The number of Israeli startups taking root in New York City is growing all the time. From the likes of Outbrain, Taboola, HyPR and WeWork, which created industries; to StartApp, Keywee, Wishi and Apester, which are enhancing market niches, Hebrew-speaking entrepreneurs are helping to propel the NYC tech scene forward.
Israel’s tiny market-size means high-tech executives are constantly seeking a foreign base. And while Silicon Valley used to be the go-to destination, New York City has become an attractive alternative in the journey for building global tech companies.
“If you’re not selling to big companies like Apple or Oracle, your clients are usually on the East Coast,” Eyal Bino, cofounder of ICONYC Labs, tells ISRAEL21c. “There’s so much money in New York for IoT, software, security, fintech, media … there’s everything for everyone. New York City doesn’t need startup competition, but there’s recognition for companies coming from Israel.”
A recent report in Techcrunch highlights foreign businesses and entrepreneurs in New York’s ecosystem, including Israelis Yaron Galai and Ori Lahav, and says the growth of New York City’s startup scene is due in part to the success of these international startups.
ISRAEL21c presents 10 movers and shakers in the Israeli startup scene in New York, in no particular order:
- Yaron Galai, cofounder and CEO, Outbrain
Serial entrepreneur Yaron Galai is credited with reinventing content discovery on the web via Outbrain, a company he cofounded with Ori Lahav in 2009. Outbrain serves more than 200 billion recommendations per month.
Galai is a Jerusalem native living in New York for over a decade. The father of three, who studied industrial design at the Holon Technological Institute before turning to high-tech, has three other startups under his belt.
In 2007, AOL acquired Quigo, a provider of performance-based marketing solutions for advertisers and premium publishers, which Galai cofounded. In 2004, Atlas bought Ad4ever, a developer of rich-media advertising technologies for the web that Galai cofounded. In the early 2000s, he sold NetWorks Web Design, an SEO and web design firm he had founded.
Galai, who also invests in Outbrain’s funding rounds, is a major in the Israel Navy Reserves and, according to reports, returns annually to perform reserve duty.
- Amir Orad, CEO, Sisense
In February 2015, Sisense appointed Amir Orad as chief executive officer. The company that simplifies business analytics for complex data has achieved annual growth rates of 100 percent in both revenues and customers since Orad took control.
In August this year, Sisense ranked as one of the top companies in Battery Ventures’ inaugural list of 50 Highest Rated Private Cloud Computing Companies to Work For.
“Since Amir joined Sisense, the company is just flying, raising $50 million earlier this year and growing sales like crazy,” says Bino.
Orad is also a renowned expert in cybersecurity, financial fraud, payments and authentication. Bino says other entrepreneurs regularly check in with him before making a decision.
Prior to Sisense, this highly quotable entrepreneur — Forbes, Business Week, Washington Post, USA Today, Information Week, American Banker and others often ask his opinions – was CEO of NICE Actimize, cofounder and EVP Product/CMO of Cyota, and RSA Security’s VP Marketing. Cyota, a cyber analytics company, was acquired by RSA Security for $145 million.
Orad holds an MBA from Columbia University and a BS in computer science and management from Tel Aviv University. Early in his career he patented several risk- and analytics-related inventions.
- Adam Neumann, cofounder and CEO, WeWork
Israeli native Adam Neumann made headlines in March as one of 198 newcomers on the 2016 Forbes Billionaires List.
The kibbutz-raised 36-year-old, with a net worth of some $2.4 billion, cofounded WeWork coworking spaces in 2010. Originally called Green Desk, WeWork rents office space wholesale, breaks it into smaller units for a shared working area, and subleases it at a profit.
Neumann started out in children’s clothing, developing the brands Egg Baby and Krawlers. The guy with a penchant for black leather jackets then moved to the world of real estate.
While WeWork continues to grow, Neumann has adopted the co-working space concept to co-living. He recently converted the top 25 floors of New York’s Woolworth Building into residential units.
The married father of two also advises and invests in startup ventures, especially small businesses in New York City.
- Adam Singolda, founder and CEO, Taboola
To date, the company delivers personalized recommendations to over one billion users every month. Taboola generates 300 billion recommendations (“Content You May Like”) on sites such as NBC, USA Today, Die Welt, The Weather Channel, The Atlantic, Billboard.com and Fox Television.
Singolda developed his analytical skills in the technological division of an IDF intelligence unit, and then served for seven years as an officer in an elite mathematical unit of the Israeli National Security Agency.
Before moving to New York, Singolda began a computer science and math BA degree at the Open University in Israel. He says on his LinkedIn profile that he still has “six exams to graduate.”
In 2010, Singolda was named one of Israel’s top “30 under 30” business managers by TheMarker. He is a mentor and frequent speaker for the likes of Steaming Media, NAB, NewTeeVee, ELEVATE, Meetup, The Israel Conference, MIT (Sloan), Bloomberg West and more.
- Inbar Haham, Business Development, Magma Venture Partners
Inbar Haham is a bridge-builder for Israeli startups to the rest of the world.
In charge of business development at Magma Venture Partners‘ New York City office, Haham offers blue-and-white companies investment, guidance and networking resources to enable innovative ideas to reach foreign markets, and works closely with early-stage companies to help them accelerate in the US market and with investors.
