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Meet 11 Israel-founded NY startups helping bust coronavirus challenges

The Israel Business Alliance, an initiative to create New York State-Israel economic opportunities, has a list of what it says are ‘Covid Disrupters’

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

A full moon rises behind the Statue of Liberty in New York City, on May 18, 2019.  (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP)
A full moon rises behind the Statue of Liberty in New York City, on May 18, 2019. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP)

The New York-Israel Business Alliance, an initiative to create economic opportunities between New York State and Israel, has drawn up a list of what it says are “Covid Disrupters” — 11 Israeli-founded companies in New York that have potential “game-changing” solutions to “major challenges” posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

“In a matter of months, we’ve dramatically modified our behaviors in order to cope with the impact that COVID-19 is having on our lives,” NYIBA president Aaron Kaplowitz said in a statement. “The rapid change has precipitated a technological transformation and created unanticipated opportunities for these companies to solve some of the thorniest challenges imposed by the pandemic and beyond.”

The NYIBA team reviewed publicly available reports and records of the 506 Israel-founded businesses across New York State, analyzed emerging trends, and conducted dozens of interviews with company executives, government officials, investors, and industry analysts.

The list it compiled includes not only startups that are directly impacting healthcare, but a variety of firms that are helping fight the fallout of the coronavirus with their own unique technologies: offering artificial intelligence and telemedicine solutions; technologies to make online trading safer; improving logistics; and matching employers to freelance workers for remote work.

Date trees in the Jordan Valley, pollinated by Blue and White Robotics and Dropcopter (Courtesy)

Blue White Robotics

Blue White Robotics has developed a software platform that enables users to manage a network of autonomous vehicle fleets and robots from a single command center.

Using BWR’s technology, farmers, for example, can deploy driverless tractors to spray their fields while simultaneously communicating with aerial drones that pollinate the crops.

Although the platform has multi-sector applications, CEO Ben Alfi, who formerly headed the Unmanned Aerial Systems and Special Devices unit of the Israeli Air Force, has focused on agriculture.

With the coronavirus presenting problems along the food supply chain, Alfi’s decision to focus on farming has bolstered BWR’s technology as a viable option to address labor shortages and safety concerns. Earlier this year, the startup, which set up its US headquarters in central New York, forged a collaboration with Syracuse-based firm Dropcopter to pollinate Israeli date farms in the Jordan Valley and New York apple orchards.

The coronavirus has also accelerated BWR’s expansion into other areas. The Israeli government tapped the startup to work on pilot projects with Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan to ferry COVID-19 patients through the campus in autonomous shuttles; and with the Netanya Geriatric Medical Center to provide aerial delivery of medical supplies, the statement said.

Carbyne

Carbyne offers a range of solutions to equip law enforcement agencies with tools to safeguard communities and bring greater operational efficiency to emergency responses.

Merging location services, live video chat, incident mapping, and other communication technologies into a single dashboard, Carbyne provides more real-time information to police officers entering potentially chaotic and stressful situations.

Carbyne, which moved its corporate headquarters from Tel Aviv to Manhattan in September 2019, has signed several county and city contracts, including in Colorado, Ohio, North Carolina, Minnesota, and Alabama. In March, as part of its effort to protect first responders from COVID-19 exposure, the city of New Orleans integrated Carbyne into its Emergency Communications Center.

Fabric, previously Common Sense Robotics, is setting up what it calls Micro-Fulfillment Centers (MFCs), which are warehouses run by a both humans and robots, to process grocery orders (Courtesy)

Fabric

Fabric, formerly called Common Sense Robotics, aims to use robotics and warehouses location to disrupt ecommerce. Situated in urban areas, its “micro-fulfillment centers” are serviced by robots that fetch items from shelves and transfer them to a fleet of floor robots, which in turn whisk product-filled baskets to processing and loading areas.

Fabric hopes speed and efficiency of automation combined with the fulfillment centers’ proximity to customers will position the company to replace the same-day ecommerce delivery model with speedier two-hour delivery.

In September 2019 the company shed its former name and moved its headquarters from Tel Aviv to New York City. A month later, it closed a $110 million Series B funding round.

In early 2020, Fabric began construction on its first US micro-fulfillment center in Brooklyn, which will be followed by a center in Long Island City. In July, Fabric announced a partnership with FreshDirect that will introduce two-hour delivery to the Washington, DC, metro area and expand cooperation with FreshDirect’s main facility in the Bronx.

COVID-19 has spurred many grocers to upgrade online shopping experiences and delivery services, which has boosted the value of Fabric’s solutions, the statement said. Fabric believes the ability to fill thousands of orders with only a handful of people managing the warehouse fulfillment sites offers a critical safety assurance during the pandemic.

