Last Wednesday, Lehman College hosted The Bronx Technology Showcase, featuring presentations from up-and-coming startups that all, in one way or another, began in Israel. Along with the college, sponsors included The Consulate General of Israel in New York, The Bronx Chamber of Commerce and The Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation. Representatives from each organization gave introductions and expressed a will to strengthen the connection between vibrant Israel and the Bronx. When I asked Ambassador Ido Aharoni, the Consul General of Israel, about his motivation to sponsor the showcase, he discussed the connection being made. “Technology is empowering,” he said. “Israel is bursting with ideas, and with this showcase we are building a bridge between vibrant Israel and the Bronx.” Ricardo Fernandez, President of Lehman College, showed similar excitement and highlighted the importance of showcasing new ideas and their success in order to initiate entrepreneurship in the Bronx, a borough full of ambitious young minds and potential.
Gilad Rotem from Herzliya is a co-founder of Cups, a subscription-based coffee application that allows users to pay a monthly fee for limitless coffee from their favorite independent cafes in New York. Before starting Cups, Gilad noticed that while Starbucks generates 16% of its revenue by telling New Yorkers (through its application) where they can get a cup of coffee, many of its customers would rather buy their coffee at small, independent shops. On their own, these smaller businesses lack the resources necessary to compete with Starbucks and its famous app, but Gilad explained that Cups has given them a chance to do so. “We have created a new kind of chain. By creating a network of independent businesses, not only are we helping these businesses thrive, but we are connecting coffee-loving New Yorkers to the brews they prefer.” Cups originally launched a pilot program in Tel Aviv, connecting 80 shops, but Tel Aviv was simply too small. Last May, the app moved to the Big Apple and now connects over 150 coffee shops in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and, soon, the Bronx.
Attendees of the showcase also heard from Clea O’hana, who co-founded WiShi (“Wear it, Share it”), a social styling hub with which users upload wardrobes and can both ask for styling advice and give it to other users. The app launched six months ago and already has 150,000 active users.
Two other featured speakers took the opportunity to give advice to young entrepreneurs. Ricky Chang is the CTO of Switch, a job-search app that connects employers to potential employees in as quick a fashion as possible. Israeli native Yarden Tadmor founded the application. “It’s basically the Tinder of the job search,” Chang explained. “Both sides swipe right or left, and if there is a match they can begin chatting right away.” Chang talked about his personal journey to Switch, and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of both large, established companies and small startups. Chris Ayala is the CEO of Alcohoot, which designed a personal smartphone breathalyzer. While Alcohoot enjoys police-grade quality, pinpoint accuracy, and is easy to use, Ayala stressed the challenges of the hardware world in his presentation, and made suggestions for any entrepreneurs looking to endeavor into this area.
By coming out to hear about these few startup success stories, Lehman College students and community members got a small taste of what Israel has to offer. As pointed out in the introduction to the showcase, the State of Israel has never existed without being under constant threat. This unfortunate reality, while tragic, has bred a distinctive national character, one that exhibits initiative, creativity and a hunger for success. The necessity for Israel to be better has indeed been the mother of invention, and this is as apparent in the world of startups as anywhere. There are approximately three thousand startups founded or based in Israel, which is the most per capita in the world, and there are undoubtedly more on the way. By hosting this showcase, the event’s sponsors made one more connection between a major startup hub and the economic center of the world.
By Josh Warhit