Israel is a tiny nation of about eight million people whose interest in hi-tech startups is passionate. Last year, I sought and found some of the hottest Israeli startups. This year, I again had the opportunity to visit this remarkable country and discover several startups worth watching. In keeping with a year-end listicle, I'm noting 15 startups to watch in 2017--the ones I was the most impressed with in Israel.
This year, I wanted to focus on companies, both large and small, that find themselves on the cusp of achieving great things. I believe that many, if not all, of these firms are on their way to becoming global disrupters and influencers.
This is a company I mentioned last year, but it has made incredible strides in the market. Cargo shipping is the global economy's lifeblood (more than 90 percent of world trade travels the oceans) and a $1 trillion a year industry. Managing the planet's supply lines is one of the most complex tasks, and yet it is also one of the least connected industries.
Windward is a Tel Aviv-based startup that was founded by two retired naval officers. A maritime analytics solution, Windward processes more than 100 million data points every day to deliver unprecedented insights into the vital cargo-shipping industry. The platform does this through combining ships' location data with data about the ships to map optimized shipping paths and behaviors while at sea. This innovative startup raised $10.8 million last year.
A fundamental truth of the social economy is that we buy from people we trust. Yotpo allows e-commerce merchants to leverage usage on this site for consumer review over purchase decisions. The user-generated content-marketing platform offers e-commerce brands a social ratings and reviews platform that integrates into their sites and broader marketing efforts. The Yotpo platform gives verifiable consumers a user-friendly way to create credible product reviews and share them with their friends on their social media profiles. This Israeli startup recently raised $22 million in Series C funding.
E-commerce fraud is on the rise. According to the 2016 LexisNexis "The True Cost of Fraud" study, every dollar lost costs merchants roughly $2.40 for chargebacks, fees, and merchandise replacement. This figure grew from $2.32 in 2015. Managing fraud can be a complex endeavor, as e-commerce providers are faced with multiple fraud detection solutions. Riskified aims to change that by offering end-to-end fraud prevention solutions that use machine learning and data analysis techniques to detect and minimize fraud. Users can create custom integrations through its API. Retailers can determine how many capabilities to use, and can rest assured that the process is invisible to their customers. Based in Tel Aviv, Riskified raised $25 million in Series B funding.
Often the seemingly little things prove to be the biggest headaches for business owners, professionals, and freelancers. One of the biggest challenges can be getting paid. This is particularly tricky when dealing with customers in multiple countries. Payoneer's value proposition is fairly simple: a range of payment solutions for diverse markets. By making payment so much easier, Payoneer empowers its three million customers, based in more than 200 countries, to expand and grow in a global marketplace. Operations in Petah Tikva, this fintech company recently raised a whopping $180 million. It also recently made my list of top e-check companies in the world.
5. Minerva Labs
According to Kaspersky Lab, "a single cryptomalware attack may cost up to $99,000 for small and medium businesses." Malware is a growing threat to an increasingly connected world, and a typical response has been to develop countermeasures as part of a digital arms race against malware vendors. Minerva uses malware's functionality to subdue it before it can emerge and threaten an infected system. Minerva's Environment Simulation Technology fools malware into thinking it is unsafe for the bad code to emerge and activate. Instead, the malware remains dormant and can be safely removed at the user's convenience. Minerva won the prize for most innovative cyber startup at last year's Tel Aviv Cybertech.
6. Argus Cyber Security
Argus provides a range of automotive cybersecurity services that empower its customers to more proactively measure and make sense of the threats facing them. As cyber attacks become more prevalent and complex, underestimating the threats you face is becoming your greatest vulnerability. This is particularly the case when it comes to our cars, which are becoming smarter and more automated. Argus offers its customers, clustered in the auto industry, a variety of services covering risk assessment, vulnerability analysis, code review, penetration testing, and incident response. Based in Tel Aviv, this startup raised $26 million in Series B funding in late 2015.
