Israel is Leading an Infrastructure Revolution

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, today (Monday, 2 July 2018), attended the dedication ceremony for the Ra’anana West and Ra’anana South railway stations. Before the ceremony, they traveled by train from Ra’anana West to Ra’anana South.

Following is an excerpt from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s remarks:

“We just traveled from one side of Ra’anana to the other and we saw the gleaming towers and the high-tech. You see the progress and the prosperity of the [industrial] parks. You see Israel innovating and you see the future, you really see the future.

Regarding tunnels, we are both building and destroying. We are destroying the terrorist tunnels of those people who are not investing like us in a better life for their people but only in how to attack us.

And in contrast we are building these tunnels here which shorten the distances.

I just told Yisrael [Katz] that with the great link that we are making – north to south, south to center, center to center – we are here joining everything together and opening all these possibilities.

In the end, within the cities, even though there has been an effort to do very important work with elevated trains, underground trains, express highways and express lanes, in the end we will need to dig many tunnels with new technology.”

Six winning Israeli startups will take part in the “Israel-India Bridge to Innovation”

Six winning Israeli startups will take part in the “Israel-India Bridge to Innovation” program and will soon launch pilot programs in India. The program was initiated in meetings between the prime ministers of India and Israel.

Tel Aviv, June 27th, 2018 – Six Israeli startups with innovative technologies in the fields of healthcare, agriculture and water management have made it to the final stage of the Israel Innovation Authority’s “Israel-India Bridge to Innovation” program, launched over the past year during bilateral meetings between the prime ministers of both countries. The 18 companies that were initially selected to participate in this program presented their technologies to CEOs and investors from Israel and India in a Demo Day held last week at the Urban Place complex in Tel Aviv. Six companies were chosen to continue to the final stage where they will pilot their solutions in India.

Among the notable participants taking part at the Demo Day were representatives of India’s Invest India agency. The keynote speaker was Rohtash Mal, Chairman of EM3 Agriservices, renowned in India as the “Uber of farmers.” The company rents out equipment to farmers based on time or acres farmed, doing away with the need for farmers to purchase expensive equipment and giving them access to advanced technology at low costs.

The six winning companies selected to continue to the pilot stage of the program are:

In Agriculture:

Amaizz, a company that has developed a portable drying device enabling dry storage of agricultural produce – of immense significance in the Indian market, where it is difficult to ship fresh produce.

Biofeed, a company that has developed a device to combat fruit flies, a pest destructive to the India’s yield of mango and other fruit. India is one of the world’s key mango exporters.

In Healthcare:

Zebra Medical, a company developing medical imaging technologies.

MobileODT, a company that has developed devices to diagnose cervical cancer.

In Water Management:

Aquallence, a company that has developed a device to treat water with Ozone.

AMS Technologies, a company that has developed a system to filter industrial water.

The 18 companies initially selected were reviewed by a panel of judges from Israel and India who looked at over 150 applications. The companies took part in a six-month process that included training and workshops, including information regarding Indian markets, together with professional visits, networking events, mentoring and meetings with senior executives and officials, including investors, senior management and experts and entrepreneurs in the fields of water management, agriculture and healthcare.

The Demo Day judges included members of Indian and Israeli companies, including entrepreneur Ofir Shalvi; Adi Vagman, Managing Partner of the AgriNation venture capital fund; Sigalit Berenson, Sales and Service Manager of the Indian-owned Decco SafePack company; Deeksha Vats, Joint President of Sustainability at the Indian corporation, Aditya Birla Group; Rajit Mehta, CEO of the Max Healthcare Institute; and Avi Luvton, Executive Director of the Asia Pacific and Latin America desk at the Israel Innovation Authority.

Eli Cohen, Israeli Minister of Economy and Industry, said: “Following the government decision a year ago to invest 240 million shekels by the year 2020 to promote relations with India in the fields of innovation and technology, the “Israel-India Bridge to Innovation” program is a golden opportunity for Israeli companies in the fields of healthcare, water management and agritech to achieve prominence and to enter such a significant and developing global market – India.”