An example of a profile page on Fiverr (Courtesy)

Fiverr

In January, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the country’s unemployment rate was 3.5 percent. In June, that rate hit 11.1%. According to a United Nations estimate, the number of working hours lost over the second quarter of 2020 is equivalent to 400-million full-time job losses.

These numbers have driven more and more workers to the so called “gig economy,” where they’re connecting to cost-conscious companies seeking freelance services. This has boosted Fiverr, a firm that has set up a marketplace platform for freelancers. Fiverr went public on the New York Stock Exchange in June 2019, and since March, when the coronavirus began to shutter offices, the shares have surged, bringing the firm’s market value to over $4 billion.

Hyro

A start-p that spun out of the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA program on Roosevelt Island, Hyro has developed an AI-powered virtual assistant for conversations with websites and other platforms. After securing Weill Cornell Medicine as its first institutional client, Hyro was able to create a healthcare solution that played a “critical” role when COVID-19 concerns began to overwhelm hospital call centers, the statement said.

Hyro deployed a COVID-19 virtual assistant that it supplied free of charge to medical institutions, connecting concerned citizens with an AI FAQ bot to determine if they require additional medical attention. Hyro’s solution both provided “much-needed relief” to the system and gathered medical data trends based on the keywords and queries submitted through its software. Its use during the pandemic has speeded up Hyro’s expansion to medical institutions across the country, the statement said.

Meet in Place

Coronavirus has roiled the commercial real estate market and companies are struggling to determine a safe and cost-effective way to transition employees back into office buildings. They’re also reassessing their long-term needs for office space.

Tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter have already said they are extending work-from-home plans. This has also generated need for locations where people can gather in person outside the office premises, with access to on-demand meeting rooms and event spaces that provide a flexible alternative to a full-time office.

Founded in 2016 in Tel Aviv, Meet in Place today offers 36 high-end meeting rooms in the Financial District, Midtown, and SoHo that can be rented as needed. As more companies consider scaling down physical office space requirements, Meet in Place’s rentable boardroom supply could be the shared office model of the future, the company believes.

An illustration of the software of monday.com in action (YouTube screenshot)

Monday.com

Monday.com‘s cloud-based software aims to help workers work remotely. With COVID-19 scattering employees to their respective homes, monday.com has seen a boost in activity, as working teams try to maintain productivity, ensure accountability, and avoid communication breakdowns. The company has more than 100,000 paying customers across the world and, according to Bloomberg, saw its valuation jump from $1.9 billion to $2.7 billion during the pandemic.

Obligo

The pandemic-wrought economic devastation has forced the US federal government to find ways to put money back into Americans’ pockets. With roughly $50 billion worth of rental security deposits idling in escrow accounts in the United States, Obligo brings a credit-based alternative to security deposits, and requires tenants to pay for damages only when they occur, consequently keeping more money circulating in the economy, the statement said.

Riskified

Riskified helps online retailers authenticate shoppers and eliminate fraud from ecommerce. The company estimates that as much as 30 percent of all online transactions is either fraudulent or wrongfully declined by banking systems.

The AI-based software developed by the firm detects fraud and identifies legitimate shoppers, helping companies avoid billions of dollars in lost sales and online fraud. Riskified pledges a 100 percent chargeback guarantee if a fraudulent transaction slips through its technology, used by clients including Macy’s, Gucci, and Samsung. As COVID-19 drives more retail shopping online, there is an even greater need to make sure transactions are safe, the statement said.

Tyto Care has developed a device for on-demand, remote medical exams. The handheld examination device has attachments that can examine the heart, lungs, skin, ears, throat and abdomen, as well as measure body temperature (YouTube screenshot)

TytoCare

TytoCare combines hardware and software to bring simple telehealth visits into
homes all over the world. The TytoHome is a palm-sized device that contains an LED screen, a digital thermometer, and a camera. The kit connects to an array of medical accessories and instruments, which allow doctors to conduct remote medical exams that can include checking a patient’s temperature, ears, lungs, heart, throat, skin, and abdomen. Israeli hospitals have been using TytoHome to remotely monitor lung function and fever of homebound coronavirus patients and even determine the safety of releasing them from quarantine. Beyond the coronavirus, Tyto offers the ability to reduce in-person visits to doctor offices and afford patients anywhere in the world access to doctors.

VAST Data

VAST Data brings AI technology to data storage. The technology reduces the power, space, and cooling requirements of data centers, thus lowering costs and optimizing efficiencies. The result is a storage technology that paves the way for deep analytics on large amounts of data, in real-time.

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health, Harvard University, and Ginkgo Bioworks are using VAST Data’s technology to rapidly analyze massive data sets to research possible treatments for COVID-19, the statement said.

VAST Data technology makes sure that data storage requirements won’t hinder labs working on genome sequencing and experimentation, which require powerful computing capabilities. In April, as COVID-19 research in the United States surged, the company closed a $100 million funding round that bumped its valuation to $1.2 billion.

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