Friday, October 25, 2019

High Tech in the Holy Land

Day four of our company visits started in Jerusalem with Made in JLM, an umbrella organization that consolidates resources for startups and technology companies in the holy city. When most people think of Jerusalem, new technology is probably not the first thing to cross their mind--but there is a thriving ecosystem, and Made in JLM is at the forefront. It is their goal to position Jerusalem as one of the most innovative cities in the world--what a perfect stop for us on our Innovation Journey. They operate as a sort of ecosystem hub, bringing together various entities of the startup world by hosting events and programs. As part of their efforts, the amount of new startups in Jerusalem has grown by 500% from 2012-2015. They've reached over 20,000 community members in different organizations and have been ranked as one of the top emerging tech hubs in the world. After seeing their headquarters, they led us on a tour of a few other top Israeli companies who also had offices in Jerusalem.

We continued our journey with the most successful Israeli startup and "multi-unicorn," Mobileye, who sold to Intel for over $15 Billion. They've developed revolutionary vision-safety technology that is used in over 40 million vehicles worldwide. Their software enables Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) which is incorporated in some of the world's largest auto manufacturers. Their single-lens camera placed at the front of any vehicle is able to identify shapes, like vehicles and pedestrians, in addition to road safety signs like lane markings. This goes into providing alerts for drivers when there is a risk of collision and can connect with automatic braking or automatic lane assistance technology. Mobileye is moving us faster into the future by building on their ADAS technology, using the latest advancements in Artificial Intelligence and partnering with other leading organizations to make autonomous vehicles a reality of the not-so-distant future. We got to see some raw footage of what a Mobileye camera "sees" and it was incredible to see how it identified and tracked almost all the objects on the road in real-time. This technology is crucial to keeping us safe on the roads today and into the future.

Continuing with the "super vision" theme, our next meeting was with OrCam, an incredible organization that helps blind and visually impaired people navigate the world with audio. They built a small camera with built-in artificial intelligence that can clip-on to any pair of eyeglasses; it's capable of recognizing and reading out loud virtually any text! This helps people with disabilities read books, navigate street signs, read ingredients on food items, and countless other things that many of us take for granted. It even has technology where you can teach it to recognize your family member's faces and it can tell you who is in front of you. This technology has helped tens of thousands of visually impaired people be more self-sufficient, empowering them to have more independence in their daily lives. They have had such an immensely positive impact on people's daily lives, it was a privilege to meet with them.

Next, we went to visit Hometalk, the largest website for do-it-yourself (DIY) projects in the world. They've created a community that allows people to learn how to do home improvement projects through user-generated content and curated videos. The focus of these is on skill-building to empower users to be more self-sufficient in creative projects. They have a highly engaged online community that helps each other by answering questions and collaborating. It's really cool to see how the platform gives people the know-how and opportunity to do something that they might otherwise have had to hire someone else for. At their headquarters, we met with Hillel Fuld who is a strategic advisor to them, and many other startups. He shared with us his insight into how to turn a startup into a business by scaling with innovative marketing techniques. We got to hear firsthand about his experience as a leading insider in the Israeli startup world, including how he got his start by producing free content. It was a really unique opportunity to learn about the bout the micro-and macro-environmental factors that contribute to an organization's success worldwide.

Our last visit of the day was with United Hatzalah, an organization that literally saves hundreds of lives every day. They are a volunteer-based emergency response providers that offer their services free of charge. They respond to over a thousand emergency calls per day with a response time of 3 minutes or less throughout Israel! This is compared to the average response time of an ambulance that can be 12 minutes. Often, this is too long and victims are dead on arrival. They have several phenomenal competencies that allow them to perform at such a high level and save so many lives. First, their technology platform that tracks their over 6,000 volunteers across the country. They are able to coordinate emergency calls and triangulate the emergency responders that are closest to the scene to respond fastest. They send out an emergency signal to a handful of responders in the vicinity which increases the chances of survival. We got an exclusive look inside their control center and it was amazing to see how well-coordinated their efforts are. Another key to their success is that the volunteers are on-call, not working specific time-bound shifts, and they are going about their normal day and work life. This means that rather than being centralized at a dispatch center, they are decentralized throughout the country providing more localized support, increasing the chances of them being at the scene quickly. Another reason they are able to respond so quickly is because of their "ambucycles." These are motorcycles that are equipped with all the same life-saving devices as an ambulance; except for a stretcher. There is a large backpack that is fairly lightweight that includes everything necessary to stabilize someone until they're able to get to a hospital. A brilliant, innovative solution to a life-threatening problem. It was such an incredible way to end the day by meeting with a life-saving organization, and it left us reflecting on how to make a positive impact in the world.

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