TechNation: Israeli App to Help Barbie to Go Digital, While Another Helps Search for Missing Kids

StartApp puts Barbie into the digital universe | MyHeritage to help suspected Yemenite adoptees with DNA tests | Peer-to-peer lender Blender begins global rollout, eyes IPO | Applause raises $35 million for digital-experience testing.

Bloomberg

StartApp puts Barbie into the digital universe

StartApp, a U.S.-Israel mobile advertising platform that helps publishers and advertisers with apps and mobile websites, is now responsible for creating a digital presence for Barbie. Under a multiyear agreement with Mattel (Barbie’s maker), the company will develop applications, avatars and emojis for the iconic doll as well as for Thomas the Tank Engine, Fireman Sam and other toys.

As part of the launch of Apple’s iOS10 platform, StartApp launched two applications this week enabling users to download apps for Barbie and Mattel’s Hot Wheels miniature cars on iPhones and iPads. Formed five years ago and headquartered in New York City, StartApp has partnered with King — the maker of the wildly popular game Candy Crush — China’s Baidu, Yahoo and others. It employs 150 people at its Netanya research and development center. (TheMarker Staff)

MyHeritage to help suspected Yemenite adoptees with DNA tests

Yemenite Jewish children with their mother, ca. 1949-1950.
David Eldan, GPO

My Heritage, which helps people build family tress, uncover family histories and find distant relatives, said this week it would help Israelis who suspect they were given away for adoption as babies during the mass immigration of Yemenite Jews to Israel in the early 1950s.

Allegations that hundreds, maybe thousands, of Yemenite babies who were said to have died or disappeared were actually given or sold for adoption to European-born Israelis and American Jews has been the subject of government inquiries for decades, without any conclusive results. MyHeritage, working with MK Nurit Koren (Likud), is offering free DNA testing for those who suspect they were adopted or had a child that went missing.

The service, which would normally cost $100, is being offered to Israelis and people abroad. “The tests will be done in complete privacy, anonymously and through a DNA lab in the United States. The names of those tested won’t be uploaded to the internet, nor reported to the lab,” the company said. Positive results will be reported back to the families involved and, if they wish, MyHeritage will arrange a meeting with them. (Ruti Levy)

Peer-to-peer lender Blender begins global rollout, eyes IPO

The Israeli peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platform Blender is expanding overseas as it readies for a probable initial public offering in London. The company launched in Israel two years ago and has made 45 million shekels ($11.9 million) in loans to date to 2,500 people.

It opened offices recently in Vilnius, Lithuania, and Milan, and plans to open more in Africa, Latin America and elsewhere in Europe in the coming year. Meanwhile, it has been part of the London Stock Exchange’s elite program for startups on the path to an IPO.

“Since we launched in Israel in 2014, we’ve been building infrastructure whose goal is to ready Blender for the global market,” said CEO Gal Aviv. “Lenders from developed countries will benefit from reliable, liquid and high-yielding savings opportunities. Borrowers in target countries will benefit from attractive, easy, friendly and easily available credit.” (Shelly Appelberg)

Applause raises $35 million for digital-experience testing

Applause, which tests users about their digital experience for brands such as Amazon, HBO and BMW, said last week it had raised $35 million in a financing round led by Credit Suisse and Accenture, bringing its total funding to date to more than $115 million.

The round included all of Applause’s existing investors, including Goldman Sachs, QuestMark Partners, Scale Venture Partners, Longworth Venture Partners, Mesco Limited and MassVentures. “Digital experiences — from web to mobile to IoT to brick and mortar — are the epicenter of competition in many industries, including retail, restaurants, travel, banking, insurance and manufacturing,” said CEO Doron Reuveni. Founded in 2008 by Reuveni and Roy Solomon, the company has over 300 employees and is headquartered near Boston, with offices in Israel. Applause said it would use the funds to expand its testing services and launch digital research services. (TheMarker Staff)