Beyond Meerkat: What’s Next For Israel’s Entrepreneurs

Can the startup hub now scale up? The CEOs of Meerkat and Yo, Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, and other experts weigh in.

Beyond Meerkat: What’s Next For Israel’s Entrepreneurs
[Tel Aviv, Israel Photo: Dmitry Pistrov via Shutterstock]

Meerkat, the live-streaming video app co-founded by three Israeli entrepreneurs, has had a very good run. (Well, it did until Periscope came along, anyway.)

But what do the next five years hold for the Israeli tech community and the country’s great entrepreneurial community?

To find out, Fast Company asked luminaries from the Middle East country’s startup world, from app phenoms to politicians and venture capitalists, for the trends they are watching out for. Despite a rocky year for the region–next-door neighbor Egypt has been dealing with a slow-motion economic crisis while civil war raged just over the Sea of Galilee in Syria––tech firms in Israel have been prospering. As Indian and Chinese tech firms become increasingly big players in Israel’s app, cybersecurity, and hardware scenes, here are seven trends to look out for:

Scaling Heights

“What can be tough is entering into a bigger market, like the U.S. or other parts of the world, where there are already local competitive products or tight-knit communities that you have to break into. We are lucky today though that a lot of those relationships and friendships between Israel and elsewhere are becoming so developed that the distance or other factors that created boundaries to entry and adoption before are falling down. There is a great opportunity for companies like Meerkat to scale much more quickly and significantly than ever before.”––Ben Rubin, CEO Meerkat/Life in Motion

Biotech And Imaging

“Health and life sciences are an area where you will see significant development in next few decades. Especially around Jerusalem, you will see picture imaging technology that can actually transform pictures and movements into technology that guides cars, guides eyes, and even replaces human intelligence in many ways. We are at tip of iceberg of what technology can do, and this is what Israeli entrepreneurs are looking at.”––Nir Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem and venture capitalist

Deep Learning

“Academia research and 8200 intelligence (the Israeli army’s NSA-like unit) core alumni, once focused on telecommunications and security companies, are redirecting their efforts to big data, deep learning, and machine vision. Face.com (now owned by Facebook) has used deep learning to become the leader of face recognition, and Mobileye is saving drivers’ lives after having the largest Israeli IPO ever.”––Eden Shochat, Aleph Ventures

Hardware-Intensive Apps

“Mobile apps tended to be based on simpler technologies in the earlier days of the smartphone for several reasons including the newness of the platform and the emphasis on free software for mobile. As more companies have recognized that the future is in mobile, more successful mobile monetization methods have been found and more experience has been gained in bringing these products to market, there will be an influx in more complex and impressive technologies coming to mobile. 2015 is going to see the launch of many of these types of apps and the wider impact will be huge.”––Moshe Hogeg, CEO Mobli and creator of Yo

Global Capital Injection

“Israeli tech is experiencing an influx of global capital. Obviously, the latest was the Meerkat funding by Greylock, Sound Ventures, and others. While Meerkat is generating a huge amount of buzz, it is easy to forget that the company sits in a small office in the middle of Jaffa. It is difficult to name a large VC that is not opening up shop in Israel. Whether it is Sequoia, Greylock, Battery, Blumberg, and even Marc Andreesen told me that if and when they open another office, it will surely be in Tel Aviv.”––Hillel Fuld, CMO Zula

Not Exiting

“Israelis are often asked why the country hasn’t produced a Google or Facebook. It is said that we’re better at incubating ideas than we are at bringing them to fruition. But we’re already starting to see that change with more IPOs and bigger exits, and the next few years will see a sea-change in how Israeli companies mature and grow into big businesses. You can expect to see global companies that are market leaders in their space, and Israeli management teams that are committed to building huge companies out of Israel. We’ve proven ourselves as the ‘startup nation’, but the next few years will see us establish ourselves as ‘scale-up nation.’”––Ami Daniel, CEO Windward

Return Entrepreneurs

“I would say that the biggest trend is return entrepreneurs–those who had their exits and are back with new ideas. This is important because second time around they may be less anxious to cash out and want to try to build something bigger. That responds to the question everyone has asked, if the ‘startup nation’ can become the ‘scale-up nation.’––Michael Granoff, Maniv Energy Capital and Better Place backer.

About the author

Based in sunny Los Angeles, Neal Ungerleider covers science and technology for Fast Company. He also works as a consultant, writes books, and does other things.

More

Video

More Stories