Jerusalem-based Lightricks was created by a group of self-described "PhD dropouts who realized they'd much rather spend time developing cutting-edge products for real people than publishing academic papers." This team came up with content creation tools. The first two are Facetune and Enlight, both of which have become top paid apps for Android and iOS. Based in Jerusalem, Lightricks raised a $10 million venture funding round in mid-2015.
Plarium is at the forefront of mobile and browser game development. Based in Herzliya--and with studios in the U.S., the U.K., and Ukraine--Plarium developed popular hits such as PokerShark and Farmandia. More recently, Plarium developed Stormfall: Rise of Balur, which featured the talents of Megan Fox. Newzoo predicts the global gaming industry will be worth more than $100 billion in 2017, and that mobile will account for roughly 40 percent of that. Plarium's games are played by more than 250 million users across 150 countries, making the company worth the attention.
It is important to know whether our campaigns have reached their intended audiences and how best to spend our ad dollars. AppsFlyer has a range of solutions to address these challenges. The company offers a variety of marketing data and analysis solutions, including retention and cohort reports, retargeting attribution, real-time attribution, and active mobile fraud detection.
Data-driven businesses should watch SimilarWeb. This Tel Aviv startup analyzes more than three million mobile apps and 80 million websites across 60 countries, every month. With its Web app and API, the company delivers segmented data insights on site traffic and app usage and maintains essential service for online research. SimilarWeb has raised more than $60 million across seven funding rounds. Its solutions include conversion and funnel analysis, competitive brand analysis, audience insights, and a wide range of site performance metrics.
11. Start a Fire
Start a Fire supercharges URLs, turning shared links into content recommendation tools. It's a solution that enables brands to share links to interesting third-party content while adding a branded content recommendation badge with further content suggestions. Brands can select the content they want to promote on their badges and track engagement. Start a Fire is a fully integrated content distribution and social media management platform. It's based in Tel Aviv and raised $2.5 million in Series A funding earlier this year.
Advertisers and publishers face a growing set of challenges as consumers demand more relevant offers and user experiences online. Another Tel Aviv-based startup, Imonomy leverages machine learning, semantic content analysis, and large data sets to deliver relevant offers to consumers when needed. Imonomy's in-image platform delivers ads to the editorial images on publishers' sites and optimizes their placement via a viewability analysis of each page. As the Web increasingly becomes a visual communication medium, Imonomy is positioned to meet many demands of advertisers, publishers, and consumers.
Tel Aviv-based BrightInfo is on the cutting edge of personalized marketing automation. According to Marketo, 98 percent of visitors to your website, on average, are anonymous. This means publishers are mostly in the dark about who visits their websites. BrightInfo's self-learning algorithm conducts a semantic analysis of a site's content and recommends more relevant content to visitors on the basis of their behavior. All of this is executed in real time and is fully automated. BrightInfo's solution highlights anonymous visitors--with site marketers' ROI rendered clear as day, thanks to a new reporting mechanism.
Colu uses blockchain technologies to build local economies. Its ambitiously named solution is Economy in a Box, and it encompasses a digital tool kit that merchants can use to distribute local currencies via blockchain technology. Blockchain-based currencies are close approximations of physical cash without the inherent insecurities of cash. Transactions are fast, secure, and verifiable, and economies based on this technology are peer to peer. Financial services companies are taking more of an interest in blockchain-based transactions, and Colu is lowering barriers to entry for both local communities and the services they support.
15. Zebra Medical Vision
Shefayim-based machine learning diagnostics company Zebra Medical Vision adds to the medtech space. The founder and chairman, Eyal Gura, founded Zebra after a diving accident that led to many unnecessary procedures because of the technician's inability to analyze the medical image correctly. Zebra announced a new algorithm that detects breast cancer at an early stage. During the course of 2016, Zebra has announced two algorithms focusing on disease detection for liver and arteries, and it's planning to release several new algorithms over the course of 2017. Zebra Medical Vision has raised $20 million in two years, which includes its latest round ($12 million) in May.
These companies are leading innovation and ingenuity in Israel. Hopefully, we'll see many more success stories in the future.