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Unlimited Drinks Tel Aviv, Israel – A review

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What a welcome change it was flying into Israel and being surrounded by people using mobile communications properly. Yes, there were a few really old Motorolas or Nokias on display, however the vast majority of the population I saw in and around Tel Aviv were sporting top of the range Sony Ericssons, Nokias and the like.

The innovation going on in Israel is absolutely staggering. For instance, the big GSM operator there, Orange (majority owned by Hutchison) has been launching all sorts of services recently — for example the ability to create and publish video blogs from your handset.

Mobile phones are a fashion statement too. The Israeli population (again, from what I observed) appear advanced technology consumers and don’t hesitate to show off their handset and use it. Contrast this with the almost purely functional mentality of most North Americans and, well, I felt at home there in Israel.

The prime reason for going, of course, was to meet a few innovators. Due to time constraints I was doing a fly-in, fly-out thing. I was only in the country for about 36 hours, I think. Not enough time. Absolutely 100% not enough. I think I’ll need to go back and spend a good week or so connecting with companies. I was hoping for a more intimate networking event so I could talk more to everyone. I wasn’t disappointed! Although I had arrange to meet perhaps 35 people, however, unfortunately, timings didn’t quite work out. The majority were out of the country. Israelis, an one of the most entrepreneurial races I’ve ever encountered, do a ton of traveling.

So for instance, I didn’t get the opportunity to connect with Gilad Novik at Hutchison or his colleagues at Orange/Partner Communications. Nor Ofer Tziperman of LocatioNet, Oren Todoros at eMoze or Itay Gadot at Mobimate. Next time!

However I did manage to meet some brilliant people. Speaking of that, thank you once again to Jeb Brilliant of Brilliant Expos for helping arrange the event.

Israel Tenenbaum, Director of the ICT Department for the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute didn’t manage to make it to the event — but Jeb and I sat down with him just beforehand to find out what they do. They’re part Government funded and are working to help promote (in the context of SMS Text News) the Israeli mobile and telecoms market. Israel was telling me about a collection of companies there in Israel that are really rocking the industry. I’m going to try and do a piece on each of them soon.

We held Unlimited Drinks Tel Aviv in Herzliya Pituah, one of the hot-shot ‘silicon coast’ areas just outside Tel Aviv. Jeb installed us at a wicked Tapas restaurant by the name of Tapeo (more details about the event here):

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We had the upstairs area together with a dedicated barman and waiter. Just what you need. We arrived and he came bursting forward laden with menus. My eyes lit up at the mention of stuffed mushrooms and I began ordering just as Guy Horowitz, Director, Product Marketing for Telecom Products at Microsoft, arrived. Guy was joined by colleague Tsachi Weiss — I immediately set about getting them drinks, some food and we started talking mobile. Tsachi, having worked for Orange Israel for a number of years, gave me a brilliant insight into the operator and it’s history — I had no idea, for example, that they’re the new kid on the block vs the incumbents Pelephone and Cellcom.

Guy, formerly at VC Gemini, was filled with enthusiasm about what Microsoft’s working on from a mobile perspective. Obviously the software giant has been watching and reacting to maneuverings across the worldwide mobile marketplace — the likes of Google’s Android, the iPhone, application providers. Microsoft is charting out it’s own strategy and from what Guy was briefly able to mention, I think they’ll really be surprising people soon. Very exciting.

Idan Gafni of CellXpert arrived shortly afterwards. Geez. The chap had energy! Energy and bucketloads of knowledge. He was positively overflowing with did-you-knows and have-you-seen-this demonstrations. He’s a IVVR — interactive video and voice response — expert. Within moments he had whipped out his Nokia to demonstrate some brilliant mobile video calling applications that he’s been working on. I’m going to see if I can try and get some screenshots and more information on them. One of the services showed live traffic pictures from different points around Tel Aviv.

And you do need that sort of traffic information, especially in Tel Aviv. I should have got Idan to give the details to Oren of mobile email specialists eMoze. Oren called and sincerely apologised — he found himself stuck in traffic for a heck of a lot of time and in the end, he didn’t manage to pop by.

Efraim of Orange / Partner Communications arrived and dispensed forth with a substantial amount of recommendations, suggestions and industry background which I found fascinating. I’m going to mail him and find out what specifically I can publish though.

Shimon Greenspan of Global River Media arrived with colleague Dena to tell me all about the advertising industry in the context of mobile connectivity. I remember asking some of the chaps about Orange’s brand reputation in Israel. Someone, I can’t recall who, suggested that recently, a survey had put Orange as the number two brand in Israel, second only to Coca Cola. Dena was not impressed, asking what ‘Orange’ means — ‘that’s not a brand!’

Jasmine Aharon of Jajah arrived after getting stuck in traffic. She’s a huge mobile fan and, what’s more, she’s a committed Jajah user. I always like it when you meet people from mobile companies who are actually LIVING it. Within moments she was demonstrating the Jajah client on her Sony Ericsson. I need to download one for the Symbian platform and try it out. I really think Jajah missed a bit of a trick by not making a bigger play for the application space, particularly for Symbian. Witness ROK Talk, for example – they’ve effectively eaten Jajah’s lunch in the teleconference sphere. I never thought of Jajah as just an application — I can understand their ‘we don’t do phone apps’ viewpoint but for the prosumers in this world, the technology trailblazers, not having an application that you can put on the handset to make international calls, isn’t good news. I keep forgetting Jajah when I’m out and about and, you know what? I just make the call via my mobile operator and pay the premium. Or, more recently, I use my MaxRoam sim. It was, nevertheless, super to meet Jasmine. She did Jajah proud, demonstrating it to everyone!

I had a thoroughly brilliant time talking with everyone — thank you to all the attendees for taking the time to come along! I hope to be back in Israel soon!

Stay tuned for news on the next Unlimited Drinks event shortly…

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

One reply on “Unlimited Drinks Tel Aviv, Israel – A review”

“the software giant has been watching and reacting to maneuverings across the worldwide mobile marketplace — the likes of Google’s Android, the iPhone, application providers. Microsoft is charting out it’s own strategy and from what Guy was briefly able to mention, I think they’ll really be surprising people soon. Very exciting.”

Thats the most interesting thing i’ve heard about MS for a long time. They are so far behind in terms of consumer and internet-focused mobile operating systems that it just hurts.
Looking forward to the CES keynote from Gates on Jan 6th.

Steve.

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