Nine Israeli startups last month were given an opportunity few small companies are ever afforded — the chance to ply their wares to some of the top companies in Los Angeles.
Invited to participate in the Israeli New Media Delegation, executives from the Israeli businesses each met with representatives from at least one of the following broadcast and entertainment-related companies: Warner Bros., Fox, Paramount, DirecTV, Technicolor, Disney/ABC Television Group, Starz, Edelman and Creative Artists Agency.
Organized by the Government of Israel Economic Mission and the Israel Export Institute, the June 18-20 trip was one of the many missions Israel’s Ministry of the Economy organizes every year to the United States, India, China and Europe.
“We do this on an almost weekly basis,” said Gili Ovadia, Israeli consul for economic affairs for the West Coast. He said the next few missions will feature Israeli companies engaged in pharmaceutical, gaming and mobile automotive industries.
The Israeli delegation — representing technologies involving social media management, viewer engagement and personalization tools, and more — featured Beyond Verbal, Comigo, Dex, eTribez, eyeSight, Homage, Kaltura, TinyTap and Vodience.
In this case, the tour reflected the Israeli government’s determination to connect Israeli companies with American companies on the West Coast. The mission provided “great exposure to the decision-makers at the top U.S. firms,” Ovadia said. Without these personal invitations, “It would likely take a few years” for the Israelis to make such contacts. … Basically the missions shorten their time to market by showing their technology to potential partners.”
Jason Ciment, an executive board member of the Southern California Israel Chamber of Commerce, which joined in putting together a reception to welcome the delegation, agreed the mission was invaluable to the Israelis.
“What they definitely needed was exposure to the American business people to help improve their pitches and meet potential investors,” he said.
The American companies selected the Israeli ones they wanted to meet with out of a pool of 30 compiled by the Israel Export Institute. Although some of the U.S. companies chose up to 15 Israeli ones, not all of them were able to participate because of timing or other factors.
“We showed the Hollywood companies the list back in March and asked them to choose the companies they felt were most relevant to their needs,” Ovadia explained. “Then we gave the Israeli companies the opportunity to come on the mission.”
Dan Emodi, vice president of marketing at Beyond Verbal, a company that has developed ways to analyze people’s emotions — moods, attitudes and personality — by examining their vocal intonations, said he met with DirecTV, Fox and Disney execs during the mission.
“They expressed interest in our technology to better understand audiences’ reaction to pilots, movies [and] shows before and while they’re being aired.”
Emodi said manufacturers of machines that respond to verbal commands, such as certain toys, could also potentially benefit from Beyond Verbal’s technology.
“We are thrilled and grateful that the American executives gave us their time and attention.”
Rony Greenberg, vice president for business development at eyeSight, said he met with execs from DirecTV, Technicolor, Fox and others.
The company, which develops gesture-recognition technology for digital devices, believes the execs were intrigued by the potential to control TVs, tablets, computers and other devices with the flick of a finger or hand.
“For example, if you want to mute the volume, you bring your finger to your lips. If you’re cooking with a recipe on your tablet and your hands aren’t clean, imagine flipping the page by waving your hand.”
As for the other Israeli companies that made the trip, some have obvious implications for television: Dex allows two-way interaction between a live TV show and viewers, and Vodience creates a live virtual audience, allowing those watching a program to interact with each other.
Comigo offers a platform that allows TV viewing across all types of handheld devices, with social interactive features and applications overlaid on the broadcast stream. ETribez offers digital audience engagement and TV production management solutions and services to the entertainment industry, and Kaltura is a video platform that provides media companies with video management, publishing and monetization tools.
Then there’s Homage, a mobile video app that places users into a variety of stories, allowing them to, for instance, appear in a famous movie scene. TinyTap allows anyone to create, share and play personalized educational games.
David Schlacht, senior director of multimedia at DirecTV, helped facilitate the inclusion of the Israelis in a mini startup fair that was part of a larger innovation open house. The startups were able to pitch their products and technology to more than 1,000 senior DirecTV employees.
“The companies we chose were in fields most related to DirecTV that were new to us,” Schlacht explained. “Some were content-related, others more technology that was interesting to media companies.”
That turned out to be “a great opportunity to educate a wide, diverse senior team in the latest cutting-edge technology being developed by some of today’s leading companies, who in this case happened to be from Israel,” he said.
Schlacht said the encounters were beneficial to both the U.S. and Israeli companies.
“I think that many of the small and medium companies are not well versed in creating long-term relationships with big companies, and that is key to landing deals or investments. For us it was a great opportunity to educate a wide diverse senior team in the latest cutting-edge technology being developed by some of today’s leading companies who in this case happened to be from Israel.”
Schlacht said the Israeli marketing professionals were clearly “experienced” in presenting their companies, but he was “not sure how familiar some of them were with our specific needs and focus.” He thought some of them could have done an even better job demonstrating their technology in the context of the U.S. market.
In a small survey completed by the DirecTV employees, the Israeli pavilion ranked among the top three from a large number of demos.
“I think this is a clear indication that the companies were well-received by a broad audience,” Schlacht said, “and now the companies have at least a foot or pinky in the door to follow up and develop a relationship or test their technologies.”