Led by Yossi Dan from the Israel-France Chamber of Commerce, a delegation of some twenty Israeli startups and several investors arrived here at Vivatech, the largest high tech show in Europe, and never stopped running from one rendezvous to the next in the huge hall (air-conditioned for the first time) at the Porte de Versailles. Put together by Maurice Lévy, chairman of the board of advertising giant Publicis Groupe, along with the Les Echoes press group, Vivatech this year took place in a very tense political context, especially with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But on the floor of the hall, among the hundreds of crowded, colorful and loud company, regional and country stands and pavilions, there was no time for politics, including for the Israeli delegation.
With help from Michel Hauser-Kauffmann of the France-Israel chamber of commerce, Dan first brought the delegation to the stand of mega French group Bouygues, which gave two Israeli smart mobility start-ups an award.
Product VP of Parknav, Simon Arazi, quickly explained that there are many startups using real time data to help people find parking spots in cities, but that “having only real time date is useless. Our system is based on statistics improved with real-time data,” he continued, “and tells the user the percentage of chances of finding a spot in a specific area.” Arazi said that some 150 cities in Europe and the States are using the Parknav technology.
Next to Arazi on the podium stood Dvir Kenig, head of the ITC startup, Intelligent Traffic Control. “We are enablers,” he explained, “helping municipalities to prevent traffic jams by regulating lights at intersections.” On a tablet computer, he showed me a traffic jam in Tel Aviv with little bars on license plates to keep owners anonymous. “We are connected to cameras regulating the lights,” he continued.
ITC has clients in Israel, the US, Luxembourg, and a project in Brazil. But aren’t cities trying to eliminate car traffic? Yes, but cities will always have too much car and truck traffic, both winners agreed.
Also in the delegation was Yaron Golpher, head of I Know First. It provides artificial intelligence-based algorithmic forecasting solutions to make stock market predictions and daily forecasts in more than 50 global markets. Already featured on Israel’s television channel 13 and i24 News, I Know First has won an award for best international financial technology startup at the Geneva Wealthtech Forum.
The algorithm was first developed for the chemical industry by partner Dr. Lipa Roitman, from Russia, who studied in Novosibirsk State University in Siberia and the Weizmann Institute of Science. Golpher called him, “a genius, the smartest person I have ever met.”
He added, “and just as we don’t touch our clients’ money, he and I do not talk politics.”
Golpher noted that the algorithm was pointing to price hikes and shortages in the energy, mining and food sectors in October 2021 before the war in Ukraine began, meaning “the trend from this war was predictable.” Has this presented an opportunity for investors? “I am not at all comfortable with calling price hikes and shortages for many people an opportunity for a few investors,” he answered.
Also in the delegation, Yotam Hechtlinger, head of exists.ai, which is in the early stage of development of 3D websites. “Technology has reached the stage where we can create spectacular websites that will appeal to individuals and companies, not just gamers,” he said.
Exists.ai has clients in Israel and the US, he noted, and hopes to expand into France. He is creating a platform to make 3D websites an internet commodity. “This technology can help make the world a better place,” he noted, “not just for video games but to enrich the internet, to provide more information, to solve problems.”
Hechtlinger commented, “Yossi and the chambers of commerce did a good job of introducing us to people here at Vivatech. We have a couple of leads from this show. Now we have to continue making noise about our product.”
Indeed, startuppers made their way through thousands of visitors to visit a good number of French stands: LVMH (luxury brands), Paris Region, RATP (public transport) AXA (insurance), Bouygues, Orange, ENGIE (energy), BNP Paribas Michelin and JC Decaux, for example.
A special note on Jacob Makhtabi and his raw, hands-on industrial French-Israeli startup, Hydro-ecotech. His patented innovation uses decomposed, demineralized water, in which hydrogen and oxygen molecules have been separated by electric current, to clean carbon deposits (fuel and oil) from vehicle engine walls and their components (cylinders, pistons and valves). Now that is a mouthful, or rather a truck and bus-full!!
“An engine that is not cleaned demands increased fuel consumption and eventually must be immobilized, and its parts replaced, which is very expensive,” he explained in French. (He also speaks fluent Hebrew, and some Arabic and Farsi, but no English.) “Ours is a revolutionary process for the industrial world, as we can clean two buses or trucks a day, whereas current procedures take two days per vehicle if the cleaning is even done,” he added. He currently has municipal transport clients in Marseilles, his home city, the RATP, and several garbage truck companies.
Back to the concept of “Tech for Good”, the slogan of Vivatech several years ago (before the hall was air-conditioned). What about now? Vivatech founder Maurice Levy told Globes, “Tech for good is now essential. Mankind’s genius has systematically helped destroy the environment, with overcrowded cities, poor transportation, pollution, forest destruction, and carbon emissions. With technology, we can use that genius to lower voracious energy consumption, develop clean tech and new energies, and to better health and education. Tech for good is the avenue for the future.”
Maurice Levy then took the stage with Makhtar Diop, head of the International Finance Corp;, a branch of the World Bank, to open the Africa Tech Awards session, announcing finalists in three areas: health, fintech and climate-tech.
“We are here to solve problems,” Levy told the crowd in the not quite full Stage One arena. “And Africa has no time to waste,” added Diop, a former Senegalese finance minister, arguably the most high-level official from the African continent at the show.”
Doaa Aref and Dr. Rasha Rady, founders of Chefaa, a pharmacy delivery platform from Cairo, Egypt, were handed the health tech award. A young man sitting next to me and far from home, Luke Shankland from South Africa, whose Aviro Health startup performs digitalized, automated health screening, graciously commented, “they deserved to win.”
He added that “help for Africa does come from the West but often with strings attached. And big American companies are hiring away much of the top talent in African countries.” He repeated what Makhtar Diop had just said on stage, “African billionaires must invest more in technology.”
Next, a political situation in which Israel finds itself involved on both sides…a holographic address in augmented reality by none other than President Zelenskyy of Ukraine, in fact by his avatar. He made a plea for companies to invest in “a digital land lease in the struggle for democracy against an empire, to reconstruct the Ukraine. Please support the Ukraine until victory,” he told the Stage One crowd, in an address coordinated with tech shows in Dublin, Zurich and London.
“Ukraine deserves this gathering,” Maurice Levy told the crowd, without mentioning the word Russia. “They need us and we need to support them.” It is very unusual for a standing president to use a hologram and avatar, but this was Vivatech.
Maurice Levy told Globes, “it is too early to see long term consequences from the war in Ukraine, along with the situation with China, but technology must find solutions to what I believe will be the end of globalization as we have known it with free and open markets. I see two big trends: inflation for the next 12 to 18 months, with high interest rates and the end of cheap money, and the repatriation of production.”
And the next day, French President Macron, just back from Kiev, was on stage. “The European technology ecosystem can bring much help to the Ukrainians, who are fighting for their freedom,” he told the gathering.
Macron promised more public and private investment in technology in France and Europe, as well as in high tech training and education, beginning at the middle school level, to meet major challenges in health, climate, and to provide a better life for all.
And Israeli startups have a role to play in this tech for good, after what all present agreed was very positive participation in Vivatech, with much needed help from both chambers of commerce in Tel Aviv and Paris.
According to Vivatech, 91,000 visitors attended the show at la Porte de Versailles, there were 300,000 clicks on-line, and 3 billion views on social networks.
Published by Globes, Israel business news – en.globes.co.il – on June 19, 2022.
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