“[Israeli entrepreneurs] are coming here and finding a supportive ecosystem,” Haham, who has served as a mentor at JFE Accelerator NYC, tells ISRAEL21c. “New York has always been a place for companies to raise capital, but historically there weren’t a lot of early-stage VCs. Now we see more VCs and angels expressing interest in early-stage companies.”
Haham came to New York City from Magma’s Tel Aviv office, where she was responsible for deal sourcing and marketing. Before that she was project manager at Wix.com. She holds a bachelor of business administration from the City University of New York’s Zicklin School of Business.
- Gil Eyal, founder of HyPR
Gil Eyal is one of the pioneers of the influencer marketing industry, which swirls together the power of celebrity endorsements with algorithms, databases and audience demographics.
Before cofounding HyPR , Eyal was an executive at Mobli Media, Disney and Dell. Before that he was a commercial lawyer and earned his MBA from Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.
One of the go-to veteran Israeli entrepreneurs for advice-seeking new Israeli companies, Eyal is credited with introducing the concept of celebrity investments to startups and technology companies – driving 20 million users to Mobli by partnering with 120 celebrities, among them Lil Wayne, Adam Levine, Nash Grier, Austine Mahone, Zandaya Coleman and Stephen Curry.
Eyal said he created the company to “revolutionize influencer marketing by providing tools that help analyze the audience of every celebrity and influencer in the world, as well as automate the ability to run measurable, targeted campaigns, at scale.”
HyPR has its headquarters in the World Trade Center and its R&D in Tel Aviv.
- Eyal Bino, cofounder and partner, ICONYC labs
Bino, a regular contributor to Forbes on Israeli tech, has been living in the US for most of his adult life but fosters a passion for Israeli companies and helping them move forward. Before ICONYC, he founded and ran Worldwide Investor Network (WIN) in New York to help global early-stage technology companies shorten the path to funding and acceleration in the US.
He was born in Tel Aviv 41 years ago, served in the IDF’s 8200 unit and then headed to the US to play college basketball. After graduation, he stayed in New York City, first working as a media producer and then in business development for educational content provider BrainPOP. Bino holds a BA in communications from Kean University and an MA in international business from New York University.
- Yoni Bloch, co-founder and CEO, Interlude
Israeli musician Yoni Bloch changed the way people interact with videos and commercials.
A self-proclaimed tech-geek, Bloch, together with fellow musicians Tal Zubalsky and Barak Feldman, founded Interlude to create interactive, multi-layered videos.
Bloch grew up in the northern Negev and started learning the piano at six. He taught himself drums and guitar and started his songwriting career at age 14.
An early adapter, Bloch advertised his works on the Internet — in the early 2000s when MySpace was new — and one of his first fans was the daughter of the CEO of record company NMC. Bloch went on to make three top-selling records, composed music for TV, film and theater, and served as a judge in the Israeli “American Idol.”
He and his bandmates had an idea to create a unique music video that lets fans instantly remix songs and videos, and would want to watch over and over again. To develop this technology, they founded Interlude in 2010. Interlude has been used in top brand ads (PepsiCo, Subaru, Lincoln Motor, Shell Oil and ESPN) and in acclaimed music videos (Bob Dylan, CeeLo Green).
In 2012, Bloch won the Israeli Prime Minister’s Innovation Award.
In June, Sony Pictures Entertainment made a multi-million dollar strategic investment in Interlude. The company’s future is only just beginning.
- Shaul Olmert, co-founder and CEO, Playbuzz
Israeli entrepreneur and business executive Shaul Olmert has been on the Tel Aviv-New York City flight route for years. He is presently CEO of Playbuzz, the Israeli viral-content publishing platform he cofounded in 2012 with Tom Pachys.
Playbuzz, often dubbed the DIY Buzzfeed, is a free business-to-business platform that lets publishers, bloggers, brands and other users create multilingual quizzes, lists and polls for mass social-network sharing.
The third son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, he worked as a high school computers teacher in Jerusalem and then left Israel for a master’s degree in interactive telecommunications at New York University. He has spent most of his professional career in the US, holding executive positions at NetAlign, GameGround, Sundaysky, Nickelodeon/MTV Networks and Conduit, among others.
Playbuzz has offices in Tel Aviv, London, Nashville, Tennessee, and Hamburg, Germany.
- Guy Franklin – Founder and CEO, Israeli Mapped in NY & Boston; General Manager of SOSA NY
Guy Franklin’s name is synonymous with Israeli Mapped in NY. This account-manager-turned-entrepreneur transformed networking into an art form.
In 2013, he launched a dynamic map that includes information — announcements, job opportunities, collaboration alerts and links — on Israeli startups based in New York. Its success prompted similar maps for Israeli startups in Boston and London.
In 2014, the Consulate of Israel in New York awarded him with the Builder of Israel’s Creative Spirit Award. He was on Geektime’s 100 Most Influential People in Israeli High-Tech 2015 list.
Franklin’s career path includes stints at Ernst & Young in Tel Aviv and then at the same company in New York as a senior account manager specializing in high-tech and startups.
Franklin, 39, holds law and accounting degrees from Tel Aviv University. He recently became general manager of the New York office of SOSA, an innovative entrepreneurial community founded in Tel Aviv.