Dr. Ami Appelbaum, Chief Scientist at the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry and Chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority, said: “The Israel-India Bridge to Innovation is a springboard for cooperation between Israeli innovators and Indian corporations. The collaboration between India, a massive economy with the largest growth rate in the world, and Israel, the “Startup Nation,” to develop technological solutions to various challenges, is synergistic and unique. There is a real mutual desire, backed by substantial investment, to pilot these cooperative ventures in India in order to solve pressing global challenges specifically in India but all over the world as well.”

Avi Luvton, Executive Director of the Asia Pacific Desk at the Israel Innovation Authority, emphasized that the “Bridge to Innovation” program comes at a peak in Israeli-Indian relations that began more than a year ago and which has been strengthened by bilateral visits by both prime ministers, reflecting an era in which many new opportunities are opening up within the Indian economy.

Germany Approves €1 Billion Deal to Lease Israeli Drones

Despite small protests outside Germany’s Bundestag, the German parliament approved a €1 billion deal for leasing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). These UAVs  are capable of carrying payloads of weapons. For Germany, this is important  and carrying out attack missions in the German army’s theaters of operation in Mali and Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said the following concerning the deal:

“I am very pleased by the decision of the German parliament yesterday to approve the giant deal to lease Israeli UAVs. This is an incredible deal that has implications, first of all, for our security industries and for the Israeli economy, but also for the continued strengthening of security relations between Israel and Germany. Germany helps Israel with security, and Israel also helps Germany. This is a very important development and I would like to personally thank Chancellor Merkel. I spoke with her about this ten days ago. She told me that she would pass it through the parliament and she did so.”

Why is this deal important?

Simply put, it cements Israel as the preeminent military drone developer.  Not only that, it provides Israel with a huge win in a country that originally saw this deal nearly torpedoed by the German Social Democratic Party (SDP). While Western Europe has increasingly been confrontational with Israel at the UN, its continuous diplomatic antagonism appears empty as countries like Germany realize that only Israel can provide the type of technology it needs.

According to Globes the deal includes:  €720 million payment to the Airbus Defense and Space company, which will lease seven UAVs from IAI (five regular UAVs and two for training) and €177 million to the Israeli government for use of airports, command and control facilities, and support and maintenance services.

Essentially Germany will have its first permanent presence in Israel.

Israel Approves 30 Million Shekels for Digital Health Innovation Pilots

Two months after the Israeli government approved a one-billion-shekel national digital health program as a means of improving public health and as an engine of growth for the economy, the Digital Israel Initiative at the Israeli Ministry for Social Equality, the Israeli Health Ministry, and the Israel Innovation Authority have announced the launch of a new pilot program to be carried out in healthcare organizations across Israel. The new program will support research and development proposals and pilot facilities in the field of digital health. These pilots will be carried out in Israeli healthcare organizations or will be based on these organizations’ capabilities and data.

The program is intended for Israeli tech companies (not including any of the healthcare organizations in Israel) in the field of medicine and health. The companies accepted to the program will receive between 20% to 50% of approved R&D expenditures, with funding of up to 60% to 75% for proposals that show potential to significantly advance the public healthcare system in Israel and around the world, or that promise a breakthrough in their field.

The program will enable participating companies to significantly advance commercialization of their product. Implementation in test sites will also help facilitate go-to-market strategies. The program will help offset risks involved in R&D, without a stake in future profits. Companies will return their grants to the Israel Innovation Authority via royalties from sales only if an initiative has been commercialized.

Israeli Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel, who initiated the national Digital Health Program said, “Just two months after the government resolution I led promoting digital health was passed, the launch of this pilot program illustrates our commitment along with our partners to a quick and full implementation of the government resolution. The national digital health program is revolutionary and groundbreaking, and will position Israel as a superpower in digital health, with healthcare services among the most advanced anywhere in the world.”

