Tech Roundup / Wake Up and Smell the (Discount) Coffee

App offers three ways to buy cheap coffee; Better Place back on the market; Mastercard tapping Israel for e-ideas.

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Cheap coffee – the app: There's nothing like a storm in a coffee cup to bring the masses into the streets - and they seem to be lining up outside Cofix, a nervy (and fast-growing) café chain whose claim to fame is cheapo coffee. Whereas a cup of cappuccino in a regular place will set you back NIS 10-16, Cofix charges NIS 5 ($1.41). And while the nation's other café chains are wailing - and already lowering prices - one small Tel Aviv startup begs to point out that it's been there for some time, coming to the aid of the city's caffeine addicts. CUPS was born in June 2012 following a brainstorming session between a bunch of friends. Its app offers three ways to buy coffee at participating cafes. For NIS 169 a month ($47.83), paid through the app, you get unlimited coffee at any of 60 participating cafes; the company is counting on people not abusing the system. NIS 99 gets you one cup a day. Recently CUPS added a sort of virtual punch-card thing, getting you 5, 10 or 16 cups of coffee for NIS 7 a pop. Still not as cheap as Cofix but definitely cheaper than almost anywhere else, including, by the way, gas station convenience stores.

Social-media marketer scores $10 million: Mintigo, a startup created by three exiles from Dov Moran's failed mobile phone venture Modu, has scored $10 million in third-round funding, lifting its total take to more than $20 million. The company's raison d'etre is to harness social-media data to improve sales. The business-intelligence startup, just four years old, is like an air traffic controller (says its CEO Jacob Shema) that characterizes users in order to design messages likely to attract them, and directs the sales staff to likely leads. It does this by real-time analysis of social media data. Its clients would include insurance companies, telcos and the like.

Google Maps now speaks Hebrew and Arabic: The great Google released an update last week for its Maps app, and among its improvements are support in Hebrew and Arabic, as well as real-time traffic reports. That last one, by the way, is thanks to Google's acquisition of the Israeli company Waze, whose many features include the latest information on congestion.

Better Place is back on the block: The failed electric car venture Better Place is up for grabs again. Why? Because the check from its would-be buyer, the Merkur group, bounced on technical grounds. Merkur asked for more time to get its act together but the Supreme Court said no on Friday, though the transaction could still go ahead, technically. Stay tuned for more rulings scheduled for October 25.

Wireless fabless raises $35 million: The Israeli startup Wilocity, which designs 60-gigahertz wireless microchips, has raised $35 million, bringing its venture and other backing to $100 million. While it designs in Israel, where it has 60 of its 70 employees, Wilocity actually makes the chips in Taiwan. The company, founded in 2007 by a group of ex-Intel people, makes chips to speed up wireless data transmission. Last September, the startup said that Dell would be using Wilocity chips inside its ultrabook computers.

Mastercard tapping Israel for e-ideas: MasterCard last week launched the second "Mastercard Israel Technology Award", granted in cooperation with Israel Advanced Technology Industries.The prize will be given to innovators in e-financial services and electronic payment products or solutions, Mastercard says. And how will this be done? Through an "innovation competition" between "ideas in a briefcase," which means early-stages projects in relevant areas. All applicants with relevant early-stage solutions in financial services and e-payments are welcome. Mastercard helpfully points out that having a business model and competitive differentiation is good. The chosen project will receive $25,000 and will participate in the second cycle of the Citi financial-technology accelerator projects. Last year's winner was KitLocate, founded just a year before, which developed location-based technology for mobile devices that doesn't guzzle battery.

CoffeeCredit: Wikimedia commons
A Better Place car getting an electric battery charge.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

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