Hi-tech, gastronomy and travel

Israeli start-ups meet a French accelerator who wants to help them succeed.

Gilad Ozeri of the BoOola backpackers’ app. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Gilad Ozeri of the BoOola backpackers’ app.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Ten start-up CEOs gathered at the PICO offices in Talpiot last week. Each would have three minutes to convince the visiting French business accelerator 33entrepreneurs and local jurists that their innovative goods or services were set to revolutionize hi-tech in the fields of food, wine and travel. There would be two winners.
The prize: a week in Bordeaux at the 33entrepreneur offices (valued at €5,000), travel expenses covered.
33entrepreneurs will host the winning start-up teams and facilitate press, mentors and other international tech start-ups, thus building networks, getting feedback and developing ideas. And possibly going on to invest in selected start-ups that will participate in a further, intensive three-month program in Bordeaux (33 is the telephone dialing code for France).
Vincent Prêtet, CEO and founder of 33entrepreneurs, explains the concept: “33entrepreneurs is a start-up accelerator that focuses on wine-tech, food-tech and travel-tech worldwide. We want to welcome entrepreneurs with money we invest, plus mentoring from our experts. We’ve already organized more than 20 contests, mostly in Europe, although we’ll be touring seven US cities in July. Yesterday we were in Dublin, today we’re in Jerusalem, and next will be London. We aim to develop promising teams from seed level as future industry leaders.”
This is the second time 33entrepreneurs has visited Israel to meet with start-up CEOs.
“Last time we were here,” continues Prêtet, “we met with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barak, who told us that he aims to develop innovative tourism in Jerusalem.”
Ofer Berkovitch, deputy mayor of the Jerusalem Municipality and one of the jurists, remarks, “Trends in Jerusalem are growing towards innovation in tourism, academics, arts and gastronomy. We have plans in the works for a major food festival in Jerusalem; it’s not only Tel Aviv anymore. Jerusalem is becoming known as another Israeli city with a wide variety of great places to eat and drink.”
The jurists were Prêtet; Elie Wurtman, executive chairman at Vroomcom; Jezreel Valley Winery’s cofounder Jacob Ner David; Made in JLM’s CEO Roy Munin; and Jumpspeed Venture’s CEO Ben Wiener. Venture capitalist and Jerusalem Development Authority’s tourism director Ilanit Melchior was unable to attend the event; in her stead came Ofer Berkovitch. The jurists were a mix of investors, media, entrepreneurs and specialists in the three fields of interest.
The competing start-ups were the following:
Founded by Guy Gaash, this enterprise aims to save the traveler time and money by buying dutyfree products online at www.shopnfly.com. Product prices may be compared for the best bargains, and all shopping can be done in one place, online. The shopper chooses where to pick up his purchases, as they will be ready in flight, at the reception desk or at the duty-free shop at the next airport. www.shopnfly.com
This is an app that helps drinkers find discounted liquor and new brands. Using the DrinkedIn app, a person can go to a bar or other subscribed retailer, find an appealing drink via the DrinkedIn app and pay at a discount. CEO Haim Barad calls it data-driven marketing for the alcohol industry and affirms that the app already has one million active users. While Barad and his partner Jonny Skelker played humorously on the drinky aspect of their business, one is a respected data scientist with decades of experience in academia and industry, while the other is a software product manager who has worked with multinational corporations such as IBM. www.drinkedin.net
This is a location-based mobile app. “We’re taking noticeboards to the mobile world,” says CEO Gilad Ozer. “For travelers, information is necessarily time-limited and last-minute.” Like other travel-based entrepreneurs, Ozer argues that existing travel forums aren’t mobile-friendly; that each one services speakers of one language only, and that none are based in location.
“In BoOolah, every post provides accurate, relevant data in any language. Travelers can alert each other about good or bad deals, events, services, even parties in their area.
