Sodastream, BillGuard lauded as top Israel innovators

'Fast Company Magazine' list SodaStream 23rd on list of 50 most innovative companies, while BillGuard takes No. 5 spot in the industry-specific category.

sodastream (photo credit: (© SodaStream Global))
(photo credit: (© SodaStream Global))
Fast Company Magazine, which calls itself “the most progressive business media brand in the world,” has cited Israeli companies such as SodaStream and BillGuard in its annual rankings of the most innovative companies from around the world.
The paper constructs it lists not simply based on a company’s innovative past (Facebook and Twitter were left off this year’s list), but also its continuing contributions to the modern marketplace. “In the Age of Flux, continuous improvement, speed of change and breadth of ambition are more important than ever,” it said.
SodaStream, the at-home carbonating company that made history this month as the first Israeli company to advertise in the Super Bowl, was No. 23 on the list 50 most innovative companies “for making carbonation sexy.” Its efforts to expand into the United States, where it only holds 1 percent of the market share, were cited as key to its innovative status.
The magazine cited SodaStream’s clever cooperation with well-known American brands for their flavor capsules, use of single-serving capsules for people who just want one cup of soda and the variety of models ranging from stripped-down to luxury as aspects of its innovation.
Israeli firm BillGuard took the No. 5 spot in the industry-specific category of the world’s top-10 most-innovative companies in finance “for scouring the Web to return $1 million in fraudulent charges and stalled refunds to debit- and creditcard users.”
The company, founded by Yaron Samid and Raphael Ouzan in 2010, uses crowd-sourcing to help consumers detect what they call grey charges on their banking and credit-card statements.
Unlike outright fraudulent charges, grey charges often are associated with purchases or subscriptions the consumer made, perhaps unwittingly.
“A lot of consumers are missing the fine print, and that’s where BillGuard comes in,” said Marina Boykis, BillGuard’s community manager.
For example, a one-time purchase might opt the customer into auto-renewal, charging a new subscription fee every month or year. Similarly, a free or low-cost trial subscription could jump from free to very expensive once the trial period ends, or slowly increase over time without the customer knowing. “It’s not illegal... but it’s sneaky and deceptive” the company said.
Most people only skim their financial statements and can miss small charges that should not be there but add up over time. BillGuard, which estimates that an average consumer loses $356 a year to grey charges, created a website application (and is working an iPhone app) to automatically alert consumers to such irregularities in their statements.
In addition to checking irregular patterns, Boykis said, the company’s two other primary channels include crowd-sourcing, in which they investigate charges flagged by customers to find trends or problematic merchants, and scouring social media and online forums for complaints.
Finance innovation was among the 24 top-10 subcategories Fast Company compiled, which included both industry-specific categories such as health care, gaming and education, and five geographic categories, among them Israel (the other four were China, India, Russia and South America).
The other companies cited as top Israeli innovators included: Xsight systems, which detects junk on airplane runways; Waze, which provides traffic navigation using GPS; Galil software, which provides “onshore offshoring” to Israel Arabs; and Agricultural Knowledge Online, which monitors agricultural development online.