Just 10 years ago, self-driving cars were a sci-fi fantasy. Waze wasn’t yet the household name for traffic updates. Face ID didn’t exist and, in any case, smartphones were still in their infancy and wouldn’t know what to do with the facial recognition technology.
Alexa, Snapchat, Instagram, Uber, the iPad, Apple Watch, and consumer drones weren’t part of the tech lexicon either. And people still relied on pocket cameras for photos.
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“The past decade has seen dramatic changes in the innovation world. From the beginning of the decade, smartphones have become widespread and evolved into mini-computers — though early smartphones were being developed in the 1990s, they were not as sophisticated as the 2010 ones, and not common. Today half of humanity spends a big part of our lives, through them,” Limor Shmerling Magazanik, managing director of The Israel Tech Policy Institute, tells NoCamels.
“Social media and social networks emerged with force and became something most people use. Then Big Data analytics joined the array of innovations followed by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Digital platforms, services and products are a big part of the realities of our lives. Education, healthcare, financial services, and more, have all been significantly transformed in the digital space. Same goes for government services,” says Shmerling Magazanik.
Indeed, on a global front, this past decade added extraordinary game-changing technologies to our lives.
Specifically, Israel’s contributions in this decade of innovation have been “off the charts.”
“In this past decade, the Israeli tech ecosystem came into its own. What was interesting, full of potential and a promising phenomenon, became a powerhouse juggernaut that everybody in the world now has recognized,” Jon Medved, founder and CEO of OurCrowd, tells NoCamels.
“The growth has been literally off the charts. When you talk about where we’ve come from in the decade in terms of dollars invested in our startups it’s gone from less than $2 billion at the beginning of the decade to over $8 billion at the end of the decade. Any business that grew that fast is impressive but to get it for a whole ecosystem is unbelievable,” he says.
Indeed, early in the 2010s, an acquisition of an Israeli startup for $30 million would top the news. Today, just 10 years on, such a deal would likely be a side thought of another story. In the first half of this year, the average exit deal stood at four times that amount.
Between 2004 and 2010, the average exit deal hovered in the $30 million to $40 million range. In 2011, the average deal size jumped to $52.3 million, and to $83 million in 2013. In the first half of 2019, the average exit value stood at $116.6 million, according to the IVC Research Center.
The outgoing decade served up blockbuster buyouts of Israeli tech companies that hit international mainstream headlines: Google’s $1.03 billion purchase of the Israeli map app Waze in 2013; US semiconductor giant Intel’s $15.3 billion buyout of collision-avoidance technology supplier Mobileye in 2017 and $2 billion purchase of artificial intelligence chip developer Habana Labs earlier this month; and GPU powerhouse Nvidia’s pending acquisition of multinational supplier of computer networking products Mellanox Technologies for $6.9 billion earlier this year.
“2019 is concluding a decade of unprecedented achievements by the Israeli high-tech market,” wrote Yaron Weizenbluth, High-Tech Partner at PwC Israel in a report this week on Israeli tech exits this year.
Looking ahead at the new decade, “it does not feel like the boom is about to end. The 2020s are starting with a more supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurs that is stronger than ever. Add to that the evolution of Israeli entrepreneurs into players who are well versed in the global game and are confident in their ability to run long distances,” he added.
In 2019, 13 Israeli startups joined the unicorn club of privately-held tech companies worth more than $1 billion.
“It’s not just the amount of dollars invested, the size of the exits and the number of multinationals being established here every year,” says Medved. “We’ve grown up. The startup nation grew up. We are now seeing the beginning of startup nation diplomacy where, literally, our diplomats and politicians are not leading with the newest political gambit on the peace process. They are leading with what we can do together with innovation and technology. That’s a great thing for Israel and our tech sector.”
The breadth of activity in the Israeli tech arena – products, breakthroughs, and technologies – continues to change how things are done. Important and innovative solutions in all fields are coming out of this tiny country almost daily.
“It has been a phenomenal decade for us. The challenge is to repeat this decade and have this kind of growth,” says Medved. “I think this coming decade will see tremendous strides made between Israel and its Arab neighbors, especially on the innovation and funding and investment fronts. I think this decade will see Israeli companies lead and tackle global challenges like climate, seas, plastic, education, digital health and feeding the planet.
“The quality and energy that Israeli entrepreneurs are bringing to these challenges… I’m more optimistic than ever,” he tells NoCamels.
Data privacy will also be an important issue in the next decade.
