Silicon Wall Street

Tech Gets the Wall Street Treatment at FinTech Innovation Lab Demo Day

(Photo: True Office)

“That’s not Jamie Dimon,” joked Adam Sodowick, founder and CEO of True Office, as an avatar in his game walked onto the screen. However, Mr. Dimon’s employer, J.P. Morgan, was one of the 12 banks that mentored the FinTech Innovation Lab participants who demoed their products to potential investors and senior executives in the financial industry Wednesday morning at Credit Suisse. (Duh, “FinTech” stands for Financial Tech–get in the game!)

True Office was one of six companies who participated in the three-month long mentoring process, during which these FinTech entrepreneurs presented their products to and received guidance from key executives in the banking industry. True Office is a mobile game that allows companies to conduct more interesting and engaging compliance training.

“This is a very large and deeply unsexy market,” Mr. Sodowick said about compliance training. “It is akin to getting a flu shot.” But TrueOffice makes the training a game, arguably incentivizing users to pay attention and learn from the process. People may even end up reading the company’s policies, where they would inevitably learn that it is, in fact, unethical to lie about your Computer Science degree. Read More

Coming to America

Israeli Start-Ups Skip the Valley, Go Direct to New York

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Taykey co-founder Amit Avner had just moved into his new offices off Madison Square Park a couple weeks ago. His desk was bare save for a Mac laptop and a Samsung Galaxy S2 phone, which started playing the first few chords of Darth Vader’s Imperial March theme song.

Hmm-hmm-hmm, hmm-hmm-hmm, hmm-hmm-hmm.

“Oh, that’s our chairman of the board. Let me just tell him I’ll call him back,” Mr. Avner said. After a few words in Hebrew, he hung up. “It’s like 11 p.m.” in Tel Aviv, Mr. Avner noted. “He must be really bored.”

Mr. Avner, who moved to New York from Israel 10 months ago, has curly, blond hair, full lips, and blue eyes the exact color of the inside of a Hpnotiq bottle. “I’m 25 now. On Friday, I’m 26. I’m still like … ignoring it,” he said, laughing at himself. “When I was 14, I built a search engine.”

After getting a B.A. in computer science (age 15) and selling his search engine (age 17), in 2008 Mr. Avner launched Taykey, an advertising platform that helps clients like Pepsi use real-time algorithms to determine consumer interest. Both of his co-founders were fellow engineers he met while serving as a software architect developing cryptography and network security for the R.&D. unit of Israel’s Ministry of Defense.

Asked what sorts of projects he worked on, Mr. Avner sputtered something about “encrypting stuff” and “making things work together.”

For decades, the elite programming units of the Israeli Defense Forces, which include 8200 and Mamram, have functioned like the ultimate feeder school for Silicon Wadi, as the software hub clustered around Tel Aviv was dubbed in the ’90s (wadi is Arabic for “valley”). But these days, the start-ups coming out of Israel have put aside mature sectors like security, microchips and network communications for something more Americanized. Read More

TechCrunch Disrupt

BillGuard: Day One, Over 10 K. Users; They Found Bad Charges for More Than 20% Including One $6 K. Fraud

BillGuard's Yaron Samid

BillGuard, a New York and Israel-based start-up that made the finals at TechCrunch Disrupt, is pretty far along for a start-up that just launched. They’ve got deals with three “top banks” who will distribute the service as a feature and they got more than 10,000 registered users on Monday. Already they’ve identified potentially erroneous charges on 20 percent of users’ bills, co-founder Yaron Samid said, and they found one fraudulent charge of $6,000 on a wealthy individual’s card.