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Finding something new under the sun with Israeli inventors

Posted By Stephanie Freid On October 28, 2007 @ 11:30 am In | No Comments

Motti Franko demonstrates the Net-Throne, a reclining computer workstation built by a designer looking to relieve back pressure.”You’re Yossef Schneider? Nice to meet you!” I queried with more than a hint of unconcealed surprise while consciously refraining from extending a hand.

We had talked by phone a day prior and Schneider had briefed me about the first annual Israeli Inventors Conference he was commandeering. He had provided background information about the preparations, the participants, the investment and the motivation for the conference. He had also talked briefly about himself: He invented the successful Shimaleh doll, founded “The Schneider Method” step-by-step method for transforming inventions into products, authored books and founded the Israel Center of Inventors.

Cloaked in the black silk robe over white button down shirt and black pants and shoes synonymous with the ultra Orthodox Jewish community, his appearance at the conference hall ran up against convention. This was no time for misconceptions or stereotypes, however. Energetic and enigmatic, the man behind the conference had inventions to display, inventors to introduce and a conference to talk about.

“This is about getting inventors and investors together,” Schneider explained as we moved through the glass-ceiling hall of Tel Aviv University’s Smolarsh Exhibition Center. “If inventors paid attention to investors or if they paid attention to end users, it would help move advancement along. So as this conference goes, that’s the first step or the first goal here.”

To service that goal, Schneider began putting together the Inventors Conference last year, which he believes is a natural outcome of a need in the market.

“I along with the other organizers poured a lot of money into this because we believe that the influence and economic contribution of inventors to society will give it the ‘right viewpoint’,” Schneider had earlier explained to ISRAEL21c. “Without our noticing it, technological advances and quality of life are getting better and higher quality products are being introduced into the mainstream. If inventors don’t get the right kind of attention, we and the public lose.”

So for us not to lose out, Schneider invited 1,300 guests to the conference, among them inventors, bankers, industry people, academics and educators. “Mostly they’re inventors. We’re presenting 18 inventors who went from dreams to millions of dollars,” he offered.

And who are the inventors and the success stories? It’s a mix of engineers, designers and teams of designers who have dreamed up and compiled a range of simple to complex gadgets for use in office and home.

The exhibit hall installations, in fact, were reminiscent of an oversized laboratory dream. There was a small soda bottle-holding metal contraption with hinges designed to ensure spill-free pouring; and then there was a complex reclining computer workstation built by a designer looking to relieve back pressure.

Motti Franko, CEO of Mahadaf La’Madaf (“From Shelf to Market”) gladly demonstrated the reclining device.

“It’s called a Net-Throne,” Franko said as he slid into the reclined computer station. “It was designed by Eran Bar and industrial engineer Amir Anbar when Eran broke his neck. He needed a solution for working in a relaxed manner and this was it. You can even hook up multiple monitors. They invested half a million dollars; they told me two Saudi sheikhs have ordered them already.”

From the ‘Throne’, we moved on to a handsome display of a slick, shiny folding bicycle, the invention of designer Dvir Brand.

“Most folding bikes fold like a book. But this one folds like a knife,” explained Brand, Vice President of Research and Development Technologies for Ziv-Av Engineering. “It’s less than a meter long (3 feet) and 60 cm wide when it’s folded so you can put it in a car and you don’t need a roof rack.”

The cost? “It’s not cheap. It’s a few thousand dollars, but it’s competitive because it has all the state of the art hardware: Shimano gears, high end frame material… this is the kind of thing high tech workers in Silicon Valley would go in for,” Brand surmised.

A few feet away, ‘Throne’ man Franko was busy unpacking the Camping Toilet – a compact, take-along toilet contraption with privacy tent perfect for ‘setting up shop’ while hiking the backwoods. The toilet is currently being sold in the US by retailer Next Step for $25.

There were numerous other items: A watermelon slicer, a mineral water bottle nipple for babies, a magnetic nail-holding bracelet for carpenters, a mousetrap for catching rodents via a cruelty-free shutting-door contraption and a sensor device for re-powering commercial meat and dairy vendor freezers during unexpected overnight or weekend power outages.

As invitees arrived, they toured the exhibition hall perusing, touching and trying out the various inventions. Afterwards, all were ushered into the adjacent lecture hall for a “meet & greet” with the inventors. A panel addressed the crowd on contributions inventors have made to society and a Q&A session followed.

“Inventors are people who changed our way of life, sometimes without our even knowing it,” Schneider summed up. “Behind every invention is a person and he’s who we should pay attention to. We invited foreign and high tech investors so that they can meet success stories – the people who have received international acclaim. There are a lot of very advanced inventors here; they simply need the people to organize or corral them.”