Israeli Minister of Economy and Industry, Eli Cohen said, “Healthcare companies often need access to information and systems which are not normally available to growing companies to prove the viability of their technology. This program will make it easier for companies to have access to information not currently available to them and will help build a bridge between them and Israeli healthcare institutions.”

The Digital Health Initiative will help promote innovation and the implementation of advanced solutions in Israeli healthcare organizations in an effort to improve medical treatment and healthcare services for patients and provide solutions to challenges faced by the healthcare system with solutions such as individualized medicine, preventative healthcare, tele-care, decision-support systems, digital medical devices, solutions for patient empowerment, and others.

Submission Criteria:

1.    Level of technological innovation and uniqueness of a pilot.

2.    Level of difficulty and technological challenge.

3.    A company’s capabilities including management’s ability to lead a program to commercial success.

4.    The economic-business growth potential of a company if the pilot succeeds.

5.    The overall technological and vocational potential for the Israeli economy.

6.    The overall effect a project can have on improving and streamlining the healthcare system in Israel.

7.    Quality of the pilot program – including the level of the test site and the synergy between the company and the site.

8.    The pilot program’s potential benefits to the company itself in terms of its go-to-market and commercialization strategies.

Chief Scientist of the Israel Ministry of Economy and Industry and Chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority, Dr. Ami Appelbaum said, “The board of directors of the Israel Innovation Authority has approved this program to support innovation in companies, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Digital Israel. Operating programs and pilots in real-time environments with adapted regulation will allow Israeli technology companies to offer proof of concept and quickly penetrate markets, thus helping them grow into large-scale companies in Israel. In addition, the commercialization of innovative technologies in Israel will improve the local market and the government’s regulatory capabilities and will help government entities propel tech companies from idea to commercialization. The goals of the program include developing and implementing innovative technologies in the fields of healthcare and medicine and examining their viability among relevant clients, promoting the healthcare system and public health in Israel and around the world, and creating and growing viable companies in the field of digital health in Israel through innovative technological solutions.”

CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority, Aharon Aharon said, “The goal of this unique program is to offer coordinated solutions from the Israel Innovation Authority and Ministry of Health for pain points we have identified in growing innovation ecosystems, especially those with heavy regulation and government involvement. These include the challenges associated with raising funds related to high levels of risk and difficulty, or with market obstacles or limitations stemming from the lack of access to testing facilities or difficulty receiving necessary regulatory permits.”

Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Health, Moshe Bar Siman Tov said, “The State of Israel has over the years developed a healthcare system amongst the finest in the world, based on outstanding public healthcare services offered to the citizens of Israel. We and our government partners launched the national digital health program this year to serve as an engine of growth in order to continue to develop our healthcare services and to position Israel at the forefront of digital health worldwide. As part of this nationwide program, the government is launching this pilot program to promote investment in research and development in a range of innovative healthcare technologies. The program will make it easier for healthcare organizations to work with companies in the industry and will leverage the expertise of medical teams with innovative Israeli technologies to improve health services in Israel.”

Israel Preparing to Lead in Global Smart Mobility

New pilot program intended to promote companies that will impact the state of transportation in Israel and the world

The goal of Israel’s new pilot program in transportation is to help promote companies aimed at improving transportation and to develop Israel’s hi-tech industry through technological innovation in the field of traffic systems and transportation infrastructure.

Technological spheres within the pilot program include, among others: autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, connected vehicles, ridesharing and carpooling models, monitoring technologies and processing of traffic data, innovative methods of operating transportation services, reducing traffic congestion and collisions, minimizing the use of oil and encouraging use of public transportation.

Other goals of the program include:

  • Developing and implementing innovative technologies and paradigms that will improve the state of transportation and develop Israel’s world-leading innovation industry.
  • Making transportation systems more efficient in Israel and around the world.
  • Creating and growing sustainable companies in the field of transportation through the promotion of innovative technological solutions.