Say I need to shed part of my gear – I can put a for-sale notice on BoOola. Or I can post that I’m driving between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and have room for two people to share the ride. Businesses can post about services – say, a happy hour or an end-of-the-day sale. Most travelers carry smartphones,” Ozer winds up. “WiFi access is available and cheap. There’s a good reason why travelers share information: everybody gains.” The app is free and available via iTunes for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, and iOS7.0 and higher. www.BoOola.com
Jewish Heritage
It is a community-based resource that guides travelers to Jewish heritage sites. The site offers the WJHpedia, where travelers upload their experiences and knowledge about events and places to visit. The company curated an ebook about Israel’s 100 best ethnic restaurants, available free from the site. Their first international effort is a book with all the kosher vineyards and wineries in Spain and where to find them. The next phase will be a digital, interactive version that also tells stories about the wine sites. Its travel app, also available on the site, is GPSbased.
You can use it to see what’s around you and choose to visit places such as cemeteries, holy sites, synagogues, memorials, Jewish quarters, Holocaust-related places, restaurants and retailers. www.worldjewishheritage.com
This app helps eliminate all the work that goes into planning a trip, finding sites and reviews. According to CEO Yonatan Passwell, Voyjer is a “trusted source that provides tailor-made travel plans for only $5 daily.” Local experts build a plan filled with suggestions for where to go, what to do, where to eat, and special tips known only to locals. You receive a sample of the customized itinerary within 48 hours. Should you decide to buy the whole itinerary and all its suggestions, you pay all of $5 daily.
After you purchase your full itinerary, you will have access to your trip expert, who will help tweak your itinerary until it perfectly fits your unique needs and expectations. www.voyjer.com
This is a Nazareth-based local catering initiative, where food “cooked by your neighbors” is delivered to your home. The premise is that home cooks can earn an income by catering to busy working parents and students in their own towns, who then have a healthy, tasty alternative to fast food. The operation doesn’t have a working web page, and there’s no way to contact the owner. The founder, Tareq Abed Algheny, will be appearing on the Master Chef TV program in June. Perhaps that is taking up most of his energy now.
High Season
CEOs Guy Stolero and Dotan Raz claim that planning a two-week family vacation takes 73 days of planning flights, hotels, attractions and transportation. High Season, a travel-sharing platform, proposes to save travelers time and stress. Users can plan all their travel in one place, submitting their specific criteria. High Season plans every flight and hotel for you. “You get a sense of the whole trip,” says Raz.
This is a new operation looking to fund an app of Jewish travel interest. The founder proposes that the Jewish traveler shouldn’t need a local guide, who may not even speak your language. “You should be able to find places of Jewish interest, including their exact GPS location, then just open the app and listen to the audio guide,” he says. The proposed app will help Jewish travelers locate sites, kosher restaurants and retailers.
Some 40 percent of the tourist market travels in groups. That’s 440 million people a year traveling with tour guides. Tour guides have specific professional needs: they must know where everyone is at a given time, if everyone’s on the bus, who wants to go to the museum and who wants to stay at the hotel. Tour participants may enjoy playing trivia and showing off their knowledge regarding sites they visit – or need to push the emergency button. The app is designed for the tour guide’s timely communication with his or her group, management via questionnaires and surveys, safety and experiences such as playing games with tour participants. It seems to be a project still in the works.
Leaving tourism and apps, we saw two new hands-on products for the wine business via the ODS company. One is the Newcork, a wine bottle cork that contains an ampoule of compressed air. By pressing a button on its top, air is released into the bottle, pushing the cork out. Great for people with arthritis or other conditions that leave the hands weak.
The second, Rgoncork, fills a partially filled bottle with argon gas, a neutral gas that is heavier than air. This is said to preserve a partially consumed bottle of wine for six months as fresh as uncorked. The advantage to the wine industry is that restaurants can now open bottles of expensive wines and sell them by the glass. And the cost: only NIS 25. Another such product already exists that costs €300 . Ilan Buchbut, vice president: www.new-cork.com.
The winning start-ups were the BoOola backpacker’s app and the traveler’s shopping app shopnfly. After the jury decision was announced, participants mingled and chatted over wine. The next visit from 33entrepeneurs will undoubtedly yield another revelation of great new start-ups in the fields of technology concerned with food, wine and travel, a huge global market.