Oded Omer’s previous company struck an eight-figure deal when it took part in the Florida Israel Business Accelerator in Tampa in 2017.
Now, Omer is back at FIBA with a new company, Wasteless, and a big idea to reduce food waste at supermarkets.
Wasteless is one of 12 companies selected for FIBA’s 2019 Launch program, which got underway earlier this month. The 12 Israeli companies, with technology to address the retail, security, construction and healthcare sectors, have collectively raised $35 million and are looking to raise an additional $35 million to fund expansion of U.S. operations.
It’s the third year for the FIBA program, which is designed to move the needle and advance the area’s tech ecosystem, Rachel Feinman, FIBA executive director, said at the Synapse Summit last week.
“We’re pleased to report that 30 percent of the companies that have come through our program in the last two years continue to make an impact in our local economy by hiring here, opening offices, using local advisors and service providers,” Feinman said.
FIBA, launched in 2016 by the Tampa Jewish Community Centers & Federation, works with companies out of Israel, which has been dubbed “startup nation” and is disproportionately producing successful companies, Feinman said.
“Between 1999 and 2014, 2.6 percent of Israeli companies surpassed the $100 million revenue mark and they consistently grow companies that are unicorns, with exits of over $1 billion,” she said.
WeissBeerger, a data analytics company for the beer industry that took part in FIBA’s 2017 program, was acquired in 2018 by Anheuser-Busch InBev for a reported $80 million, according to Israeli business publication Globes.
Omer was chief technology officer and head of innovation at WeissBeerger, which give him exposure to the retail industry. He learned about waste in supermarkets as well as the power of dynamic pricing to sell beer, and he’s putting both those concepts to work at his new company, Wasteless, where he is founder and CEO.
The company has an operation in the Netherlands, so he’s familiar with waste in European supermarkets, where 2.2 percent of the goods never get sold. The problem is larger in the United States, he said.
“Wasteless is focused on reducing food waste at supermarkets. We do that by applying economic pricing to perishable items,” he said. “If you have two packages of beef, it doesn’t make sense to pay the same price for the package that expires tomorrow and the pack that expires in five days.”
Wasteless has developed a real-time dynamic pricing engine that optimizes markdowns, gets food off the shelf faster and cuts waste.
“We have good results from Europe and it will improve over time. We reduced waste by 32.8 percent,” Omer said. “We are aiming for 80 percent, so we have a few miles to go.”
Omer joined the FIBA program to understand the local market.
“We’re raising money and very soon we will establish a company here on the East Coast,” said Omer, who intends to the move to the United States.
Another Israeli company in FIBA’s 2019 Launch program is BuilderEdge, with technology that automates construction project schedules, budget, quality inspections and management.
“Too many construction sites are under-performing,” said Igal Lebedev, CEO. “They have labor and people, but because they are not managed the right way it takes more time than it should. It takes 12 to 13 percent more time every construction project … and up to 30 percent waste in time, materials, misunderstanding and mismanagement.”
BuilderEdge’s system makes the project faster and cheaper, he said.
“Everyone wins from that — the owner, the general contractor and the subcontractors, because when they are doing something wrong or inefficiently, they are not getting paid for it,” he said.
Being at FIBA allows Lebedev to focus on business development and exposes him to investors and clients, he said.
“We have very good advisors at FIBA who can brainstorm with me on my problems and on business development, to focus my message and adjust to the U.S. market,” Lebedev said.
BuilderEdge has a sales person in Atlanta and wants to expand that office. Lebedev is considering relocating there.
Expanding business contacts in the U.S. also is the goal for Roey Granot, director of business development at Vorpal, a drone monitoring company in FIBA’s new Launch program. The company works with the military, law enforcement, utilities and other companies with secure assets, to detect drones and drone operators. It has existing customers, including a top U.S. police department that Granot said he was not allowed to identify, and sees lots of opportunity ahead to work with airports.
He cited Gatwick Airport in London, which had to cancel almost 1,000 flights over a two-day period late last year, amid multiple sightings of drones.
“With a system like ours, they would have been able to continue the operation of the airport, knowing exactly where the drones were, and also locating the operator of the drone and apprehending them,” Granot said.
Vorpal needs both public relations, to get its name out, and market education to alert potential customers to how drone detection works. Granot had a meeting scheduled with the Federal Aviation Administration, to talk about using Vorpal technology at U.S. airports, but that meeting was delayed by the government shutdown.
Vorpal, Wasteless and BuilderEdge were among the firms at the Synapse Summit, as was UC-Care Medical Systems, a 2018 Launch program participant.
UC-Care develops, manufactures and sells medical devices for urologists.
The company has commitments for more than $1 million in funding and hopes to raise another $1 million from Florida Funders in Tampa, said Tomer Schatzberger, UC-Care’s vice president of marketing and business development.
One of the issues he’s run into is credibility.
“Creditability goes two ways,” Schatzberger said. “We are considered a startup nation, and everyone likes innovation from Israel, but on the other hand, they raise their eyebrows and ask, ‘Are you able to sustain an operation in the U.S.? How will you support us three, five, seven years from now?’ So we have to build that credibility.”
ECOncrete, another 2018 FIBA Launch program graduate, has established an office near downtown St. Petersburg, and is putting its innovative concrete technology to work saving marine life, improving air quality and protecting the shoreline from rising sea levels, Feinman said.
The companies in the 2019 program will present at the Connection to Innovation at Bryan Glazer Family JCC in Tampa Feb. 13 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and at FIBA Demo Day at Five Labs in Tampa March 12 from 8 to 11 a.m.