“The innovation of the beginning of the decade was found to need innovation in the area of human rights protection as well. How do we preserve our values and morals when extensive use of data and complexity of technology may also bring undesirable effects on our social fabric? A key challenge now is creating a collaborative dialogue between entrepreneurs, developers, investors, corporate executives, policymakers, regulators and ethics professionals, in order to jointly produce policies that, on the one hand, support innovation and its benefits, and on the other, preserve our rights,” says Shmerling Magazanik.
She, too, is optimistic for the coming decade of innovation.
“I think we are on the right track that will allow us to enjoy the benefits of innovation, along with maintaining our social values,” she says.
So, while we must wait to see what 2020 and the new decade will bring in terms of technological progress, let’s take a moment to reflect on the outgoing decade.
The years 2010-2019 brought new apps and devices and a huge rise in social media use. It brought better mobile connectivity, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, hardware innovations, autonomous vehicles, and so much more.
NoCamels takes a trip back through 10 years of Israeli innovation to bring you some of the highlights.
SolarEdge – Energy Harvesting (2010)
Energy harvesting technologies continue to evolve as the demands to power our connected lives grow. In 2010, SolarEdge Technologies launched commercial production of its DC optimized inverter solution with the goal of making solar energy more affordable and widespread.
The Israel-based company, which was founded in 2006 by five army intelligence unit graduates, won a prestigious Red Herring Magazine 100 Europe Award in 2010 for its distributed solar power harvesting and PV monitoring solutions. The same year, it was named a “2010 World Top Ten Innovative Energy” company by Fast Company Magazine.
Today, SolarEdge is a global leader in smart energy and is traded on the NASDAQ.
Fiverr – Gig Economy Platform (2010)
The gig economy really took off this past decade with technology-enabled platforms making it easier to freelance from remote positions.
Israeli digital marketplace Fiverr gave freelancers a place to advertise their skills to a variety of customers. US counterpart, UpWork, launched five years after Fiverr.
In June of this year, the Israeli freelance platform celebrated its IPO.
“Technology has made it possible for people to earn a living right from their phone or computer, work from anywhere and collaborate on a global scale. It has allowed people to be measured by their skills and their talent, regardless of anything else,” Gali Arnon, Chief Marketing Officer at Fiverr, said in a press statement.
Iron Dome – Defense Multi-Mission Radars (2011)
In the last days of 2019, Israel announced a government-to-government defense contract with the Czech Republic for the Iron Dome system radar, among other missile capabilities. This is not the first international agreement to share the know-how and technologies of Israel’s famous anti-missile defense system.
The mobile defense system, which intercepts and destroys rockets and artillery shells, initially deployed on March 27, 2011. Since then, the all-weather system has changed the way the world looks at missile defense.
Vayyar – Sensor Technology Capabilities (2011)
Sensor technology capabilities are heading into the new decade with an aura of excitement and new prospects. In 2011, the Israeli company Vayyar showed the world how imaging sensors could revolutionize fields of health, vehicle automation, security, construction, and people-tracking, among other applications.
It started as an early-stage breast cancer detection solution that could identify tumors in under five seconds with 4D imaging of breast tissue and has since proven that its advanced RF technology has a multitude of uses.
Fast Company named Vayyar to its Most Innovative Companies list in 2019.
XtremIO – Data Storage (2012)
Data storage solutions greatly changed during this past decade and are expected to continue to do so.
“In the next data decade, we can do more now than we ever imagine. Everything is being connected and digitized. It’s everywhere and in everything. In 2007, 86 petabytes of data were produced in cellular networks. Today, 86 petabytes of data is produced in 18 hours. In [the] future, 86 petabytes of data would be produced in minutes,” Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Technologies, said at the Dell Technologies Summit in November.
Some of Israel’s biggest exits come from the data storage field. In 2010, IBM acquired Israel’s Storwize real-time data compression solution for $140 million. In 2012, however, Dell EMC’s $430 million buyout of Israel-based XtremIO really put Israel on the world data map.
XtremIO was dubbed as one of the world’s premier Flash storage architecture pioneers. Now, of course, there’s the pending $6.9 billion acquisition of Mellanox Technologies by Nvidia to “to create next-generation datacenter-scale computing solutions.”
Waze – User Engagement and Mapping Services (2013)
Google’s buyout of GPS navigation app Waze hit global headlines in June 2013. The reported $966 million – $1.03 billion price tag of an app was unbelievable at the time. But Google wasn’t just interested in the exceptional Israeli GPS navigation software, which started to be developed in 2006. The buyout highlighted the growing phenomenon of user engagement.
