Tel Aviv now the global leader in app startups


Silicon Valley may be known as the hotspot for tech, but halfway across the globe, Tel Aviv is making its mark. According to Forbes, Tel Aviv has more startups per capita than anywhere else in the world. 

App startups make up a large portion of this growing tech community. One in particular made recent headlines when United Hatzalah, a volunteer rescue service, commissioned an SOS app in the wake of the kidnapping of three Israeli teens. The free app by Israeli startup NowForce allows users to request help with the swipe of a finger. About 60,000 Israelis downloaded it in June following its release.

Other apps are more lighthearted, as developers work to allow users to form new kinds of communities, share videos and more. Here are a few great apps to make their way out of Tel Aviv this year. 

Clubz

Forget about Facebook. According to Moish Levin, CEO and co-founder of the Clubz app, social networking as we know it needed a facelift. 

“Before Clubz came around, the market that existed in social media was based on profile-building and connecting with others because of their profile’s content,” he said. “We felt this was not only boring and limiting but that users deserved a better way to meet those with common interests.”

Clubz is a platform on which “clubz,” or groups, can be created and joined by users. The app, which was released in January, features fans of cat videos, sports teams and alternative music, to name a few. Within these “clubz,” users can produce and post videos, comment on and “like” content, and share their activity on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.

“Nobody likes having to read through cluttered news feeds and sifting for the information that actually interests them, so we took these thoughts and did something about it,” Levin said.

There are several thousand people using the app and its 300-plus clubz, he said, adding that it’s catching on mostly among sports enthusiasts. 

“Fans at Maccabi Tel Aviv games really grabbed Clubz and found it easy to post their content from games or elsewhere. The whole team noticed how cool the club was and how much better this way of sharing made a fan’s personal experience.”

The company is working on expanding the app so it can be adopted by American sports franchises as well, Levin said. 

LiveLens

You take a video on your phone. Then you have to upload it to YouTube. Along the way, you might run into problems if the file is too big, and even if that isn’t a problem, you might waste time trying to share manually on Facebook and Twitter. 

Max Bluvband noticed that video uploading and sharing was a hassle, so he decided to do something about it.

“When I took videos of my kids or my skiing, I have noticed that no one can see it. Yes, I can upload it to YouTube, prepare an email and send it to everyone, but do we really have the time [to do that] for every video?” he said. 

Bluvband decided to streamline the video-sharing process and created LiveLens. The app, which came out in the spring, allows users to share videos live. They simply hit “go live” and their friends and followers receive a notification that they are streaming or have posted new content. The users can see who is watching them, the comments and the “likes” on the video. 

LiveLens, which is available in the iTunes store, Google Play and on Google Glass, has a target demographic of teenagers and adults up to age 35. In order to monetize the app, the company plans to charge for videos of celebrities. Although Bluvband, LiveLens’ CEO, would not reveal download numbers, there are other signs of success: In May, online newsmagazine VentureBeat reported that LiveLens raised $2 million in funding from investors. 

Samba

In February, Samba — which allows users to send videos and record a viewer’s reaction — made its debut in the Apple Store. Less than three weeks later, it was named the best social app at the South by Southwest festival in Austin. 

The app represents the next logical stop in exchanging videos, according to company founder Barak Hachamov.

“In the real world, when we listen to someone or see something, we react,” he said. “We react with our face, with our eyes, with our smile. In other messaging services, these reactions still exist, but no one can see them. Samba mimics a very basic human emotion and need. We are doing that by gratifying the sender with the most authentic reactions. Samba makes sure that every message gets the response that it deserves.”

The app hasn’t made money yet. However, Hachamov said that Samba is already being integrated into a reality TV show. The founder also plans to approach brands to see if they would be interested in this new way of communicating with their customers. 

In three years, the company hopes to have more than 100 million users. The overall goal, though, is to change how people utilize technology to talk with one another. 

“Our vision is to humanize and bring emotion to the way that people communicate in the digital world today,” Hachamov said.

60,000 Israelis download app to notify of abduction


Some 60,000 Israelis have downloaded a free app designed to assist in the event of an abduction.

Using the free United Hatzalah SOS smartphone app, subscribers can inform the emergency organization that they need assistance and provide their exact location via GPS technology. The app, developed by the Israeli start-up NowForce, requires one swipe of the finger.

The system contacts any family or friends that are programmed into the system during registration.

The app responds to problems that arise from placing an emergency call to the police in the event of a kidnapping situation. Security forces have to undergo lengthy legal processes to obtain permission to track an individual’s cell phone signal, prolonging emergency response times and the chance of rescue.

Police received a distress call from one of three kidnapped Israeli teenagers minutes after they were taken, but security forces were unable to ascertain their exact location. They then waited nearly seven hours before responding to the teens’ call for help, believing it was a prank.

Israeli media have reported that the teens were shot by their abductors in panic after they realized a call had been placed to police. The app allows for a discrete method to call for help, its creators say.

Boys’ kidnapping inspires ‘SOS Israel’ app


In response to the kidnapping of three boys last week, some Israelis have prayed. Some have voiced support on social media. And some have done what they do best: they made an app.

Prompted by the kidnapping and set to launch in the near future, the SOS Israel app will allow anyone in Israel facing an emergency to trigger an SOS call to emergency services, which will be notified of the person’s location via their smartphone. The app will also alert the person’s emergency contacts that he or she is in trouble.

The app comes from NowForce, an Israeli startup that creates apps for emergency response teams that can locate the closest responder to an incident, connect them with the command center and allow them to analyze incidents after they occur.

The app might have prevented a blunder that occurred when Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach were abducted from the West Bank settlement of Kfar Etzion last Thursday: police waited nearly seven hours before responding to the teens’ call for help, believing it was a prank.

The app is not the first to be inspired by an Israeli security crisis. During Israel’s 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza, a 13-year-old from the embattled southern city of Beersheva created an app that notified users whenever a siren sounded in an Israeli city ahead of an incoming rocket from Gaza.

NowForce from NowForce Channel on Vimeo.