As the newish owner of an iPad, I find myself being drawn more and more to the tablet, whether to finish an email, check Facebook and Twitter, read a book or as a tool with my kids, from watching clips on YouTube to a whole host of clever apps that engage, rather than just entertain.
This week, we watched germs swimming around (spooky), viewed photos of sugar cane (“So how come it’s white?) and figured out how to make a triple single Rainbow Loom bracelet (not a project for the fainthearted). The week before, we traced pictures with a Faber Castell app, which then animated them (very cool).
I know, life cannot only be lived through the small screen. Trust me, I’m all for life in the real world. I read print books (and magazines and newspapers), and i leave as well, but there’s something to be said for what can be found and created online on websites or apps — maybe because there’s so much in one place.
This week, we’re taking a glance at five websites and apps that are worth trying out, and not just because they’re Israeli-made.
1) The idea of the Look & Cook app was to utilize the wonderful visual experience of the iPad, iPhone and other smart devices and use it for real food preparation — but not just recipes, said Oran Huberman, who founded the app company, Kinetic Art Ltd., with his business partners, Dudu Mimran and Ronen Mizrachi.
“You can find billions of recipes on the Internet, but it’s a lot of text, like an entry in a database,” said Huberman. “We wanted to take the passion of chefs and the visuality of food layout, and put it all to work on the great screen of the iPad.”
Working with local chef Meir Adoni, who is known for his creative work in restaurants Mizlala and Catit, Huberman and Nimran came out with their first product, Look & Cook, an app that offers lustrous, clear photos of each recipe, as well as videos, timers and voice activation. The free app went from 100 daily downloads to 33,000 and was used by Apple in one of its iTunes campaigns in the US. Kinetic Art just introduced a new version of Look & Cook for the iPhone, which offers the option of buying the ingredients and tools for any recipe, right there, on the spot (Look, Cook, Shop).
There’s a wide range of recipes on the app — kosher, nonkosher and vegan — including a solid selection of Middle Eastern specialties like kubane and shakshouka. And their next app will be all about tehina, as conceived by chef Erez Kamorovsky. With 400,000 users of the app in Israel, the US, Canada, England, Germany, as well as “a few French,” Huberman is excited about the possibilities.
2) Of course, it’s not just apps that can offer the experience of entering an entire world through your screen. Gedaliah Blum had already discovered the power of the independent website when he and his wife launched business directory Dapei Katom, or Orange Pages, named for the color associated with the residents of the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. The directory offers comprehensive information and contacts for every Jewish business in the settlements. When they began getting requests from people outside Israel who wanted to support the settlers, but didn’t need a plumber, they created Boutique Katom, an online gallery of artwork made by artists living in Jewish settlements.
“It’s about the consumers saying, ‘I love Judea and Samaria,’ and the original Bible Belt, and if you love it so much, you want to be able to live it, to teach it to your children,” said Blum.
The boutique isn’t the Blum’s core business, which is still about promoting more traditional businesses throughout the Jewish settlements. Boutique Katom has, however, helped increase purchases for the artists featured on the site, and is now expanding into locally made cosmetics, spices and jewelry — lower-priced items that don’t demand the same kind of investment as a $300 painting. “Boutique Katom is our business card,” said Blum. “It’s our way of showing that our services are great, we’re reliable, and we’re a small boutique, we’re not a museum.”
3) A similar concept animates CuratedIsrael, a website of all the things New Yorker Diane Caston loves in Israel. Caston has a finely honed sense of design developed by her years working in retail at Barney’s, Bergdof Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue, and spends part of the year living in Neve Tzedek, a Tel Aviv neighborhood that specializes in the artisanal, the curated and the quaint. For Caston, the website is her opportunity to share all the things she’s discovered that “are fabulous about Israel,” she said. “I always peek around corners, that’s how I find things, and oftentimes one designer will recommend someone else.”
Given that many of her designers don’t have their own e-commerce sites, Caston sees her site as an opportunity to give back to Israel, the land she loves. Her next step will be to include Israeli designers in New York.
4) The world of fashion is all about figuring out what’s in style, and when. Game designer Ohad Greenspan wasn’t necessarily thinking about fashion when he and his partner were thinking about games that could offer brands and retailers insights into consumers, but that ended up being the game plan in Fashion Eye, an app that pits players against one another to see who has the better eye for fashion or can tell which item is more expensive.
“The least sexy way to look at fashion is to see it as a big data problem,” said Greenspan, “but fashion is constantly changing and there’s a lot out there and every person has different fashion taste, so it’s a big problem for extracting insights.”
Brands and retailers were excited about Fashion Eye, said Greenspan, because of the basic demographic information that gets back to them from the players, who sign up via Facebook or email and then receive push notifications. Targeting the US and Europe (no Israeli brands are being featured yet), Fashion Eye is geared toward women aged 18-45. It’s attached to 600 brands and retailers, with fashion guidance coming from a fashion guru in New York, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons Institute who “makes sure everything is trendy,” said Greenspan. With gift cards and clutch bags given out to winners, Fashion Eye is a great way to “utilize dead time,” joked Greenspan.
5) While tooling through Marmelada Market — the Israeli version of Etsy, an e-commerce website that specializes in handmade products — I came across MegaBoard (Hebrew), originally known as Luach v’Gir, or Chalk and Board. The site sells every size and kind of wall sticker for chalk. Meir Lapidot formed the business when he wanted to create a chalkboard wall for his kids, but didn’t want to use chalkboard paint, which often requires half-a-dozen layers before it can be used for writing with chalk.
“I saw how complicated it was, and there was only the green chalkboard paint available, and I wanted black,” he said. “I saw that the stickers were everywhere abroad, and then bought some of my own.”
That started a trend among his own circle, as everyone wanted their own blackboard stickers. Lapidot decided to build a business out of the product, and now offers pretty much every kind of chalkboard wall sticker available, for offices, businesses, homes and kids’ rooms. There are also magnet boards for putting on refrigerators, and those are made in Israel, while some of the chalkboard stickers are designed by MegaBoard but made in China. The company will trade at mega-boards.com outside of Israel, and megaboard.co.il in Israel. “The stickers are great,” said Lapidot. “We’ve had ours for three years, and it still works just as well.”