Jerusalem: on the pulse of start-up nation
Tech transfer supremacy has created a raft of successful start-ups
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Israel’s tech transfer programme is prolific; the likes of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv Uni, Technion, are all world class at innovation and creating start-ups
Jerusalem’s start-up scene is known for Mobileye, Israel’s largest ever acquisition at $15.3bn. Many more start-ups have risen in its wake
Neteera, a start-up offering a radar product and software to monitor human vital signs, is disrupting the market with a contact-free continuous monitoring solution
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When you enter Jerusalem, you enter a different world.
It’s only a short ride on a new train service from Tel Aviv, but it’s much more historic. We’re talking about a place many regard as the holy land, after all. And stepping off that train, it certainly wasn’t beach weather anymore!
Now in the start-up world, Jerusalem is revered for a particular company.
Mobileye is known as a very Jerusalem-type start-up, and when entrepreneurs from outside Jerusalem talk about start-ups from Jerusalem, many say: oh, that’s just like Mobileye, or, that’s in the Mobileye mould. Jerusalem start-ups are often judged on whether they’ve got the Mobileye factor.
But what does this really mean, and why is this the case?
Well, firstly, this has something to do with Israel’s knack of spinning out great tech companies from world class universities. A few examples. Technion, in Haifa, had a research budget of $121 million in 2018 – peanuts compared to MIT’s $1.5 billion. Yet they made the same amount of money commercialising their IP. Jerusalem’s very own Hebrew University has its own tech transfer company, Yissum, which has generated >10,000 patents, around 1,000 licenses, and spun out >100 companies.
Their defining factor is their knack for building strong ties with industry. They create lean organisations offering products that industries actually want.
So it was at Hebrew University that Mobileye was in fact founded by one of their professors of mathematics and computer science. Mobileye has become one of the biggest sensations in Israel, and one of their most successful companies ever. A company that made driver assistance and autonomous driving cameras for the automotive market well ahead of its time. In 2014, Mobileye raised $890m in an IPO valued at $5.3bn which was invested into by the likes of Goldman Sachs. In 2017, Mobileye was acquired by Intel for an eye-watering $15.3bn – the largest acquisition in Israeli history.
Mobileye has been all over the news once again following their relisting on the NASDAQ to much fanfare.
It is certainly a company etched into the Israeli psyche.
Following the pulse
If there is a company in Jerusalem could be described as monitoring the pulse of innovation, it might as well be Neteera.
Neteera’s founder and CEO, Isaac Litman, used to be the CEO of the products division of Mobileye.
Perched on top of the hill on Hebrew University’s campus, Neteera is a company I’d been involved with for the last 3 years. But it wasn’t until now that I was able to fully appreciate their significance. Seeing is believing.
Say you were in hospital and the doctor needed to monitor you constantly for changes in your body. You’d be hooked up to lots of cables. Not ideal. Neither for you, nor the doctor.
Neteera does away with all of this.
So the most profound thing about my visit was trying out their product. It turns out the Neteera team had arranged a fully-immersive demo for me.
Product demo galore: wires and cables… no more!
First, I was hooked up to an industry standard Mindray patient monitoring system.
This meant I was attached to:
2x cables to my wrists
2x adhesive patches to my wrists
1x tube in my nose (called a nasal cannula)
2x patches to my chest (ECG to measure heart rate)
1x finger clamp (pulse oximeter for blood oxygen measurements)
How I felt:
It sucked to be monitored – it’s uncomfortable, and if I had to do this overnight, chances are I’d have taken it all off to go to bed or go to the bathroom. Afterwards you would have to reapply everything
So… there is no way to be monitored 24/7
A healthcare professional would have to come and check on you … taking up their valuable time
What I didn’t feel, was Neteera’s device. In fact I didn’t even realise it was right above me.
See the white rectangular device above the bed? That’s Neteera’s radar device which monitors your vital signs, contact-free.
So the real demo was, well…, quite rightly, completely under the radar.
How did the radar capture and analyse my vital signs?
Neteera’s radar was placed innocuously above me in the room.