Israeli Minister of Transportation and Minister of Intelligence, Yisrael Katz, noted that:

“Creating pilot programs in an environment simulating real-world transportation conditions will allow Israeli startups to develop rapidly and penetrate markets more quickly. In addition, the project will improve the government’s regulatory capabilities and its ability to adapt to rapid developments. The Transportation Ministry will continue to spearhead the effort to make the State of Israel a hub of innovation for the future of transportation and smart technology. Technology is progressing by leaps and bounds, and it is our governmental duty to guide these advances from a regulatory standpoint so that they can be implemented as soon as possible.”

Israeli Minister of Economy and Industry, Eli Cohen, said:

“While Israel’s innovation ecosystem has become a global role model, this has yet to seep into Israel’s own transportation system, which will continue to face significant challenges for the near future. We believe that Israel’s transportation system needs a significant boost and by launching this pilot program, we are enabling the industry to open new avenues, and for startup companies in the transportation sector to grow and mature. This revolutionary program is an important step towards connecting the success of Israel’s hi-tech industry with the transportation industry. The program will enable companies to make significant progress developing solutions for commercialization by running tests in the pilot stage.”

In continuation of government resolution (No. 2316) regarding the establishment of a national program for smart transportation, the Israeli Ministry of Transportation, the Fuel Choices and Smart Mobility Initiative in the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Israel Innovation Authority are jointly launching this program to support technological innovation – in particular pilot programs for new technologies and new paradigms for transportation systems.

It will be the first time that the Israel Innovation Authority will be funding such pilot programs as part of its strategy to support comprehensive scaling of companies. The Ministry of Transportation will offer additional support by helping the companies with the regulatory requirements needed to carry out their pilots and by increasing access to new fields of activity – moves that will also enable the government to innovate its regulatory approach, to swiftly adapt to technological change, and to foster steady and balanced growth for startups as well as the Israeli economy.

The program is intended for Israeli tech companies in the field of transportation. They will receive financial support of 20%-50% for approved R&D expenses – with additional support of up to 75% of R&D expenses for projects which can demonstrate significant potential to streamline and improve transportation within Israel. The program will help offset the risks involved in R&D, without taking a stake in future profits. Companies will return their grants to the Israel Innovation Authority via royalties from sales only if an initiative has been commercialized.

Criteria for joining the program include: level of technological innovation and uniqueness of a pilot; level of difficulty and technological challenge; a company’s capabilities including management’s ability to lead a program to commercial success; the economic-business growth potential of a company if the pilot succeeds; the overall technological and vocational potential to the Israeli economy; the overall effect a project can have on improving transportation in Israel and making it more efficient – in particular, reducing traffic congestion and collisions, reducing oil dependence and encouraging a transition to public transportation; level of regulatory viability in implementing a proposal; quality of the pilot program – including the level of the test site and the synergy between the company and the site; and the pilot program’s potential benefits to the company itself in terms of its go-to-market and commercialization strategies.

Chief Scientist at the Israel Ministry of Economy and Industry and Chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority, Dr. Ami Appelbaum, said:

“In order to put an autonomous vehicle on the road, you need the regulatory approval of the Ministry of Transportation. When you design software to control the traffic light system, you also need cooperation from the ministry. This new program will provide solutions to these issues: a dedicated internal team will examine tech companies with new technological developments and will help fast track requests for regulatory approvals to support these innovative technologies. The goal of the program is to provide tech companies with funding for the advanced stages of development necessary for commercializing new innovations and introducing them to the market. It is intended to provide access to infrastructure, data and sites where government has access and regulatory oversight, which are less accessible for this very reason. This way, companies can test and develop innovative technologies in these arenas, with government agencies promoting regulation to support these initiatives. The moment we create more forward-thinking regulation better suited to these new technologies, we open the door for tech companies to undertake tests that were not possible in the past, and we create an opportunity to forge innovative regulations for the entire Israeli economy for the future.”

