Israeli Mobile Technology Talks the Talk by Going Global From the Get-Go
When it comes to breaking into today’s mobile market, it’s crucial to think global from the get go. Take Samsung, LG, and other multinationals that have made a huge mark in world markets.
But in the startup realm, the picture is somewhat different. Take “Kakoa Talk” for example. The app is used by 93% of smartphone owners in Korea – a huge success by anyone’s standards. Though it is considered by many a far superior messaging app than Whatsapp, the Silicon Valley app is still leagues ahead with 600 million active users compared with Kakao Talk’s 50 million. Kakao Talk has made several attempts to expand outside of Korea – including to South America and the U.S. – but has pulled back because marketing to those countries proved either too expensive or, as Kakao CEO’s Sirgoo Lee said himself, “The culture there is very different… messaging is a service where you have to be culturally sensitive”.
Kakao Talk app seemed to be limited by having only catered to the local market with little thought about international markets invested into their original design. But are justifications like “cultural impasses” or “budgetary restraints” legitimate? Here, the examples set by many Israeli startups may be edifying. With a tiny local market and no formal relations with many of its neighbors – not to mention the fact that Hebrew (like Korean) is an orphan language spoken only at home – Israeli startups have no choice but to think globally from day one.
This international orientation pushes Israeli startups to develop technologies with a global appeal and to adjust their marketing strategies accordingly. Seeing the world as one’s marketplace from day one helps position one’s startups as global market leaders of the future.
As Israeli entrepreneur Jon Medved, who has also invested in more than 100 Israeli startups, said to reporters, “Today, if you’re not global from day one, you’re losing it. That is one of the advantages we have in Israel; we don’t really have a domestic market. Our companies either go global or they go nowhere”.
For Israelis, it was never about trying to figure out what kind of technology will suit the local population, it is about dreaming up technology will help all types of populations. It therefore comes as no surprise that an Israeli company, Mirabilis, developed the mother of all messaging apps, ICQ.
Several of the Israeli companies that will be exhibiting in the next Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona this coming March are prime examples of the way a global outlook can help startups dream big and scale up accordingly:
- Lexifone is a company whose entire DNA is predicated on making our global village even smaller and more accessible. Ever thought of communicating in your own language with Chinese business partners who speak nothing but Mandarin? Lexifone has developed a fully automated instant phone interpreter that makes it possible for you to speak on the phone to people around the world and receive instantaneous translation on both ends. The cutting-edge technology allows people to communicate in their native tongue with incredible simplicity, without getting lost in translation. Some of the 9 languages covered by Lexifone: Mandarin, French, Hebrew and English.
- Kaltura believes that since we’re living in a video generation, the world needs a video platform that is open, flexible and collaborative– a Wikipedia of sorts, only for videos not words – Wikipedia meets YouTube. Founded by one of the founders of ICQ, Kaltura’s impressive list of customers includes Ivy League universities like Yale, Hollywood studios like Warner Bros and top-tier enterprise like Philips, Intel, SAP, Band of America and AT&T. This stems from the fact that the company understood that in order to be inter-operable in a world of thousands of video platforms, the company needs to operate on an open, global scale. “We don’t build narrow features”, said co-founder and CTO Eran Etam, “rather we build flexible solutions which allow us to provide any video experience to any company”.
- Magisto is another company in the video sector with a global focus, but which focuses on the end user. Magisto gives both iPhone and Android users the tools to turn everyday pictures and videos into beautiful, colorful edited home movies – music included. Magisto understands that the universal need to tell our own stories is one of the reasons that the personal video sector is growing at a dizzying pace, with, for example, 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute. But since we’re not all professional video editors, Magisto’s free application – dubbed the world’s smartest video camera – does the hard work by automatically editing the videos and creating high quality, tagable, shareable, movies – making each and every one of us a Steven Spielberg.
- With all the talking we do on our mobile phones – not to mention texting, filming, reading, shopping, etc. – the threat from radiation is becomes increasingly dangerous. Israeli startup Tawkon created an app that measures the radiation coming from your smartphone and then gives you advice on how to diminish it. In countries like Japan, where radiation is a big fear, there are actual phones that measure radiation in the surrounding area – sort of like a portable Geiger counter. However, this is the first application that measures the device’s own radiation. That’s an app everyone would be wise to download, no matter where you come from.
That’s just a taste of some of the Israeli startups which have made a name for themselves by looking at the big picture from day one. These and many others will be featured at the Israeli Pavilion at MWC 2015 .