The radar measured my breathing and heartbeat through micro movements made by my skin. Radar waves reflected from my skin to the device were processed by Neteera’s specialised algorithms for analysing human vital signs. There was no contact whatsoever with my body.
I watched both the Mindray and Neteera readings as they came up for comparison. For example, the heart beats per minute (bpm) reading for both of the products were always within a couple of bpm of one another. Turns out my bpm was around 48 - 50ish.
Good to know I was apparently quite fit! Rani put it down to all the hiking training I’d done for climbing Kilimanjaro…
I was also told everyone’s vital signs profiles are unique. The product could even differentiate my signs from others over time.
A really high frequency
It’s radar operates at a frequency of 122GHz, which is very specialised. Although it is actually possible to buy 122GHz radars off-the-shelf, Neteera’s magic is that their radar and algorithms are their own proprietary designs. They perform far better than anything else on the market.
Crucially this means it stays accurate under movement and through clothes. So my tossing and turning in bed wasn’t an issue.
Detection of many other vital signs will be available soon, including:
Lying position and motion in bed
Neteera has also developed a holistic software monitoring platform. I watched a live demo being used at Herzog Hospital, a large hospital in Jerusalem specialising in long term rehabilitation.
For each bed, the patient’s heart and breathing rates were neatly shown next to each other. You could drill into each patient listing to get a range of deeper insights as well.
It is completely cloud functional, and insights can be shared securely and seamlessly with caregivers and healthcare professionals (under HIPAA/GDPR standards). It can also be connected to electronic medical and health records of healthcare facilities. So historical and measured patient data can be analysed together for much deeper insights.
Patient monitoring devices usually make a lot of noises whether or not there is something wrong with the patient. This creates “alarm fatigue” for both patient and carer. Neteera’s product is calibrated to only share alerts as necessary.
No other product is known to offer this.
It saves nurses and health practitioners oodles of time. Then let’s them do more lifesaving work.
A trivial-looking solution for a non-trivial problem
Studies indicate nurses spend around 30 minutes per patient per day manually checking patients. And nurse burnout is a huge issue.
The legacy of COVID means a registered nurse shortage in Europe is being described as a ticking timebomb.
And whereas in the US there are over 1 million hospital beds, China alone has over 7 million. Their Healthy China 2030 policy means they will need to hire 2 million to 3 million more nurses over the next decade to support an ageing population.
These are just some of major challenges of today and tomorrow that Neteera can help to solve.
A culturally immersive experience, and fine dining
With only an overnight stop (I had arrived from Hong Kong, had a full day of meetings in Tel Aviv – what a day), I made the most of what little time I had in Jerusalem to soak up some of their famous cultural heritage.
So I managed a delightful stroll through Mahane Yehuda Market, also known as the Shuk.
Its haphazard alleyways were tinged with Ottoman, Middle Eastern, European and Asian. It was just irresistible. Had I more time, I would have loved to go on a “Shuk Crawl” and have a pick and mix of a bit of everything the Shuk had to offer.
So my taste buds were ready, and it was later that night where I met Rani Shifron and Rakefet Shohat from Neteera for dinner. Rani was an specialist on the Israeli medtech landscape, with global experience spanning many decades. Rakefet was an expert on quality processes. It was amazing to hear from her how Neteera got over the line with the FDA.
Contactless vital signs monitoring using a radar is new, and the FDA always asks more questions than usual to get their head round such innovation. Their extra work really paid off when they got FDA approval this year.
We tucked in to a tapas-style selection of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean fare. The day was stretching into its 16 hour since I arrived in Israel, but the wave after wave of delicacies perked me up. I usually don’t bother drinking lest I zonk out from the jet lag, but I helped myself to some of the local red wine as it was just too hard to resist. It sure was tasty!
Israel is a great place, full of contrasts, brimming with ingenuity.
My host was yet again faultless. I am simply grateful for their hospitality.
It took me 9 years to visit again.
But something tells me I’ll be back before long.
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All views contained in this article are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organisation.
None of the above constitutes investment advice in any way.
Neteera Technologies is a portfolio company of Ascend Capital Partners.