Aharon Aharon, CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority, said:

“Operating programs and pilots in real-time environments with adapted regulation will allow Israeli technology companies to offer proof of concept and quickly penetrate markets, thus helping them grow into large-scale companies in Israel. In addition, the commercialization of innovative technologies in Israel will improve the local market and the government’s regulatory capabilities and will help government entities help propel tech companies from idea to commercialization. The claim is often made that regulation and not technology is what prevents our world from transforming in the way many technology leaders are predicting. For this purpose, the Israel Innovation Authority is joining together with the transportation industry to spur the type of innovation which has advanced beyond the laboratory towards trial environments by focusing on such pilots.”

Valerann: The Smart Road Startup Is Now Being Implemented in Tel Aviv

Israel’s Smart Road startup Valerann, is now getting its first pilot in Tel Aviv which will see the Ayalon highway replace the standard road studs with smart sensors. These sensors will relay information in real-time on everything happening on the road.  This data will be used to detect risks and prevent accidents.  Road planners and engineers can use the information to better optimize intersections. The Smart Road System can be used to automate traffic control centers and its wireless sensory and IoT system supports connected and autonomous vehicles.

The Valerann team has been seeing lots of success since it first launched in August of 2016.  They have won numerous awards like Highways UK, the Intelligent Infrastructure Hub 2017 winner,  the Pitch 2017 Awards, and  was selected as one of six winning startups to join the Transurban Smart Highways Challenge & Innovation Lab.

Valerann – Channel 10 from Valerann on Vimeo.

Valerann is testing the system in two other pilots in UK and the US.  These pilots are meant to give the company real-time data to better enhance their algorithm.  If these are successful, expect these studs to be implemented in more areas as autonomous vehicle use begins to expand.

“It is clear to everyone that it would not be right for the autonomous car to work alone,” CEO Gabriel Jacobson said to TOI. “It must work with an ecosystem of technologies and entities and be part of a basket of solutions.”

With Mobile Eye making waves in the autonomous vehicular space and now Valerann, Israel is becoming a transporation tech giant.


Israel’s New Drone Evacuates Wounded, Delivers Cargo In IDF Demonstration

Tactical Robotics (a subsidiary of Urban Aeronautics Ltd), based in Yavne. Israel, successfully performed a first “mission representative” demonstration for its lead customer, the Israel Defence Forces.  In the demonstration, which took place at the Israel Combat Rescue and Emergency Medicine conference in Megiddo the company presented Cormorant’s capability to be the first UAS system fielded for unmanned casualty evacuation missions.

According to the company’s press release:

“The demonstration showcased the drone taking off with a load of cargo, preforming a pre-planned flight to a specified point of delivery, offloading the cargo, and loading of a specialized, medical training manikin simulating a casualty which was then returned to the point of origin.

A monitor supplied by the IDF’s chief surgeon Trauma Branch (see Tactical Robotics’ May 2017 update) transmits vital information to the crews on the ground, in addition to a video camera for two-way communication with the patient. With the exception of the loading of the ‘casualty’ and off-loading of cargo, the entire simulated mission was performed autonomously.”

Liat Sade-Sternberg: “The Israeli startup ecosystem is a very supportive and very welcoming environment.”

As part of my ongoing series of interviews with up and coming Israeli tech leader I had the opportunity to sit down with Liat Sade-Sternberg,  CEO and

Hi Liat.  Thank you for speaking with us.

How has the road from early stage startup to a growth stage company been in the tech industry?

Everything as a startup is challenging. In order to stick around and create value for your company, you have to be creative and fast moving every step of the way. Once you can actually see there is an opportunity and changes in the market, you have to react very fast. The road from Fusic to was an immediate reaction once we understood there was a better opportunity in our industry.

Due to Israel’s reputation in the hi-tech scene, do you feel extra pressure to succeed?

I don’t necessarily think there’s an extra pressure to succeed, but I think that the Israeli startup ecosystem is a very supportive and very welcoming environment. There are so many other startups and people in your shoes that it helps you gain the confidence to get it done. The pressure is common for most of the startups – getting funding, hiring the most suitable team members etc. The main differentiation in the Israeli ecosystem is when you market in the US and you have to be closer to your market.

How has being a female entrepreneur in the tech industry affected your success?

