Googling, Tel Aviv style

Local start-ups, developers and entrepreneurs have found a new home in Google's Campus Tel Aviv.

google ta 521 (photo credit: baz ratner / reuters)
google ta 521
(photo credit: baz ratner / reuters)
Israel’s position as a global technology powerhouse got a boost in December, when tech leviathan Google opened the doors to its Campus Tel Aviv ( The facility, which covers 1,500 sq m, aims to give local start-ups, developers and entrepreneurs a place to develop and hone their new ideas.
One sign of the significance of the event was the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the opening ceremony. “There are moments when a prime minister has pure joy,” Netanyahu said at the event. “This visit reminds me of the speed at which we’re advancing. The world is flying fast and we’re leading the way.”
The prime minister also heralded the event as a way to develop the more disadvantaged sectors of Israeli society. “Inclusion of ultra- Orthodox and Arab citizens in the workforce will strengthen our creativity and increase our achievements. For the country to succeed, it’s important that you succeed, and we as a government will do all it takes in this regard,” the prime minister said.
The aim is for Campus Tel Aviv to hold a number of regular events for the technology community, offering an opportunity for its members to have access to Google staff and other industry experts, and the facility includes a “device lab” to give developers the chance to try out projects on a range of innovative devices.
It will also host “Launchpad” – a two-week pre-accelerator program that is free of charge for early stage start-ups, and is run in conjunction with partners including incubators, developer hubs and academic institutions. The program will cover a number of technical issues, such as user interface, product strategy and technology, but will also focus on the business side, touching on subjects like marketing, business development and analytic tools.
The inauguration of Campus Tel Aviv is part of Google’s efforts to foster entrepreneurship and innovation globally through Google for Entrepreneurs, and comes just nine months after the launch of Campus London, the first campus.
“We want the next generation of entrepreneurs to succeed and we recognize the huge talent that has made Israel the ‘start-up nation’ – the world’s second-largest center of tech start-ups after Silicon Valley,” said Yossi Matias, managing director of Google’s R&D Center in Israel. “Israel’s future innovation success needs a supportive environment that will foster the next generation of young talent. Campus Tel Aviv is about supporting and encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation, by partnering with tech incubators, accelerator programs and other partners to provide expertise and knowledge in key areas,” Matias added.
Meir Brand, managing director of Google Israel, Africa & Greece, noted that the company set up operations in Israel seven years ago, and is continuing to expand its activities.
“Our continuing investment and expansion in Israel are a testimony to the unique talent here, and we’re committed to helping increase even more the contribution of the Internet to the Israeli economy and society,” he said. Google employs 350 people in Israel, 270 in Tel Aviv and 80 in Haifa.
In addition to the regular aspects of the job, the staff – or “Googlers” as they sometimes are called – are involved in bringing online historical archives, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial archives.
The first five manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls went online in late 2011, and in December 2012, the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library ( was launched in partnership with the Antiquities Authority.
The online collection is made up of some 5,000 images of scroll fragments at very high quality so that scholars and amateurs across the world can study the scrolls. Included in the texts are one of the earliest known copies of the Book of Deuteronomy, which contains the Ten Commandments, and part of Chapter 1 of the Book of Genesis, which describes the creation of the world. Hundreds more 2,000-year-old texts shed light on the time of Jesus and on the history of Judaism, according to Google.
Crowdsource your parkingIsraeli navigation app Waze has made a big splash for its innovative use of user-provided traffic information to ensure that its drivers not only get to where they are going, but do so using the least clogged-up streets.
And now a new app called Parko ( aims to use the same principle to solve a problem that drivers face when they have reached their destination – namely, finding somewhere to park the car.
The app, which is available for android and Apple, has two functions: If you are driving a car looking for parking, it will alert you and guide you to a parking spot nearby, which is about to become free. In addition to showing the parking space that will be made available the soonest, the app also shows other spots nearby and the estimated time at which they will free up, should you seek to park closer to your destination.
The app also allows drivers who are about to leave a parking space to upload an estimated time when they will reach their car. Parko will then pass on that information to other drivers in the area who are looking for a space, along with a photo of the departing driver and their car. If two users successfully switch places, both will be rewarded with virtual tokens that can be used to obtain prizes, coupons or even cash.
High-tech hitchhiking
The team behind Buzzjourney (, which is still in beta, have developed an app that falls between a taxi service and hitchhiking station, and allows its users to pay or be paid for sharing a car.
Similar to many other ride-sharing apps, Buzzjourney uses GPS technology in users’ smartphones to either show people nearby who are looking for or offering a ride.
But what sets it apart is its payment system, which calculates the costs both for drivers offering a spot in their vehicle and those looking for a ride. The theory is that the more people sharing the ride, the lower the price per person.
The payments are conducted via PayPal, allowing users to keep constant tabs on their expenses.
When a Buzzjourney user looks for a ride, in addition to standard information such as where the driver is located, where he is heading and what he and his car look like, the app will also indicate the price of the ride. Buzzjourney says each ride is about the price of bus fare. In addition to saving money, Buzzjourney says that by using the app, people will be reducing their carbon footprint and easing congestion.