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This article was published on February 12, 2013

A look at UpWest Labs’ latest wave of Israeli startups in Silicon Valley

A look at UpWest Labs’ latest wave of Israeli startups in Silicon Valley
Shira Abel
Story by

Shira Abel

Shira has been doing marketing for tech companies large and small for more years than she cares to admit. She is also the CEO of Hunter & Shira has been doing marketing for tech companies large and small for more years than she cares to admit. She is also the CEO of Hunter & Bard, a full-service marketing agency that works with startups, small companies, and intrapraneurs. Recognizing the potential conflict, she will not write about any active clients. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

I was at UpWest Labs, the Israeli accelerator based in Silicon Valley, a few weeks ago mentoring its newest wave of start-ups on marketing.

UpWest Labs is the brainchild of Shuly Galili and Gil Ben-Artzy. Similar to most accelerators in Silicon Valley, UpWest works with early stage startups and mentors them, helping raise the startups chance at success. The difference between UpWest and most others is that UpWest focuses only on Israeli based startups. The closest comparison would be a ‘ for Israeli startups.’ UpWest gets between 150 and 170 applications per session, vets them down to 5 and hosts the entire team of each startup in a huge lovely house (which I’ve been to so I can actually vouch for this) near the accelerator.

As this latest group has just started the program, I’ll only give a list of the founders with their backgrounds and a short synopsis of the companies – so we can see if the names, logos and pitch stay the same by the time they graduate.


sentinel_logoProducing the next generation of malware detection and protection. This one piqued my interest the most (from everything I’m reading these days, this is an area that is set for another shot of growth) and I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops. Also check out the profile pic of Almog Cohen, the CTO, on the website – it’s not every day one gets to see a founder holding a knife and fork while posing for a profile pic.

  • Tomer Weingarten, CEO: More than 10 years of software development experience, managed an 80-person R&D team, in charge of 5 product lines (~$20M of revenue). Founded (2007, acquired by Toluna) and Carambola Media (2012, raised first round, operational).
  • Almog Cohen, CTO: More than 10 years of experience in the software security industry, mostly as Team Leader in Checkpoint’s R&D department. A senior malware researcher with deep knowledge and understanding of online threats, responsible for developing several cutting edge products.


QlikaSolving the issue of online advertising for small businesses owners by simplifying and optimizing hyper-local online advertising campaigns. Lots of potential for this company, but it’s a hard market to target.

  • Omri Morgenshtern, CEO: After graduating from the elite “Talpiot” unit of the IDF, Omri spent 11 years in the military, starting as a Developer and eventually promoted to Section Leader managing 50 engineers. Omri received several awards during his service, including Israel’s Defense Award in 2009 awarded by the President. Omri is a sport-fanatic, and his hobbies include soccer, tennis, running and biking.
  • Ittai Chorev, VP Product: Ittai spent 10 years in the Israeli Army (post-“Talpiot” program), first as an Algorithms Developer and Section Leader, and then leading all the mathematical & algorithmic Data Security Research in the Israeli Army.  Outside of work, Ittai enjoys rock climbing and other (extreme) sports.
  • Idan Zaltzberg, VP R&D: Idan is a graduate of the elite “Talpiot” unit of the IDF, spending 9 years as a Developer and Team Leader. Prior to Qlika, Idan worked for two years as a Senior Developer in CloudShare.  Idan enjoys spending time learning and immersing himself in new technologies.


QmerceProvides large brands an interactive media platform to engage their users on an ongoing basis through gamification (while not necessarily looking like a game.) It’s already generating revenue, which is always a great thing.

  • Moti Cohen, CEO & Founder: Moti served as VP R&D at Israel’s largest investment bank, directly leading the R&D team and overseeing $300M in client funds.  Moti holds a BA in Economics and Finance. He enjoys classic rock, playing several instruments (guitar, piano and drums), and soccer, which he used to play at the National level.
  • Rodik Hanukaev: Rodik spent his school years by programming video games, developing websites, and blogging about anything tech.  Rodik studied Artificial Intelligence in the Tel-Aviv Academic College, an interest which he picked up from his hardcore gaming habit.  His passions include creating innovative user experiences, and creating resources for developers and users.
  • Topaz Bar: Topaz has been around computers since the age of 8, gaining experience in a wide variety of fields, including offline graphic rendering to real-time graphics, game development and mathematics.  His hobbies include programming interactive applications, making & playing video games, and listening to music.


veedme logoHelping companies find video content creators through a video creation marketplace, connecting businesses with talented video creators. There’s a need for this out there in both the enterprise market and the startup space. Training videos don’t have to be big productions, and Kickstarter videos can’t afford to be (most of the time).

  •  Yoav Hornung, CEO: Yoav is a creative filmmaker with 4 years of production experience. His recent short film was screened in more than 20 film festivals around the world, voted Runner Up for Student Film at The Palm Springs Short Film Festival.  Yoav earned a BA in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Film Making from Tel Aviv University. He is a huge fan of Liverpool and was a professional tennis player.
  • Oren Hod, CMO: Oren was born in France, raised in the Silicon Valley and Israel, and moved to New York to pursue his love for acting. Oren Graduated from Lee Strasberg acting school in New York and has recently completed his BA in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Film Making from Tel Aviv University. He is a passionate film director with 5 years of production experience, directing many short films and an off-Broadway show. Oren was a professional basketball player for two years for Israel’s “Hapoel Tel Aviv”
  • Nuri Zuaretz, CTO: Nuri started his CS degree at the age of 15, graduating after his military service where he served as Lieutenant in an Elite Intelligence Unit. He worked for 6 years as a Software Architect, UX and Product Manager for companies such as Kaltura, Tixwise and BBDO. A fan of nature and hiking, Nuri traveled to many places in South-East Asia and New Zealand, where he skydived above Glaciers.


OndigoA modern-day mobile CRM for on-the-go small business owners, e.g plumbers and locksmiths. I’m thinking about my friends from home who have small construction companies – I’m positive they could all use this. Another one I’m looking forward to watching grow.

  • Yoni Dariel, CEO: A repeat entrepreneur with a unique background in starting, managing and selling four businesses in the Entertainment & Hospitality sector.  Held a Business Development position at BIscience, an online business intelligence start-up, recruiting major clients such as Living Social, Zynga and
  • Ohad Oren, COO: Ohad founded and served as an Administrative & Financial Officer for 7 years at O.G.L Ltd & Bliss, a multinational retail & wholesale company.  Ohad also served as Co-Founder & CFO of an online gaming platform which was sold after 2 years of operation.
  • Nir Keren, CTO: Nir started out at Ceragon Networks as a real-time embedded software engineer. He then founded Grepper, a social media player on Facebook, and CloudSync, a cloud music platform which is currently installed in over 70 leading health club venues & Gyms in Israel.

Image credit: Thinkstock

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