It’s hard to tell. When discussing, I don’t speak about myself as a female leading a startup, I just lead the startup as anyone else would. The main difference I have encountered isn’t because I am a female, it’s because I am a mom. Getting drinks after work is not something that I’ll typically do with other entrepreneurs or investors because I am going home to my kids. I am more focused during my day and try to be very efficient on the job.

What was the moment in time when you began to believe in your startup? Like this is going to succeed.

From the very beginning. If you don’t believe in it from the start, you won’t be able to take it to the next level. It’s your job to convince brands and investors that your product will give them value. If you can’t see the value from the start – you will have a very hard time convincing others to see it too.

How did you come up with the idea for

There were a few indications that led to the idea of We had the music experience from the past with Fusic, but as we remade the app – we saw a need for other content, such as entertainment and videos. It’s great to interact with music, but so many people don’t know how to sing and are happy to engage with other content. This gave us the idea to take the product that we already had and expand it into something bigger. Before we did that we had meetings with potential partners, demos that we shared with users and once we had the right indications we started to move.

Can you tell us about it?

The everyday user cannot create viral or unique UGC, only 1% of the users actively create new content, while the other 99% of the participants only lurk. The app brings viral UGC creation abilities to the everyday user, using patented AR, audio and aftereffect technology with one-click experience for the end user. users can interact with a range of different 3D animated characters and personalities, to easily create unique, funny and quirky videos. With just one tap the characters come to life, enabling users to record themselves interacting with them in their own surroundings to create videos they can share with their friends. The proprietary solution automatically utilizes single camera footage to project the augmented reality characters in the app.

Additionally, allows people to become part of their favorite videos and pop culture, such as memes and breaking news clips, by letting users insert themselves directly into the action and dictate how scenes play out. Users can have ‘conversations’ with politicians and media personalities, sing and dance with celebrities, become part of famous memes and create their own viral news clips. technology allows users to be blended into any video in real-time using smart camera input manipulation, from 3D transformation to color effects and more.

What are your future plans for

Our main focus in the coming months is to grow and bring on board more partners.

Do you have advice for young entrepreneurs?

Listen to the feedback you get from users, potential investors and potential partners.

Do deep research on the market before you jump into the venture.

Meet with the people you’re targeting with your startup.

THEN start working on it. It’s easy for YOU to fall in love with your start up, the hard part is convincing others to as well.

Find good mentors and people with experience and involve them in your dream, it will save you a lot of time and mistakes.

TEAM – hire the smartest and most talented people to join your team.

Thanks so much Liat and best of luck.

Gil Eyal: “I definitely feel a responsibility to represent Israel in a positive way”

I had the opportunity to sit down with Gil Eyal, CEO and CoFounder of HYPRBrands.  Gil is a successful CEO of a fast growing startup located in New York.  As a CEO with roots in Israel, it was fascinating interview from both a technology angle as well as learning how Israeli can fare in the American startup scene..

Thanks Gil for speaking with us.

Can you  tell me how the road from early stage startup to a growth stage company been in the tech industry?

Very challenging, but the challenges have changed. If early on the main challenge was to convince people that the world I’m describing will exist, today it’s all about the numbers.

Our vision was always different than most of the industries. We believe in a world where there are millions of influential individuals that are easily approached by anyone with a brand or agenda and can be utilized to get messages across to interested individuals. We believe humans are wired this way – we surround ourselves with people we trust and consult in them before deciding where to eat, what to drive and how much to spend.

This new world requires a large amount of technology – discovery, evaluation, outreach, measurement – all of these become non-trivial when you shift from a world of 5,000 celebrities to ten million influencers.

Due to Israel’s reputation in the hi-tech scene, do you feel extra pressure to succeed?

I think being Israeli has been a strong net positive. The Israeli community is extremely helpful and you develop thicker skin after working in an Israel environment for years. The pressure to succeed has to be internal or you can’t make it as a founder. There are too many tough moments – too many ideas that pop in your head and for a second look like they might be better than the one you’re working on because you’re currently stuck in a dip.

