Amag Group has been a partner of Swiss Startup Factory for many years. We recently did a study for them about mobility in the future and now also organized a four day trip to Israel with a focus on the automotive/mobility industry to get more practically orientated insight in the topic. The executives of the Amag Group, lead by Philipp Wetzel, CDO and Director Marketing & Business Development, as well as Max Meister and Antonio Gasser were part of the trip. The SSUF could use their global network of startup hubs and entrepreneurs, to take Amag to Tel Aviv, where the world’s most interesting mobility startups are based. Israel’s startup-innovation-ecosystem is, after Silicon Valley, the most impressive investment location. Over the past three years, it has generated over 10 billion US-dollars in venture capital investments. The startup mentality there is completely different to Switzerland, which is why the trip was a great opportunity for the Swiss Startup Factory to get inspired and adapt certain structures to use in the Swiss startup ecosystem.
Straight after arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport, on the first day the team was brought to the office of Lool Ventures, a venture capital firm headquartered in Tel Aviv. Their investment focus is in the digital sector, deep learning, KI, mHealth, augmented and virtual reality. “Lool” is hebrew for crib or hatchery, meaning valuable things are hatched and raised there. Founder and GP, Avichay Nissenbaum, showed the team around the office and talked about the Israeli culture and how business is done over there. In an impressive speech about the key success factors of startups, he explained why Israel is such a successful startup nation. The main reasons are listed here:
- Human capital: Israel as an immigration nation has experts from all over the world, Israelis don’t fear to fail and the country holds a record of 12 nobel prize winners
- Fast exit: The goal of a company is to sell or go public within 5 years
- Military: The military with its huge budget, 9,4 billion USD in 2005, is a big support for startups as it invests a great sum every year
- Think global: Israelis think and operate global, goal is often the US-market
- Take risks: A high level of risk-taking is common for Israelis under the motto “fail but fail fast”
- Just do it: When an idea with business potential comes up, they don’t hesitate, processes are very fast.
- Be connected and proud: Founders not only work for their startups but also for the nation, as they are proud to be part of such a startup hotspot.
On the second day of the trip, the team was picked up early and brought to an industrial area of the city. The first stop was a visit at IonTerra. They were welcomed by CEO Ronen Korman, CTO Ehud Spiegel, Thorsten Buchmeier (head of sales) and other management members. IonTerra developed rtCVI, a technology that has been engineered to recognize, collect and analyze urban information throughout the city in real time by using mobile phones or integrated cameras in networked cars. In other words, smartphones actively observe the traffic through a dashcam feature, measuring all free-standing parking areas and report this to a central server. In the future, the automakers will build the software right into the car-integrated-cameras to monitor parking spaces. Through that, drivers will always know where they can find a free parking space.
Afterwards, the group visited the company City Transformer, that has already been published in the Swiss media. They produce a “folded” electric-car, that fits into a motorcycle parking space. The entire vehicle only weighs about 400kg. So far, the electric-car only exists in virtual reality.
After a little break, a third company was the last startup of the day. At the moment, Nexar is one of Israel’s most successful startups, on its way to become a unicorn (company valuation over 1 billion USD). Nexar Ltd offers a community-based AI-Dashcam-App that helps drivers to protect themselves on the go and in the event of an accident provide documentation, recorded videos and a situation reconstruction. The connected smartphone app warns in case of danger on the road and draws the event data automatically on a private, secure Nexar cloud account. An internal camera mode allows taxi or riders to be protected from uncontrolled or drunken passengers. The depth of Nexar’s on-device analysis in conjunction with recorded videos makes it possible to create a detailed accident report that transformed the process of damage message completely.
After this intense day, the team was invited to Swiss ambassador Jean-Daniel Ruch’s private residence. The remarks of ambassador Ruch – who by the way earned his spurs as a consultant to Carla Del Ponte – were extremely interesting. In a short speech, he especially pointed out the importance of the military in Israel.
On the third day, the team had the opportunity to visit Jaffa, which is the oldest and most southern part of Tel Aviv, with the oldest port in the world. After some sightseeing, the group went to the startup Moovit. Josh Wine, CRO, welcomed them and gave an introduction about their business. Moovit is a real-time app with everything that is needed for a smarter public transport. Through the combination of transit data with live crowdsourcing input Moovit provides commuters with a complete real-time snapshot of their trip and even beats the fastest and most comfortable routes. The first four business years of Moovit were characterized by growth. Positive results were not a focus as the team convinced venture capital funds to provide them with ample funding. During the fifth (!) year, they started to search for a viable business model.
After that it was time to learn more about Israel’s most successful exit of the past two years – Mobileye – where the group was welcomed by Udi Remer, Head of Business Development. Mobileye is the world leader in development of vision technology for driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving. The company has programs with more than 25 car manufacturers using their technology integrated in more than 313 car models. Until today, there are more than 15 million vehicles worldwide with Mobileye technology fitted.
On the last day, yet two highlights were to be seen. First stop was the visit at the startup Karamba Security. Karamba Security Ltd together with Carwall offers an independent cybersecurity solution for connected vehicles. Carwall integrates in the engine control unit (ECU) of a vehicle and offers several security layers to automatically seal automotive softwares against cyberattacks.
Final station of the studytour was the visit at one of the most successful co-working-spaces in Israel – SOSA. By the merging startups, entrepreneurs, corporations and investors – all under one roof – SOSA has created an exclusive global network that closes the gap between supply and demand of business innovation. Through this system, SOSA enables business opportunities for all parties. They provide the following services:
- Positioning & Branding / Innovation Strategy > Criteria > Longlist
- Scouting and Deal Flow
- Corporate Innovation Training
- Ecosystem Introduction
The success story of SOSA is impressive. So far over 1500 startups are connected with investors and over 60 deals implemented. Now the international expansion with offshoots in the US, England and later China will follow.
With that second highlight of the last day we could end the trip, having gotten an insight into the dynamic startup life in Israel. Israel should definitely function as a role model for Switzerland when it comes to raising startups. We are happy the trip we organized met everyone’s expectations and was a great inspiration for both parties.