Frimper, an online video matching system that can be used for dating, making new friends or finding a suitable person to share an apartment or to carpool with. Developers Itamar Koren and Ma’ayan Kimhi are in the process of launching their first business-to-business trial.
Hirsch said the idea for competition was vindicated the first year, when organizers received “hundreds of videos of regular people sitting at their work desk, or at their kitchen table, or getting their mother to film them on .”
The goal has remained since the beginning, he said, adding: “We want to enable anyone the opportunity to live their dream and to take their idea to market.