I definitely feel a responsibility to represent Israel in a positive way – especially in areas where stereotypically Israeli founders are expected to struggle. We pride ourselves on the culture at HYPR and on our relationship with our investors and customers.

Can you tell us a bit about HYPR? How did the idea come to you?

As a marketer at heart, I’m a data fanatic. Over the years, I’ve gotten used to having access to more and more sophisticated audience demographic data and targeting solutions. Then I found myself in a talent buying role for a startup named Mobli, which was an early player in the photo and video sharing space in 2010.

I ended up doing deals with several hundred big name celebrities and social media stars. No one called them influencers back then, and there wasn’t much I could find about their audiences. I just knew they had a lot of followers and expected them to drive their fans to Mobli by using the product.

The truth is I should have known we would only have partial success because I knew nothing about the audience. I would never buy ad space in a magazine without knowing who reads it. Why would I be blinded by a vanity metric like the number of followers without knowing who they are, whether they’re active and whether they’d have any interest in my product?

I knew I wouldn’t be the only one with this problem. As influencer marketing was becoming mainstream I knew people would be looking for the same kind of data they see in other areas of marketing. The idea for HYPR came from wanting to apply traditional marketing fundamentals to an industry that had no data. HYPR’s audience demographic data is sourced through partnerships with some of the largest social networks in the World, coupled with groundbreaking technology that treats influencer profiles the same way Google treats websites. HYPR uses a combination of image recognition, voice transcription and natural language processing to combine with first party disclosed data from over four billion different accounts, to create the most accurate and timely analysis of the influencer world.

What’s is it like being an Israeli hi-tech leader outside of Israel?

As someone who grew up partially in the US and partially in Israel, I feel at home in both places. It has been amazing seeing how the New York tech scene has grown, and how Israeli startups have begun to make their mark, with more than 400 Israeli startups in NYC alone. I try to be accessible to young founders – especially ones that plan on moving to NYC, with advice and introductions.

People tend to lump things in groups. Everything I do reflects on Israel and on Israelis and that’s always something I’m aware of.

What has been the most challenging aspect of finding success in the hi-tech scene been?

For me it has definitely been the psychological aspect of running a company. It’s a very lonely role even if the people around you want to be supportive. Making decisions without all the information is a daily task and not for the faint of heart. The ups and downs of startup life were not meant for normal human consumption and it takes a long time to get used to them.

Thanks so much Gil and best of luck.


Markets in Turmoil – Can Cryptocurrencies Save the US from the Debt Bomb?

It is always amusing to hear people dismissively claim that Bitcoin is a ‘bubble’ or that it isn’t backed by anything. What most tend to overlook is that the ‘real bubble’ exists with all fiat currencies, which are all backed by nothing. As of this writing, the total cryptocurrency market cap is approximately $300 billion (down from last month’s high of around $800 billion). When compared to the global money supply and global debt markets, the cryptocurrency space is miniscule. As I’ve said a few months ago, the current system of central banking will end and the only remaining question is what will replace it.

There is no better example of a fiat currency bubble than the US dollar. While the tax cut just signed into law has provided immediate benefits to the US economy, few have attempted to address the enormous national debt burden.

Here are some basic facts on the US fiscal condition:

Historically, the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates to prevent inflation. For example, during the prior ‘tightening cycle’ (2004-2006), the fed funds rate was increased by 400 basis points (~1% – ~5%). Today, the current fed funds rate is 1.5%. A recent CNBC report forecast a 2.24% fed funds rate at the end of 2018, up about a quarter point from the prior survey. The Federal Reserve can in no way deviate from these projected increases. If it did, interest payments on newly issued debt and on maturing debt would skyrocket which would further exacerbate the national debt problem. Massive reductions in government expenditures to reduce the deficit would lead to societal chaos. Discounting some windfall capital recovery (not likely even from this executive order), the only way the US Treasury can realistically continue to pay interest on this massive debt is by keeping rates near historic lows with small yearly increases. Optimistically, low interest rates would enable the US to grow its way out of its debt. Perhaps, that is why the President has maintained such a close relationship with major banks (reversing his campaign promise). In December, the Trump administration waived punishmentfor these banks over prior crimes.