Indeed, user loyalty, hyper-personalization, and customer relationship are all big trends continuing into the 2020s. Waze gave Google access to its loyal community base. Waze users update information about speed traps and road closures, and the more diehard edit the maps to keep them accurate.
In 2017, Waze took personalization up a notch when it allowed users to record their own voices to give directions.
Wix – IPO success (2013)
In the last decade, Israel has lived up to its moniker as a Startup Nation. The world knows to turn to this tiny country for technologies. In 2013, website builder platform Wix raised $127 million in what was then the largest-ever IPO for an Israeli firm. Its successful IPO demonstrated that the Israeli tech industry is capable of growing companies.
“Wix is hugely significant. It demonstrates that you don’t need to be in Silicon Valley to build a great company and validates once again the ‘high risk/high return’ nature of European Venture Capital,” Mark Tluszcz, CEO at Mangrove Capital Partners, said in a statement at the time.
While Wix didn’t know if it was going to start a trend, according to a December 2019 Bloomberg report, as many as 40 Israeli companies are now considering IPOs in the coming decade.
PrimeSense – Multinationals Incorporate Israeli Tech (2013)
The $360 million sale of Tel Aviv-based 3D sensing company PrimeSense to Apple in 2013 continues to impact the tech arena today. It was not the first time a multinational company acquired an Israeli startup for its technology and would not be the last. But the price tag and deal would prove to serve as a prime example of this continuing trend.
Moreover, the pioneering technology was so disruptive that, although originally applied to gaming, proved to have applications for TV, computers, mobile, interactive displays, healthcare, robotics, and retail. In 2017, Apple introduced advanced facial recognition tech, which traces back to PrimeSense.
ReWalk – FDA approval (2014)
What’s possible for disabled people truly changed in 2014 when the US Food and Drug Administration gave its approval for the ReWalk Personal System.
The wearable robotic exoskeleton that provides powered hip and knee motion to enable individuals with Spinal Cord Injury to stand upright and walk, was dreamed up by Israeli inventor Dr. Amit Goffer.
ReWalk would go on to serve as the starting point for Goffer’s next startup, UPnRIDE Robotics, which developed a robotic standing wheelchair that gained FDA approval in 2019.
These are just two examples of how robot design, together with new technologies and algorithms, are making a positive impact on the lives of people with disabilities.
Elbit Systems – Missile Proof Aircraft (2014)
In 2014, Elbit System’s C-MUSIC system for defending civilian aircraft against missiles became operational. The Israeli defense electronics company protects aircraft the world over and protects thousands of passengers every day.
While today, a newer version – J-MUSIC laser system – is the go-to for keeping threats at bay, the C-MUSIC system was a pioneering breakthrough in aircraft protection.
Cyberbit – Sharing Cyber Knowhow (2015)
Israel’s cybersecurity industry is known for producing prescient technology solutions. It started with Check Point’s firewall and continues with pioneering technologies through today.
Among the decade’s valuable cybersecurity innovations is the cyber range, a training center that imitates real-world networks and breaches to help companies train, guard and respond to attacks.
There are many companies and universities around the world with these ranges. Cyberbit, founded in 2015, launched the Cyberbit Range — the first training simulator of its kind in the world. Today, the company says it is the world-leading provider of cyber range training and simulation platforms, and the only provider of detection, response, automation, and orchestration products across both IT and OT networks.
OrCam – Artificial Intelligence Devices (2015)
In 2015, Jerusalem-based OrCam started selling the MyEye artificial-intelligence device commercially. The device that helps those living with visual impairments read the world around them is a game-changer for the blind, those with dyslexia and people with visual impairment. The device also reflects how artificial intelligence has become an everyday companion.
Indeed, this past decade, AI has become an inescapable part of our day-to-day lives. OrCam Technologies was founded in 2010, the MyEye was launched and tested from 2013, and became commercially available in 2015.
In 2019, it was listed as one of TIME magazine’s “100 Best Inventions” that are making the world “better, smarter, and even a little more fun.”
Moovit – Changing Transportation and Mobility (2016)
Moovit, the Israeli Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) solutions provider and a public transit app, was named “Best Local App” by Google in 2016. A year later, it would be named one of Apple’s Best Apps of 2017. Today, it is the world’s most popular urban mobility app, with over 600 million users, and the official transit app of hundreds of cities and global events.
