Israel calls itself the “startup nation.” Israelis say that technology is the country’s No. 1 export.
By some counts, Israel is home to 4,800 startups today. It’s also home to least two dozen accelerator/incubator programs in the Tel Aviv area, alone, including some run by Microsoft and Google.
There are more incubators in other cities, too, including a program in Jerusalem run by Jerusalem Venture Partners on a campus so big it has its own restaurant and nightclub.
All of this is to say that as a startup hub, Israel is second only to Silicon Valley.
So it’s not easy to name the nation’s hottest, most exciting startups because everywhere you turn there are young companies doing really cool things.
Business Insider recently spent a week exploring Israel’s super hot startup community, meeting with founders, employees and venture capitalists.
(Disclosure: Microsoft and Jerusalem Venture Partners paid some of the travel expenses for this trip.)
We asked everyone to name the nation’s coolest, hottest startups.
Waze is far and away the hottest, most talked about startup in Israel these days.
It's an internationally popular maps-and-navigation app for 30 million drivers worldwide. Drivers report their traffic problems, which is a great way to get real time traffic info.
At one point, Apple was rumoured to be buying Waze. That didn't happen but the company is doing so well that co-founder Uri Levine has become an angel investor in other Israeli startups, like Pixtr, the app that makes people look gorgeous in photos.
Waze has offices in Palo Alto, Calif. and New York.
Wix is a five-year-old company backed by VC firms like Benchmark and Bessemer.
It provides free and low-cost websites and lets people with no tech background create beautiful sites. Wix hosts over 30 million sites.
In Israel, Wix is known for its gorgeous offices in an up-and-coming area in near the Mediterranean sea called Tel Aviv Port. (Here are some pictures of the office.)
Wix has offices in San Francisco and New York.
BillGuard protects consumers against a kind of fraud-like activity it calls 'grey charges.' That's where companies sneak regular charges on your credit card.
Once you sign up, you do nothing more. BillGuard monitors the world for fishy transactions and gets the refund for you, for up to three cards for free. It charges $80/year to protect up to 10 cards.
BillGuard has raised $13 million so far from big-named VCs including Bessemer, Khosla, Founders Fund (Peter Thiel's and Sean Parker's fund) and Innovation endeavours (Google chairman Eric Schmidt).
BillGuard also has an office in New York.
People that love tech always seem to become the personal help desk and IT support for people that don't.
Soluto is remote control software that makes it easier for these folks to help their parents, kids and other loved ones. Better still, it helps train non-techies on everything from Dropbox to Windows.
Soluto won the $50,000 best-of-show TechCrunch Disrupt prize in 2010 and then raised $18 million including an investment from Eric Schmidt's Innovation endeavours.
Commerce Sciences watches what causes people to buy online and then personalizes a visit to an ecommerce site.
Some have called Commerce Science a 'Meebo bar' for ecommerce, where the buttons can include coupons, tweets, even Facebook friend's recommendations.
Commcerce Sciences raised $1.8 million from Eric Schmidt's Innovation endeavours fund and Israeli fund Genesis Partners and has Angel investors like Joe Lonsdale, co-founder of Palantir Technologies and Addepar.
Commcerce Sciences also has an office in Palo Alto, Calif.
Conduit offers Web toolbars and a web app marketplace used by more than 260,000 publishers in 120 countries including Groupon, Fox News, Time Warner Cable, Travelocity, and The Weather Channel.
A year ago, the company hit a $1.3 billion valuation and JP Morgan plunked out $100 Million for a stake. It became known as Israel's first billion dollar Internet company.
It turned around and made an acquisition of another Israeli company, Wibiya, for a reported $45 million.
Conduit also has an office in Foster City, Calif.
GetTaxi is the most popular taxi-hailing app in Tel Aviv. It's also done well in London and recently launched in New York.
The taxi-hailing app is like similar ones, available for the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry. It lets you pay for the ride via your phone.
A couple of weeks ago, GetTaxi has launched an Uber-like service that it claims will be less expensive than Uber. Plus, cars come with equipped with car seats.
GetTaxi's has worldwide offices including one in New York.
What would you do for $5? That's the premise of thee Fiverr marketplace where people buy and sell stuff and services for as little as five bucks.
Fiverr is now used in more than 200 countries and offers more than 1.5 million services on Fiverr, it says.
Founded in 2010, Fiverr has raised $20 million from Bessemer and Accel Partners.
It also has an office in New York.
IronSource makes software for software developers. It's flagship product is installation software called InstallCore.
If you've downloaded an app from the Internet, there's a 1 in 3 chances you did it via InstallCore, the company says.
IntallCore hasn't revealed its investors, but it does name Ask.com, Google and Infospace as strategic partners.
