True, there is only one Silicon Valley–the nerve center for technology invention and investment. Many have celebrated the remarkable spirit evident among the Valley’s entrepreneurs. Well, I recently witnessed a similar sort of esprit de corps. Israel ranks among the world’s top investors in R&D as a proportion of GDP. It is becoming a magnet for venture capitalists. And according to the authors of the 2010 best-seller, Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, Israel has attracted “over twice as much venture capital investment as the U.S. and thirty times more than Europe.”
Israel’s dedication to fostering business innovation, and promoting it, is to me a model for other communities to follow–from American municipalities to African villages. Bluntly put, Israeli officials don’t have their heads in the sand. It’s clear to them, for example, that mobile technology is perhaps the most important space on the economic landscape. That’s why they have been relentless in promoting Israel’s mobile startups, seeking to connect them with business partners and customers from Europe and the United States.
In March, more than 150 Israeli companies traveled to the GSMA Mobile World Congress (a huge convention of wireless companies) in Barcelona, making the contingent the 4th largest delegation of companies present at the conference (after the US, Britain and France). Many of the companies were located in exhibit pavilions hosted by the Israel Export Institute or the Israeli Mobile Association, as well as at their own independent booths. The joint national effort by the Israel Institute and the Foreign Trade Administration of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor resulted in a reported 2,000 business meetings between Israeli and foreign companies. The exhibitors closed deals, advanced negotiations and made breakthroughs with the world’s largest mobile operators and device manufacturers.
Less than two months later, another contingent of Israel’s mobile innovators traveled to U.S. shores determined to woo business from America’s largest wireless carriers and manufacturers. At the end of April, 18 Israeli companies gathered in New Orleans for the CTIA Wireless show. I was given an exclusive tour of the bunch–chatting with management, getting up-close demos of the technology, and even attending a private dinner with Israeli executives at Brennan’s, a classic New Orleans restaurant. Mmmm, that was some mighty good cookin’!
The delegation’s visit was facilitated by Richard Siber, a longtime wireless expert brought in by industry officials to assist the Israeli contingent in identifying fruitful U.S. partnerships. No one disputes the creative prowess of Apple or Android, or countless other U.S. companies. But with the right connections, Israel’s products and services, “pretty cool stuff,” Siber says, “could further enhance the experience of mobile consumers everywhere.” So, business leaders the globe over might be well advised to take note. Israel’s effort in wireless promotion is a valuable lesson. The greatest success in business often comes once you leave the lab.
Here’s a glance at some of Israel’s “cool” technology:
Idomoo: If applied appropriately, this could become a breakthrough in customer service and customer loyalty. If you’re like me, you despise automated voice operators and instructions. But what about a nicely conceived video? Idomoo creates personalized videos. That is, each video (say, for a customer service issue) features the consumer’s name and speaks directly to that person’s specific suite of products, problems and desires. The videos can be used to explain complex details of a pension scheme in plain language or help a cellphone customer understand where more savings can come from. The service is in a pilot phase in the U.S. but in Ireland it’s already produced big time results, like a 30% reduction in calls to a customer call center.
SlideIT: You’ve probably heard of Swipe technology, which allows users tom slide their fingers across a smartphone’s or tablet’s touchscreen to form a word, rather than type it on the keypad. Well, meet Swipe’s forefather: SlideIT. Made by Dasur and launched in 2007, a couple of years before Swipe, the makers of SlideIT say they control the algorithm that makes the technology work. The end result is that it enables word prediction without having to complete the slide. And that could translate into faster writing and functionality. Download the SlideIT app in 45 languages from the Android market. No iPhone app yet, but stay tuned.
Snapkeys: Mobile device makers have been trying to figure out ways to add more space to the screen. That’s usually meant bigger screens and bulkier devices. With Snapkeys, a phone’s keyboard is invisible. IPad users know how inconvenient it is to have the touch keyboard taking up half of the screen. But if Snapkeys were applied, you can view and interact with the entire screen without a keyboard blocking it. Adverisers must be salivating! Snapkeys works by tapping on the screen in a formulaic way. Hard to explain except that it’s like learning a new language, at least for me. But Snapkeys execs say they’re introducing the technology at elementary schools, where kids pickup the formula in a couple of days. The vision is to embed the technology into TV programming as well as smartphones and tablets. That way people can carry on chat conversations while watching American Idol, and without blocking anything else on the screen.