Last Friday, the 10-year Treasury yield surged to 2.845 percent, the highest since January 2014. Yields closed lower on Monday as the historic selloff in stocks sparked demand for low risk debt. Conversely, some have attributed the major drop in the stock market to long term concerns over bond yields. Since 2009, the Federal Reserve has engaged in massive money printing (i.e. QE1, QE2, etc.) to ‘stimulate the economy’. If this were sound monetary policy, Venezuela and Zimbabwe would be beacons of economic success (which they are not). The US is the beneficiary of the US dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency. Multiple iterations of QE (money printing) have enabled the Federal Reserve to purchase treasuries and effectively keep interest rates low while capital has flowed into assets such as real estate. A future ‘black swan’ event (like the Chinese selling off their US treasury holdings or a bank run) may occur when bond yields rise suddenly. In that case there must be yet another iteration of QE.

So, we have established two points:

  1. The US can only gradually raise the fed funds rate over the next three years.
  2. The US must print money to remain solvent in case of rising bond yields.

Fundamentally, printing money to pay your expenses should be considered a credit event (default). There are times where a devaluation of a nation’s currency is necessary. One of the most egregious examples of this was in 1933 when President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6102 which required all in the US to exchange their gold for $20.67 per ounce. Over the next year, the president then raised the official gold price to $35 per ounce, effectively cutting 40% off the US dollar. There has been global discussion (primarily from China) of the US dollar’s demise as the world’s reserve currency. In the past, precious metals were the sole alternative to fiat currencies. Now, cryptocurrencies have emerged as a possible alternative. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu even stated in December that banks will eventually disappear due to blockchain technology.

Cryptocurrencies have exhibited massive volatility losing 30% of its combined value over the past 24 hours and 60% over the past month. Lately, there has been a slew of negative news in the cryptocurrency space. This past weekend, most major US credit card issuers including Bank of America, JP Morgan and Citigroup banned the use of their cards to buy Bitcoin or other digital currencies. Prepared testimony for Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) chairmen was released yesterday and suggest that the US government could slap further regulations on cryptocurrencies in the near future.

Still, the unprecedented rise in cryptocurrency prices (part of the ongoing global currency reset) has enabled an effective stealth devaluation of the US dollar. There has also been evidence of positive benefits to Japan’s economy from cryptocurrencies. Nomura analysts estimate a wealth effect from unrealized gains on Bitcoin trading by Japanese investors and a potential boost to real GDP growth to Japan’s economy of about .3%.

One of the characteristics required for a cryptocurrency to be defined as money is to act as a medium of exchange. There have been all sorts of rumors that major Internet and traditional retailers will start accepting cryptocurrencies as payment in the US (they already do in Japan). Recently, Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz said he believes digital currency will catch on with consumers, though not necessarily Bitcoin. While there is plenty of speculative and unsupported euphoria, any chief executive of a public retail firm has a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to investigate the acceptance of other types of payment methods. As of a week ago, interest remained strong as over 1 million people joined a waitlist to register for cryptocurrency trading with Robinhood.

For a great perspective on the practical use of cryptocurrencies, I highly recommend watching Mike Maloney’s video on the crypto revolution. Note that there are other amazing technologies like holochain and hashgraph that may compliment or even compete with blockchain platforms. For those concerned about a future ban on cryptocurrencies, please watch this video from Andreas Antonopoulos (well-known speaker on bitcoin). An outright ban on cryptocurrencies in the US is highly unlikely. It would be a mistake to think the US government will accept some kind of market crash just to prevent a rise in cryptocurrency prices.  In addition to any economic ‘wealth effect’, the US economy can benefit from the efficiencies in industries that use blockchain technologies. One of those areas is social media where censorship issues with Facebook can be avoided. Steemit, a social media platform with virtual currency rewards that runs over the Steem blockchain, is an alternative that has garnered attention recently.

Published in News with Chai