This article was published on May 19, 2013

Meet three startups that participated in Microsoft’s Azure-focused Israeli accelerator

Meet three startups that participated in Microsoft’s Azure-focused Israeli accelerator
Alex Wilhelm
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Alex Wilhelm

Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]

TNW recently met with three companies from Microsoft’s Azure-focused accelerator in Israel in San Francisco. For an inside look at the program, we went there last year and took pictures. Innovation is not partial to Silicon Valley, and Israel is a rising star in the technology world.

Before we get to the companies themselves, a few notes on the accelerator are in order. Started in 2012, a total of 100 companies applied for entrance; 11 were accepted. That class wrapped in September. For the second round, 300 companies applied; 13 were accepted.

Microsoft stressed that one key factor that they use to admit firms is that their leadership be coachable; that they are open to hearing, and perhaps taking advice.

From the first group of firms, 9 out of the 11 companies were funded, 5 before graduation, and four more within the first five following months. The average funding amount totaled $900,000. For the second round of companies, 10 of the 13 firms had picked up funding before graduation.

For the second round, the average funding amount is lower, at $500,000.

Taken together, Microsoft has moved 24 companies through its accelerator and launched 19 into the world with fresh funding. That’s a good track record. Now, to our three firms that jetted across the world to show off their work.


With the subtitle ‘question everything,’ it isn’t hard to ascertain what Askem is. Launching onto the iOS App Store in the past few weeks, the application is a service by which individuals can ask questions to their friends and online associates. However, Askem flips that standard offering by allowing users to segment their accrued responses by gender.

Want to know if guys like your shirt, or girls your hat? Askem can help with that. The service also allows users to sort answers from people that they know personally, for a more intimate polling.

The service is simple: Take a picture, annotate it with notes that are options, and then collect input, which consists of straight votes, and not likes or comments.

I asked if often the two sexes disagree, and somewhat humorously the answer was yes. However, according to the question, it does depend on the question. A question regarding a roller coaster ended with men saying that they would ride it, and a majority of women demurring the theoretical option.

You can answer a question on Facebook itself, meaning that for Askem users to accept input, their inputers do not have to have the application. The firm claims its platform allows for a new level of relationship between celebrities and their fans; what sort of socks will Bieber wear? Weigh in, and help decide! Askem, in its view is more than polling, it is self-expression.

Fresh out of closed beta, Askem has raised a total of $500,000 from angel investors.

Traction is limited given its youth, but the company stated that early users logged an average of 1.8 sessions per day, spending around 3 minutes per visit to the application.

The Askem question is simple: It’s a neat application, and one that is simple to use. However, will iOS users – and later, Windows Phone and Android – take to it? For now that is the half million dollar question.

W.S.C. Sports Technologies

Deriving more revenue from extant content is akin to making free money; you already have the goods, how can you extract more cash?

W.S.C Sports Technology (WSC) intends to help sports content owners better drive revenue from their content, which is no small task, but an important effort given that networks and other parties pay huge sums to broadcast the various leagues; they have a large deficit to recoup, and as the world slowly leaves television, new incomes are key.

WSC operates a video database that allows for games to be broken down, time stamped and cut up; every touchdown, every block, every sack, can be quickly cataloged across a large number of games. You can, using its technology, create a video of every sack a quarter back you hate received in the past season.

WSC is essentially an internal YouTube for licensed content.

In practice, given a short time hands-on with the service, it’s vaguely magical. You can add voice overs, and music to the clips.

Naturally, you can share video content that you create; so once you put together an amazing highlight reel for the Colts you can share it with your friends. This drives eyeballs and thus dollars to the content owner with little input required on their end.

A test of the service with a league led to a doubling of video views. The average time on site per user is north of 10 minutes.

Networks have ad relationships in place, they merely want more places to sell them. WSC’s goal is to help those groups better use their content, in a legal fashion, boosting engagement and incomes.

The first test for the firm, having built their product, is locking down a relationship with a major sporting series. They are speaking to one in the United States. Others, I am sure, will follow. To be frank, their technology is compelling, and their value proposition real. It’s now a question of execution.

The company has raised $1 million.


Getting married and having kids is terrible for your diet, according to the Kitchenbug team. Claiming a past youth of slimness and strength, the team of founder-friends found themselves slipping later in life. A simply massive number of people in the developed world are overweight, and a troubling minority are technically obese; we’re killing ourselves with food.

We’re not helpless as a species however, as we want to be better, which is something at least. Recipe searches – healthier an option than takeout, I can vouch – are the second largest search category, account for around 1 to 2 percent of all searches, according to Kitchenbug.

The company wants to help you lose that paunch that has slowly been growing about your midsection, and do it in a hopefully tasty manner.

Its service analyzes online recipes, quickly breaking down their component nutrient ingredients and the like. It’s like having a back-of-the-can food label for every online dish, only more exacting and specific.

Kitchenbug will tell you if a dish is a good source of protein, or, in the future, if it is vegan. If you care about what you eat, the service is neat way to eat better, and know more.

While its core product is useful, the neatest part of Kitchenbug is that it allows you to scale a recipe up or down, depending on how many people you are serving; live alone and don’t want to make enough for a party of six? Kitchenbug has you covered.

You can store a list of your favorite recipes inside the service. You cannot, however, yet input your own recipes and have them scored. That is likely coming however.

Starting as a WordPress plugin for bloggers, the firm racked up 40 million views of its product in 100 days. Its web service for all is just a few days old, so traction remains nascent, likely. Kitchenbug is a neat tool that I intend on using. We could all eat better.

The firm has raised $650,000 from Israeli angels.

Top Image Credit: zeevveez

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