Israeli mobile start-ups are a major presence at international industry events, like Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress – so it was high time that Israel had its own major mobile event, entrepreneur Ofir Leitner said in 2010. Thus was born the first Israel Mobile Summit, which has blossomed into numerous mobile events for local tech firms, advertising networks, start-ups, and visitors from international customers and partners. The Summit’s 2015 edition was held in Tel Aviv last week, along with a series of other mobile-related events, all part of Israel Mobile Week.
It’s only fitting that Israel have its own Mobile Summit, said organizer Ofir Leitner. “Our mobile ecosystem is considered one of the most important in the world, in technology, ad platforms, cyber-security, and more. There’s a great demand in the world for Israeli-made mobile technology, and this event, as well as others, is the primary showcase for them.”
And the plethora of companies doing what appears to very similar work in many areas of the mobile industry doesn’t bother Leitner either. “This market is huge, and even though there is a lot of competition, there is a lot of opportunity. There’s room at the top for everyone.”
Since the 2011 Summit event, many ancillary events have been added, to the point where, more than just hosting a Summit, Tel Aviv now hosts a Mobile Week, with events dedicated to start-ups, programmers, mobile banking and financial tech apps. There’s even an event dedicated to party-lovers – at the “official Mobile Summit Party, in which we can all unwind and have some drink with international colleagues from the mobile apps ecosystem,” according to Leitner, who organizes Mobile Week and its affiliated events. “We run the Mobile Week events in June each year, but there is also a major event in November, so we are really running major international mobile events twice a year.”
Each of them is very well attended, with thousands of people crowding the Summit, Mobile Monday (where industry goals and strategies are discussed), and DroidCon (geared to Android app developers) – each with largely different sets of attendees. “Mobile Week exists because the industry is very varied,” said Leitner. “Unlike in the information technology business, the mobile industry encompasses many disciplines. In IT, you need experts who understand networking, programming, and other classical tech disciplines.
“In mobile, app development requires far more resources, from user interface technology to language skills to design, as well as programming and networking skills,” said Leitner. “As a result, there is a much greater opportunity for non-tech workers to get in on a very successful industry.”
The extent of Israel’s influence on the mobile industry isn’t on the radar of the general public as are, for example, Israeli innovations in computer development (such as at Intel and Microsoft) – but most of the multinationals in the mobile industry, from Samsung to Apple to Huwaei, have R&D labs in Israel. At this year’s MWC in Barcelona, more than ten percent of the 1,900-plus companies presenting were Israeli or had major R&D labs here.
The mobile industry is also one of the tech business’s more financially successful ones. Israel, for example, is a world center for mobile ad network platforms, which allow advertisers to target specific groups in order to ensure more effective marketing. Web3, currently Israel’s largest homegrown digital marketing firm, was completely bootstrapped and profitable from almost day one, said CEO Shahar Bar-Geffen. Web3 has recently gone abroad, establishing a subsidiary called Maple, which operates in 15 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America.
Another company that has never taken a shekel in investor funding – because it has never needed to – is Bidalgo, which has developed an automated advertising system for Facebook’s mobile app. Bidalgo is a large supplier of automated segmented advertising on Facebook – selling hundreds of millions dollars a year worth of ads for apps and products on the social network, using an automated system to figure out what kind of message and what media (text, photos, videos, and other forms of communication) will be most effective in reaching the hundreds of thousands of subgroups that Facebook users can be broken down into. “Facebook really thinks very highly of us, we have consulted with them on many issues,” said Niv Yemini, Bidalgo co-founder and CTO. “Personalization is definitely a major trend, and that is something we are very good at.”
At the Mobile Summit, it was the ad tech firms that dominated, with each presenting a specific twist on how they deliver ads to mobile users. Those twists were not only specific, but subtle – and many of the companies appear ripe for consolidation, via acquisitions into bigger companies. “That’s definitely in issue in some parts of the mobile industry, especially in web ad technology,” said Leitner. “But the truth is that this is a growing industry, and there is still room a lot of growth. Although many of the ad tech firms do similar things, they have managed to imprint their own special approach to the business, and that is enough to differentiate them among potential customers. I see plenty of growth in the coming years.”