PrimeSense invented the 3D gesture sensing technology used by Microsoft for Kinect.
But Microsoft didn't buy the company, it merely licensed the tech. Others are licensing it, too, for use in everything from health care devices to interactive billboards.
That means PrimeSense tech is being used by some 20 million devices around the world.
The company raised $20 million through 2011 from venture funds and in 2011, Silver Lake invested an undisclosed amount, too.
It has offices worldwide, including one in Los Altos, Calif.
Outbrain is an article recommendation engine used by such publications as CNN, Fox News, Mashable, MSNBC and Slate.
Founded in 2006, it raised $64 million total fom VCs like Gemini Israel Funds, Lightspeed and Index Ventures. Outbrain has acquired a handful of startups too, including buying Visual Revenue in March, a predictive analytics startup that had raised $2 million.
Outbrain still has offices in Israel but has moved its headquarters to New York.
Conferences are all about networking but most of the time when you meet someone you still exchange business cards.
That's really ancient technology.
Bizzabo turns those meetings into social media connections via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or your address book. Conference organisers hire Bizaboo to list all attendees names in a database. When you meet someone, you simply find the person's name and connect.
It's backed by $1.5 million from angel investors including Jeff Pulver, co-founder in Vonage.
MyHeritage.com is a popular genealogy website with more than 72 million registered users.
It lists more than 1.5 billion names in 27 million family trees and hosts about 70 million photos. It's also acquired a number of smaller genealogy sites over the last few years.
It raised $49 million in venture funds lead by Bessemer, Index and Accel, including famous Israeli angel Yuval Rakavy.
UiU offers an Android launcher app that turns any Android phone into a simpler device, able to be managed from a PC. It's sort of like what Facebook did with Android Home.
It can be used to manage a fleet of phones or to create a specialised phone like one for an Orthodox religious community that includes certain apps and restricts others.
It can also help someone manage phones used by less technical people, like an elderly parent.
It's only in beta now, but next up, UiU will be launching branded phones with carriers in the U.S. and elsewhere. UiU is a current member of Jerusalem Venture Partners accelerator program.
Instead of downloading an app, CrossReader brings a Flipboard-like experience to your browser. As you read articles, it recommends others from across the Web.
CrossReader is currently available as a Chrome extension.
The company doesn't charge the publishers. Instead it's partnering with device OEMs. CEO Navot Volk is about to ink a deal with one of the biggest PC manufacturers in the U.S, he told Business Insider.
CrossReader is a current member of Jerusalem Venture Partners accelerator program.
Correlor Technologies is developing big data technology that helps determine general personality type, like hipster, artistic, geek and so on.
That's interesting, but the really cool part is that its using 'bioinformatics' to analyse you. It is mapping the human personality using the same algorithms biologists use to map human DNA in the Genome Project, says cofounder and bio-scientist Ronen Tal-Botzer.
Correlor is an early-stage startup that's part of Jerusalem Venture Partners accelerator program.
There's a lot of fashion social media apps where you can build and talk about clothes. Wishi is adding something new to the mix: you can upload photos of your actual clothes from your actual closet and then get your Wishi friends to help you pick out an outfit.
If they don't like your clothes they can recommend alternatives from stores for you to buy.
Wishi, an early-stage startup and part of Jerusalem Venture Partners accelerator, is only in beta but from what we've seen, it's a fun, addicting way to shop.
Moolta is like a cross between Kickstarter, Vine and a reality TV show.
People post challenges and if you're up to the challenge, you accept and take a video of yourself doing it. Or you can support a challenge by pledge a donation.
For instance, you can raise money for a charity by running a marathon. Or you can earn money by going to into a McDonald's naked and ordering a glass of milk.
The videotape is the key. Moolta hasn't raised a lot of money, but it's got a lot of people talking and viewing and doing crazy stunts.
Mobli is a real-time photo sharing app with a twist. It lets you see the same event from everyone else's photos, too.
So when you add your shot of the concert, you see every other angle of the concert from other photos. It uses 'channels' with live feeds of content to do this.
Leonardo DiCaprio invested in Mobli's initial $4 million round. Lance Armstrong also invested and famous Kazakhstan angel, Kenges Rakishev, lead a $22 million round.
Mobli hopes to be the next Instagram. It also has an office in New York.
Newvem is an app that makes sure companies aren't paying too much for Amazon's Web Services cloud.
Newvem came out of beta about a year ago. It analyses 125 Amazon users every day and says it's found them $80,000 worth of savings to date. It's raised $4 million from Greylock Partners, Eric Schmidt's Innovation endeavours, and Index Ventures.
Founder Zev Laderman sold his previous startup Aduva to Sun Microsystems in 2006 and since then he's been a big Israeli angel investor (in Wix, for example).
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