Enterprising Israel: Developers of Tel Aviv
Israel's vibrant tech startup scene is growing fast. This article looks at some of the most interesting players in Tel Aviv's expanding tech startup world.
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Much has been written already about Israel’s incredibly successful and mature tech startup scene, but I was lucky enough to be asked to speak at Codemotion in Israel, so thought I would line up interviews with local entrepreneurs, catch some sun, and enjoy the food that Tel Aviv is famous for (and I wasn’t disappointed on that front). I barely scratched the surface of what the city (and country) has to offer, but I hope you will find those I spoke to interesting and useful.
I focused on pure B2B tech projects, and whilst there are plenty of other verticals covered in Israel, it’s an area in which Israelis excel. My interviewees put this (mostly) down to four factors: geography, connections to the USA, military service, and the Israel Innovation Office (formerly the Office of the Chief Scientist).
Israel is like many other small countries in that it has to punch above its weight to be significant on the international stage and look globally from day 0. This creates motivated entrepreneurs who are not afraid to travel and look into new markets. Israel has historical cultural connections to the USA, and there are exchange programs of talent and resources between the two countries. This gives Israeli entrepreneurs a huge boost with accessing funding, talent, and markets, and most Israeli startups have offices and significant customer bases in the USA.
The Israeli military is infamous, as are its secret service divisions, and most of the technical founders I met had served in this division, working with advanced research and budgets of millions at age eighteen, which gives you a great founding in large scale coding, budgeting, and managing a team. Finally, the Israel Innovation Authority has invested a lot of resources into technology-focused ideas and people, kickstarting many successful companies, resulting in return funding for the authority.
For it’s size (about half a million), Tel Aviv has a lot of meetups, and whilst attendance at some of those I attended was unreliable (even lower than the 40% normal), they cover a lot of topics, and most nights (Shabbat aside), you can find something to attend. I can’t find a comprehensive list, but again, co-working spaces are plentiful for a city of this size, with the infamous global chain, WeWork, having four branches in Tel Aviv alone.
I spoke to four companies directly whilst I was in Tel Aviv, all of whom focus on development tooling, aiding continuous deployment workflows, testing, debugging, and logging.
Testing software and writing tests have mostly become a widely accepted practice, but the question about how reliable and reflective tests are remains. If the application interface changes, you need to update your tests. If a backend feature changes, you need to update your tests. But will you remember? Will you change a test to reflect the change properly? Oren Rubin from Testim explained their testing service, which uses elements of machine learning to track changes to your application and adjust your tests. For example, if a user typically clicks a button with the
order class that leads to an order page, and that button class changes, then Testim will update the test accordingly.
If it finds a bug, the finder can create an issue via Testim that automatically generates a detailed report with relevant (highlighted) screenshots, videos, and log files that allow a developer to recreate and understand the bug.
Ophir Primat met with me bright and early in a French-themed cafe to explain how their JVM-based product catches problems in production cod, then notifies the team with the relevant lines of source code, the stack trace leading to it, and variable state at the time of the problem. It does this with a small micro agent that works directly in the JVM and is triggered by errors and garbage code, and thus only adds a 1% CPU and no garbage collection overhead.
OverOps can run on-premise or in the cloud and integrates with popular issue tracking and notification products such as Jira and PagerDuty.
Ariel Assaraf showed me another piece of the CI/CD puzzle, analyzing the dizzying amount of logging data that modern applications generate. There is a multitude of projects and services for generating and saving log data, but in real production environments, how much of it can anyone realistically read or understand.
Coralogix offers a platform that aggregates all these log records, analyzes them, and makes smart guesses about the data, grouping it into common patterns, flows, and new errors that it hasn’t seen before. You can use a visual dashboard to identify anomalies and dive into them to figure out what happened. As Ariel said to me (and I’m glad that this is their official tagline), “Coralogix makes big data small." The demos are impressive; Ariel showed me filtering millions of records to identifiable and actionable anomalies in about twenty seconds.
Finally, I spoke to Erez and Ronit from Rollout.io, which focuses on allowing you to change Objective-C and Swift code (i.e. iOS apps) live. This is ideal for fixing bugs quickly, but also suited to changing the features available to users without having to face Apple’s esoteric approval processes. I spoke with Rollout at an interesting time; they were in the midst of an issue with Apple that threatened the way their product works after recent re-interpretations of Apple terms of service. This directly affected their bug fixing service, but even if this door closes, they felt the feature enabling offering will be enough for their customers, present and future.
I would like to thank the time and efforts of Genady Okrain, who makes amazing iOS apps. He doesn’t quite fit into the other projects I highlight in this post, but he introduced me to pretty much everybody I met, so it wouldn’t have been possible to write this without him. I found entrepreneurs in Tel Aviv some of the friendliest and most open to discussion I have ever met, and arranging meetings was exceptionally easy.
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