In January of last year, Gil Ben-Artzy and Shuly Galili launched a startup accelerator with the intent to expose Silicon Valley to the next generation of hot Israeli tech companies — and vice versa. While Israel has long been a hotbed for innovation and is home to the R&D labs of many of the world’s biggest tech companies, the founders saw an opportunity to create a more fluid connection between Israeli startups and the Valley.
Through its three month program, UpWest Labs selects five to seven promising Israeli startup and brings them to Palo Alto to live together in one house — an experience fit for reality TV. Unlike other American accelerators, UpWest typically likes to keep its batches small, focusing on companies that have already built some traction in Israel but are looking for exposure to American investors and customers. UpWest’s job, Galili says, is to help facilitate that connection.
Today, the accelerator launched its fourth cohort of startups at Demo Day in San Francisco in front of a packed house of investors, entrepreneurs and geeks. The five startups are focusing on a diverse range of markets, from mobile and cyber security to brand engagement and video technology. But there was one uniting thread, which is a change from prior UpWest batches, in that these five startups are all, to some degree, bucking the consumer bandwagon in favor of a B2B approach.
UpWest is currently interviewing teams for its fifth batch, which is set to begin in April.
Without further ado, here’s a look at UpWest’s latest grads:
Sentinel is developing next generation, advance threat protection. Using its proprietary, in-process behavioral analysis tech, the startup is trying to re-invent the way companies detect and prevent cyber attacks, malware and any other security threat — whether they be targeted, APTs or zero-day attacks.
Sentinel’s software monitors company desktops, laptops and mobile devices in real time, and, having reverse engineered dozens of strands of malware, it is able to monitor and detect high-threat malware and even unknown malware. Once it detects a threat on an employee’s device (even if they’re offline), for example, it automatically deploys protective measures to every end-point in the company network.
The company has also built an aggregated, crowdsourced database of various malware imprints so that it can more effectively (and quickly) recognize existing threats and help companies squash them before they cause havoc. Sentinel was founded by ex-Checkpoint security experts, with decades of experience in the software security industry between them, is now working with “top enterprise brands” and recently added the former Symantec CSO to its advisory board.
Veed.me is a video creation marketplace that connects small businesses and startups with talented videographers. The startup is taking an approach to video that’s reminiscent of what oDesk or 99designs does for content producers and designers — with a spin. Veed.me has recruited over 200 videographers, allowing them to create their own pages and share their portfolios. Businesses then receive concept proposals from the platform’s video experts, ideally from those with expertise in the particular area, and choose the best fit.
After the project is completed by the videographer, businesses then pay them for the services rendered, the pricing of which ranges from about $1,500 to $6,000, the founders tell us. Not quite the price of oDesk, but fair pricing as long as the product is high-quality. During its seven weeks in closed alpha, Veed.me has attracted 30 customers, including Google, Waze and Eat24. The team itself is comprised of award-winning filmmakers and engineers.
Qmerce offers a dynamic, unified and customized channel for brands to drive long term user engagement and loyalty. The startup wants to build the next-generation of customer engagement, allowing brands to create custom landing pages and feeds from cross-channel sources, like their social networks and games, allowing them to watch videos and socialize with their friends at the same time.
Qmerce offers an end-to-end platform, which the founders say takes less than 10 minutes to integrate and, once installed, enables brands to continuously build applications on top of the platform or choose new ones from our marketplace. The startup offers an SDK so that third-party game developers can add their games to the platform. Brands can then create Qmerce feeds around particular events, campaigns or just for general engagement, while incentivizing users to interact with their social channels or play a particular game by offering them virtual currency for doing so.
Qmerce is currently working with over 40 customers, including Toys-R-Us, Crocs & Pizza Hut and has raised $600K in seed capital to date.
Ondigo is an automated CRM for small businesses. As a mobile-first solution, Ondigo is targeting the 20 million, offline, not-so-technical small business owners in the U.S. by allowing them to easily communicate with their customers and conduct “micro-marketing” campaigns while on the go. Ondigo connects with users’ address books on their phone, automatically building a customer database from their ordinary day-to-day communications — whether it be texts, emails or invoices.
Ondigo then adds additional context and information about contacts and customers, as it looks to integrate with Quikbooks, Rapportive and other platforms. Going forward, it allows businesses to send customers links to review them on Yelp and other platforms to keep them engaged and, eventually, Ondigo wants to allow business owners to conduct all their CRM and outreach processes in one app, from sharing files to sending texts.
Since launching its closed beta three weeks ago, Ondigo has onboarded over 1,200 small businesses and was ranked “#1 New Business App” on Google Play.
Qlika is a next generation marketing management platform, helping brands advertise across thousands of micro-markets. Based on Big Data analysis and smart aggregation algorithms, the platform is capable of optimizing each campaign according to the local competition and best practices of each specific micro-market. Founded by Israeli military intelligence experts, Qlika wants to be the only platform that allows brands to both manage and optimize millions of campaigns across national media channels.
At launch, the startup is focused predominantly on search advertising, and works individually with its customers to implement their campaigns. But, down the road, the founders want to create an automated platform that can scale by itself — for every type of digital advertising. To date, Qlika’s partners have seen a two-to-four-fold increase in profits and between 25 and 1,000x increases in scale, measured by the amount of campaigns they can manage with their existing teams.