World Cup 2018: No Israeli Team, but Lots of Israeli Technology

From virtual coaches to fan behavior prediction: Israel's sports-tech industry is booming

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World Cup 2018
World Cup 2018Credit: LEE SMITH/Reuters

With the Giro d’Italia Big Start in Israel behind us, and the World Cup here, it is an appropriate time to take the pulse of the sports tech industry in Israel. Wait a minute, there’s a sports tech industry in Israel?

Well yes, actually. There’s an even split between actual athletic performance-enhancing technology, like analytics; performance-enjoyment technology, like augmented reality glasses for cyclists and skiers; and audience-centered technology like sports content and video playback wizardry.

So while we may not be great at sports (we’ve only been at one World Cup tournament, 48 years ago, and never made it out of the group stage), we’re pretty great at technology.

Our technology industry, world class in fields like cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, smart farming, and automotive – Mobileye was kind of like winning the World Cup, right? – is starting to make an appearance in sports tech industry, too.

From 61 active technology companies in 2013, Israel’s sports tech industry now has over 103 companies – innovating in fields like augmented reality for smart glasses (RideOn and Everysight), virtual reality jogging (Moonrun), sports video and analytics platform (PlaySight), hydration management for athletes (Aydrate), motion (Motionize), Artificial Intelligence sports assistant coaches (LifeBeam), sports media (Minute Media), smart highlights packages (WSC), sports nutrition (Fitto) and even sports fan behavior prediction technology (Udobu).

Most of the Israeli sports tech startups are very young, having been established in the past five years, with 35% bootstrapped and 34% having raised their seed rounds. Some 78 companies out of the 103 companies have between one and 10 employees, while 20 companies have between 11 and 50 employees. Seed funding size has also grown, from around $375,000 in 2014 to an average of over $700,000 by the end of 2017.

But the surest sign that Israeli sports (technology is on the map [yes, yes, Macabbi Tel Aviv basketball reference] is that we’ve even had some cool exits in the space: Intel bought sports video technology company Replay Technologies, which makes sports replays look like scenes from "The Matrix," for $175 million. And earlier in 2018 Nike bought Invertex, which allows users to shop and fit shoes online.

The DataNation series is published in collaboration with Start-Up Nation Central and is based on information and insights collected and analyzed by the organization. Start-Up Nation Finder maps the Israeli high-tech industry and connects the world to Israeli start-ups, investors and innovation programs.