Startup of the Week / Zuznow, Bringing the Web to Your Phone

This Israeli startup makes websites available on mobile devices without the irritating need to zoom in and out.

Zuznow's slogan is Mobilizing the Web and that's exactly what the firm does: it adapts desktop websites for mobile devices - smartphones and tablets.

"If you look for 'adapt to mobile' on Google,” says Raheli Batish-Levkovich, one of the company’s founders, “you'll find something like 24 companies that do it, most of them using the do-it-yourself format and the freemium model [in which the basic product is free, but customers pay for additional functions]. Such companies cater to a mass audience and include, for example, an Israeli company called DudaMobile. But our segment has almost no competitors."

Zuznow caters to medium-sized and large companies that have complex websites and for which an automatic adaptation to mobile is insufficient. “These are companies for which the design and functionality of the website are important,” Batish-Levkovich says. “They usually establish a separate mobile site, at a development cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars. That's why our main competition is actually from the company's in-house IT department. Our solution saves the company about 90 percent, not only in costs but in time and effort too.”

Batish-Levkovich describes the Zuznow platform as “a hybrid, because it combines an automatic and a manual process. It's a relatively short process, without months of branding a product, but it does enable the firm to add a personal touch, make changes and upgrade functionality." She says that on average it takes Zuznow about a month to set up a cellular version of a website and the monthly cost is low – beginning at $50.

The second founder of Zuznow is Chen Levkovich, Raheli's husband: "We began at the end of 2010. It was just the two of us and we worked from the balcony of our home. Chen comes from the field of software development and worked at Check Point for five years. He left the firm because he wanted to do something of his own and began working on all kinds of ideas and developments, mainly in the field of information security.”

Batish-Levkovich tells of how they came up with the idea for Zuznow after playing with a friend’s smartphone and finding it difficult to surf, with all the zooming in and out. They checked on the Internet, but didn’t find any company providing the sort of bespoke service they had in mind.

"Our first website was a bed & breakfast site that is still with us. Then we added Calcalist, and because there's a small Zuznow logo at the bottom of the website, we suddenly began to get calls from large websites. We decided to go with it all the way, and I left my job - not such a smart move, considering that there are two girls at home - but we realized that if we really wanted it to work we couldn’t work only at night."

The company was profitable from the start and grew organically. “It's related to the fact that we always charged a fee, from the first day. That's a tip that we got from someone who later became one of our investors: If you have something of value – demand money for it. But we realized that if we really wanted to reach masses of people we had to raise money. We completed an initial seed funding from Peregrine Ventures and Pertec Ventures and another two private investors last December, and at the same time we grew.”

Today, Zuznow has 10 employees and 120-130 websites running on its platform. Among its customers are the Isrotel hotel chain, all the websites of Yedioth Ahronoth daiy newspaper, the iDigital website and others, including customers from Germany and the United States. “Anything you can do on a desktop, we enable you to do on a mobile phone,” Batish-Levkovich said. “And we add additional capabilities, such as Click to Call or banner ads adapted to the user's location. Our platform is in the cloud but there are customers who prefer to have an "on premises" solution, and we make that possible too. Soon we'll also be launching with a large financial customer in Israel."

Ofer Vaknin