Moovit uses AI-powered MaaS solutions covering planning, operations, and optimization with proven value in reducing congestion, growing ridership, and increasing efficiency.
Headquartered in Ness Ziona, this early pioneer of MaaS is responsible for changing the way people get around.
Mobileye – Car-Tech Powerhouse (2017)
When computing giant Intel announced its $15.3 billion acquisition of Jerusalem-based advanced driver assistance system Mobileye, the Israeli tech community got a decisive endorsement that it is producing world-changing technologies.
More than being the biggest-ever acquisition of an Israeli tech company, the buyout also secured this country’s role as a car-tech powerhouse where the world’s car companies should come for groundbreaking innovations.
This decade, Israeli startups have become leading suppliers of next-generation technologies in the transportation market, and specifically in the autonomous vehicles and mobility arenas.
Watergen – Tech Changing the World (2017)
In 2017, Watergen sent its water generators to Puerto Rico, Texas, and Florida in the aftermaths of Hurricanes Maria, Harvey, and Irma, to provide clean and safe drinking water. The Israeli company known for developing patented technology that turns air into drinking water is one of dozens of local startups creating life-saving technologies for the global community.
Other superhero startups changing the world to make a mark this past decade include SoftWheel’s shock-absorbing wheelchair technology (founded in 2011); AiDoc’s artificial intelligence-powered software that analyzes medical images to identify the presence of diseases (commercialized in 2017); and Jerusalem-based company Lishtot’s technology for testing water quality in real-time (founded in 2015).
Flytrex – Drone Delivery (2018)
In August 2018, Flytrex became the first company in the world to drone-deliver directly to customers’ backyards. While still a niche market, the idea of consumer drones was embraced this past decade and the forecast for the coming decade is one of “substantial growth” according to the Gartner Group.
Israel’s drone industry – especially in the military unmanned aircraft sphere – is a global force. With Flytrex’s success, the country’s other non-military drone startups – especially in agriculture and smart farming – are poised to take on the new decade.
SpaceIL – Commercial Spaceflight (2019)
Israel basked in the spotlight this year, following Beresheet’s success in becoming the first privately-funded spacecraft to enter the moon’s orbit.
The world’s space community has become more accessible this outgoing decade with more ambitious projects, new space players and private companies vying to reach the Moon, Mars and even offer commercial spaceflights.
Beresheet began in 2011 as a dream by three young engineers – Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub – as part of an international contest that challenged the world’s engineers to create and send the first private lander to the Moon. Although the Beresheet spacecraft (Hebrew for “Genesis”) crash-landed on the Moon in April, its innovative design and tech is serving as the basis for future NASA lunar missions thanks to a collaboration agreement with Texas aerospace company Firefly Aerospace.
Taboola-Outbrain – Ad-Tech Dynamos (2019)
Perhaps not as well-known as other tech fields, Israel is an advertising innovation center. In 2019, the Taboola-Outbrain merger of two digital native advertising companies founded by Israelis ensures that the country’s AdTech space shouldn’t be ignored as we head into the 2020s.
Taboola and Outbrain each had a huge influence on the global online advertising market, and now together, they hope to take on the likes of Facebook and Google.
“For over 10 years, each company has built incredibly powerful solutions that have helped tens of thousands of publishers and advertisers thrive,” Outbrain’s David Kostman said in a statement. “I look forward to working together with Eldad and his team to bring together the best of each company’s technology, product and business expertise to build a compelling global open web alternative to Google and Facebook.”
Syqe Medical – Cannabis Innovation (2019)
In June, Syqe Medical, an Israeli pharma-tech company, announced the launch of the world’s first pharmaceutical-grade metered-dose cannabis inhaler. This drug delivery device will enable physicians to prescribe precise dosages meeting pharmaceutical standards.
The global cannabis industry needs innovation and many are looking to Israel for help. Israeli tech solutions include unique extraction techniques, targeted formulations, and novel delivery platforms that can help transform medical cannabis into mainstream medical treatments.
Syqe says its inhaler received the world’s first-ever regulatory approval from the Israeli Ministry of Health as a medical device combined with cannabis. As regulations change the world over, cannapreneurs and canna-innovation are expected to play a title role in the new decade.
We’d love to hear from you! Which Israeli tech innovations do you think made the biggest impact this past decade?
Viva Sarah Press is a journalist and speaker. She writes and talks about the creativity and innovation taking place in Israel and beyond. www.vivaspress.com