These Cutting-edge Israeli Inventions Are Unavailable in Israel

From AI insurance agents to instant transcription, here are apps developed in Startup Nation that only operate abroad

Houzz, a home renovation and design app whose marketplace is only available in the United States.
houzz.com

Israel is considered the Startup Nation, with a high-tech sector that creates exceptional inventions and is responsible for ground-breaking developments, but often it’s not Israelis who enjoy the fruits of this labor. One reason is that many startups founded in Israel, like many multinationals that operate here, develop innovative technological products intended for consumers abroad.

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There are several reasons for this, including the fact that Israel is a small, Hebrew-speaking market, meaning that for many companies it’s not worth investing in a product that caters just to Israelis. In other cases, the technological infrastructure and bureaucracy obstacles to introducing products in Israel. Here are some Israeli innovations that Israel’s citizens are missing out on.

Online insurance

Israeli company Lemonade, founded by Shai Wininger and Daniel Schreiber, is trying to disrupt the classic insurance industry model. It enables consumers to buy home insurance quickly and entirely digitally, via a bot that conducts a risk assessment and offers a price quote.

The real innovation is the company’s business model: Lemonade takes only a fixed 20% cut of the customer’s insurance policy payments, and the remainder goes to insurance payouts.

The result: As opposed to traditional insurance companies, Lemonade doesn’t earn more the less it pays out. Lemonade has no interest in arguing with its customers to avoid making payouts in order to retain profits. Thus it can pay without extensive paperwork, and customers receive their money within minutes and sometimes even seconds of filing a claim.

Why isn’t it in Israel?

The company operates in 23 U.S. states and is planning to launch in Europe as well. “We’d want to offer the service in Israel, but we can’t,” says Wininger. “Our automatic risk assessment system is based on data and statistics, such as the crime level in an area, the weather, the distance from bodies of water, whether there have been floods, how long it would take a fire engine to arrive and the ranking of the nearest fire station. In Israel, in order to obtain information about a home, you need to stand in line and get an original document that’s 40 years old, photocopy it and give it back. Every hole in the United States has data that’s 1,000 times better than that of any apartment in central Tel Aviv. What are the chances this will change? I don’t know of any government initiatives in this regard, but maybe change will come thanks to civic initiatives to make government data accessible.”

Home design via an app

Houzz is an American company that was founded by Israeli entrepreneurs Adi Tatarko and Alon Cohen, with a research and development center in Tel Aviv that employs 70 people. Its product is a home renovation and design app, which is popular among design fans. It offers users pictures of impressive homes and interior designs from around the world; users can click on specific furniture items or home accessories and order them instantly.

While the app is available in Israel, the marketplace feature is available only in the United States.

Why isn’t it in Israel?

The company hasn’t explained why it doesn’t offer its marketplace feature in Israel, but it notes that the app and some of its major features are available around the world, and that it does have users in Israel. For instance, users can view Israeli houses and connect with Israeli home design professionals.

Uber for technicians

Puls, founded in 2015 by Eyal Ronen and Itai Hirsch, began as a smartphone repair platform, but has since expanded and now offers all manners of repairs and installations. You can use the app to find someone to install a television, electric gate or security cameras, or to repair appliances such as fridges and dishwashers. The app plans to make air conditioning installation and repair available in the future.

Puls could be considered an “Uber for technicians,” a website that enables users to choose a service and find a technician with the appropriate skills who’s in the right location, who can arrive that very day.

Why isn’t it in Israel?

Puls currently operates in the United States, where it has 5,000 technicians, but isn’t available in other countries. The company explained that it sees North America as its main market but that it plans to expand into other countries, including Israel. It noted that it was founded in the United States, and that the company plans to expand there first and perfect its platform before expanding into other locations.

AI restaurant reservations

Last year, Google released Duplex, an artificial intelligence system that can reserve a table at a restaurant for you. Duplex is the product of Israeli development: The design process was led by Israeli engineers at Google International and at the company’s Israeli research and development center.

Duplex is able to carry out a phone conversation that sounds like an actual person is speaking, and the person receiving the call has no idea that he or she is speaking with a computer (the system does indeed state that the call has been automatically generated). In March, Google made the service available in 43 U.S. states.

Why isn’t it in Israel?

While Google itself hasn’t addressed this, the system is still in its initial stages, and supports only English. In fact, Google voice command program Google Assistant still doesn’t support Hebrew. It’s unlikely that Duplex will make it to Israel before Google Assistant does.

360-degree broadcasts

Intel True View technology was developed by Israeli startup Replay, which was bought by Intel for $175 million in 2016. The technology is currently under development by Intel’s Israel-based sport group. The system involves 38 cameras placed around a sports field or court, along with a program that processes the images and enables 360-degree broadcasts. The effect is reminiscent of “The Matrix,” with cameras rotating around the players on the field, and shows the action simultaneously from several angles. Users can also freeze the action and see the field from players’ perspectives.

To date, the technology has been used primarily for U.S. football broadcasts; Intel has also declared a partnership with British soccer clubs.

Why isn’t it in Israel?

Intel says the system is marketed to major markets and sporting leagues, as it involves installing dozens of cameras and supporting data infrastructure, all of which means a significant financial investment. Currently, Israeli leagues do not have a business model that would enable such technology.

Quick transcriptions

Verbit, founded in 2016 by Tom Livne, Eric Shellef and Kobi Ben Tzvi, developed a transcription engine designed to replace human transcription in courthouses and university lectures. The technology combines voice-recognition artificial intelligence alongside human transcription, and says its transcriptions are quick with accuracy rates of more than 99%. Users can upload a sound file to the platform, or connect it to a YouTube video or other form of video input. The company’s offices and research and development center are in Israel, but the service is currently available only abroad.

Why isn’t it in Israel?

Verbit says it works with academic institutions, courts and the security establishment in Israel, but that its system has only limited support for Hebrew. “Currently we’re focusing on the U.S. market, and thus our system currently supports English and Spanish, the languages with the highest demand for transcription,” it stated. However, the company’s strategic plan includes expanding into other markets in other languages, including Hebrew.