Ben Lang is very young, even by the standards of the high-tech industry. A mere 18 years old, Lang is nevertheless quickly becoming known as one of Israel's youngest and most phenomenal entrepreneurs.
Lang put himself on the map, quite literally, last month when he created the Israeli Start-Up Map [http://mappedinisrael.com/], an interactive, Google Maps-style site that shows the saturation of Israel's newest and most innovative companies.
Lang, an Israeli-American, is an IDF soldier who created the map during a day off from service. The final product, built using open source solutions, can be described as a visual equivalent of Dan Senor and Saul Singer's popular book "Start-Up Nation."
You can currently use the map to view, click on and obtain information for some 600 Israeli start-ups. That's less than one-fifth of the estimated 3,500-5,000 start-ups currently operating in Israel, but enough to show just how disproportionately robust our tech scene really is. The industry hubs of Tel Aviv and Herzliya are teeming with red geo-tags. Zoom out just a bit, and it looks as if these areas as literally being swarmed by the red, balloon-shaped tags.
For a high-tech tourist looking for some guidance, the map is a huge help. Along Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard and its surrounding streets, the mile-long stretch comprising Israel's hottest start-up zone, no fewer than 50 firms pop up. Among them are The Gift's Project, a hip young start-up currently functioning as eBay's social R&D center after being purchased for about $25 million; BillGuard, a crowd-sourced service that can help you lower your bills; Loudlee, a Web service that transforms your Facebook feed into an online radio program based on your friends' status updates; and Face.com, a start-up that is developing facial recognition technology that may shake up the way we all tag photographs online. Rumor has it that Face.com is set to be acquired by Facebook for a cool $100 million.
All of these businesses operate just a few buildings from one another.
Scroll up to Ramat HaHayal, a high-tech industrial park in the north of Tel Aviv, and you will again see a blur of red geo-tags. This week's crop of start-ups in the Ramat HaHayal scene includes an acquisition of 26 developers from Wisair, a company that develops computer chips for wireless data transmission. Wisair's technology originally did not take off, but its developers will find a place in Broadcom, one the world's chip giants, already holding in its portfolio 10 Israeli companies.
Going further north, the next dense cluster is to be found in Herzliya, home to many of Israel's venture capital funds. It's also the site of Anobit, a flash memory developer, which in late 2011 was announced as Apple's first large R&D center outside of the U.S. Apple acquired the Israeli company for $390 million.
The company's integration into Apple is still ongoing, and as part of the effort Apple's officials recently made a surprise visit to Israel's tax authorities. According to an investigation by TheMarker, their goal was to convince Israel to reverse a decision to tax Anobit's employees for as much as 48% of their options. The tax authorities are said to have made some concessions, but the extent of the changes are unknown.
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