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The ‘Start-up Nation’ Boldly Moves Forward

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In the wake of the widely publicized failure of Better Place, the Israeli electric car venture that burned through $836 million in funding in an effort to develop electric cars and a network of “battery swapping” service stations, the 5th Israel Conference was held last week (May 30 – 31, 2013) at the Luxe Hotel in Los Angeles. The conference is an annual showcase for Israeli start-ups and innovation. Despite the Better Place setback, Israel continues to be a major source of technological innovation as demonstrated by the speakers and companies featured at the conference.

The conference was enthusiastically co-chaired by Yossi Vardi, the “Godfather of Israeli High Tech” who has had a major role in the development of over 70 high-tech companies (e.g., instant messaging pioneers Mirabilis and ICQ), and Sharona Justman, Managing Director of STEP Strategy Advisors. A broad range of industries were represented by the presenting companies, including clean energy, gaming, big data, cyber security, mobile, medical technology, smart cities and entertainment.

The most impressive presentations included Wibbitz, a start-up which has developed a system that converts on-line articles into narrated videos, Wonder Voice, a voice assistant for social networks and apps that can be used on the go, SQream Technologies, a big data GPU processing company that claims to have developed processing capability 400 times more efficient than Oracle’s, and Walk Me, an application that sits on top of other applications like Salesforce.com and provides step-by-step assistance for the completion of complicated tasks without leaving the main application (i.e., users no longer have to Google “how to” questions). A panel of cyber security experts terrified the audience with the dark secrets of mobile and network vulnerability but also pitched several super-charged security tools to address the threat. Some of these include offerings from Zimperium, 6Scan and Skycure.

Publicly traded Oramed (NASDAQ: ORMP) reported that it received approval for Phase 2 clinical trials of its insulin oral delivery system. Rounding out its efforts to address two of the biggest pharma  ‘holy grails,’ diabetes and obesity, Oramed is also developing an oral obesity drug. Keeping the focus on diabetes care, Dario presented its impressive mobile application for glucose monitoring (highlighted by a series of very cleaver animated shorts—also produced in Israel). Jacob Segal of Investor Research Group presented Medical Tactile’s Sure Touch breast exam technology, an FDA cleared, pain-free, radiation free alternative to traditional mammograms.

Dov Moran, known as the inventor of the USB flash drive and the founder of M-Systems (purchased by SanDisk for $1.68 billion in 2006), spoke about the trials, tribulations and joys of innovation. Mr. Moran is currently founder and CEO of Comigo, developer of smart TV operating systems.

Robert LoCascio, Founder and CEO of LivePerson, a cloud-based platform enabling businesses to proactively connect in real-time with their customers via chat, voice and content delivery, pointed out that while Israeli technological innovation has been miraculous and produced tremendous wealth, the benefits are still concentrated in hands of a privileged few (founders and early stage investors) and have not filtered through to the general population in a meaningful way. Mr. LoCascio urged entrepreneurs to consider the social welfare benefits of their businesses and not to be focused solely on lucrative exit opportunities.

The conference got show-bizy in a hurry when Ynon Kriez, Executive Chairman of Maker Studios, took the stage. Maker Studios focuses on the development, production, promotion and distribution of on-line content and is well known for the production and distribution of the hilarious Epic Rap Battles of History and Bad Lip-Reading shorts that routinely go viral on the internet. Maker Studios also takes credit for the very first Harlem Shuffle video, widely copied by office workers worldwide.
A panel led by legendary Hollywood producer Howard Rosenman concluded the conference. The panel discussed Israel’s increasing impact on the entertainment business. The panel included actress and producer, Noa Tishby, who made her mark with the sale of In Treatment to HBO, the first Israeli TV show to make it to American television. Nir Haley Haklili, Director, Media Services and Affiliate Relations of RRsat Global Communications, Amanda Kogan, an agent from William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, Uri Levanon, Founder and CEO of watchMedia, Gil Rimon, Co-Founder and CEO of Stevie, and Geoff Stier, EVP of Production at Paramount Pictures rounded out the panel of entertainment luminaries.

About the Author

Eli Glovinsky, a partner at Venture Counsel Group, LLP, is an attorney and business consultant with more than 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry. For most of his career, he has served as an executive for both large and small organizations, including non-profit and publicly traded healthcare companies. Eli was Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Alliance HealthCare Services (NASDAQ: AIQ), a national diagnostic imaging and radiation therapy provider operating in 46 states. Prior to Alliance, Eli served as Corporate Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel at Premier, Inc., which operates one of the largest healthcare group purchasing organizations (GPOs) in the United States. At Premier, Eli was responsible for Premier’s vendor contracting and developed Premier’s Technology Breakthroughs Program, which was designed to assure that Premier members have access to the latest innovative products and services.

Eli’s consulting practice focuses on accelerating the adoption of healthcare “breakthrough technology.” Using his extensive experience in the GPO industry and knowledge of the US supply chain, Eli assists suppliers and purchasers of innovative products and services identify needs and synergies. He consults with GPOs and integrated delivery networks to develop programs which allow them to more aggressively seek out and adopt innovative solutions.

Original Author: Eli Glovinsky


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