As with every year, our Hebrew brother - Geektime.co.il - hosts its much anticipated GeekAwards, and this year was no different. Global pandemic and all, Geektime held its 9th consecutive awards ceremony celebrating the excellence and achievements of the people and startups that make up the Israeli tech ecosystem.
Continuing on with tradition, the GeekAwards asked the readers and high-tech leaders to promote candidates and vote for winners, alongside Geektime’s professional panel of judges - including serial entrepreneurs, seasoned investors, and Israeli tech superstars. Although, usually a grandiose ceremony with industry leaders in attendance, this year’s virtual awards continued to provide the entertainment and excitement as in recent years.
For those who missed out on the live event, check out which Israeli tech rockstars took home gold:
CEO of the year: Eynat Guez, Papaya Global
The global COVID-19 pandemic brought many startups to contemplate survival under the new reality, and then there were startups like Papaya Global who were born for it. The startup, led by Eynat Guez, developed a system for global payroll, whether for direct company employees or outsourced jobs, subcontractors, or others.
At the heart of the global crisis, Papaya secured an impressive $40 million investment, acquired another Israeli startup, recruited dozens of new personnel for both the Israeli and U.S. offices, and the bet on remote work definitely paid off. Papaya was founded in 2016 by CEO Eynat Guez, CTO Ofer Herman, and CPO Ruben Drong, and has raised $90 million to date.
R&D, technology Director of the year: Ayelet Akselrod-Ballin, Zebra Medical
Ayelet Akselrod-Ballin has a P.h.D from the Weizmann Institute of Science and a post-doctorate from Harvard Medical School. She has published 20 articles and has 6 patents to her name. Under Ayelet’s guidance, Zebra Medical secured its 7th FDA approval for AI medical analysis solutions. Along with major partnerships, like Canon, Zebra Medical’s deep learning AI imaging analysis tool is already deployed in medical centers in Israel and around the world.
Akselrod-Ballin oversees tech development aimed at helping radiologists analyze CT scans, mammographs, and more - to help detect various life-threatening conditions in patients, like cancer, osteoporosis, internal bleeding, among others. Utilizing this groundbreaking technology can significantly shorten diagnosis time, and prioritize patient’ triage, offering more efficient and better healthcare.
Investor of the year: Noam Kaiser, Director, Intel Capital
Over the past few years, Intel Capital’s Israeli team has succeeded in funneling close to a quarter of Intel’s investments, in Israeli startups, and 2020 was no different.
Among the VC firm’s investment highlights from the past year, we find Cellwize and EasySend, as well as enjoying the fruits of Spot’s $450 million acquisition by NetApp, Alcide’s acquisition by Rapid7, and Intel’s $900 million acquisition of Moovit.
Giving back to the community award: she codes;
She Codes;, a female Israeli developer community, has over 10,000 active members. The organization was founded by Ruth Polachek, who set a goal to achieve 50% female developers in the Israeli tech scene over the next decade. In addition, the organization sets out to improve opportunities for women in the tech sector, as well as exposing technological skills and software development to women with no prior experience in the industry.
The She Codes; platform hosts dozens of events every week, including lectures about tech, from inspiring female role models, software development collaboration, educational programs for women and teenagers, and a career center.
Accelerator of the Year: Microsoft for Startups
Microsoft’s accelerator program didn’t freeze in fear as the world threatened with chaos. At the beginning of 2020, it launched a dedicated accelerator program to promote women with technological entrepreneurship, only to open right after, another dedicated program for social-focused startups - 14 Israeli startups were accepted, and receive personal guidance from mentors around the world.
Venture Capital Firm of the Year: Aleph
Aleph was founded in 2013 by Eden Shochat, founder of Facebook acquired Face.com, and Michael Eisenberg, Partner at Benchmark Capital. Even the year of COVID couldn’t stop the VC firm from investing in myInterview, Unit, Approve, Melio, and Coralogix. However, above all Lemonade’s IPO stood out, with the digital insurance giant hitting a $9 billion valuation.
CMO of the Year: Gali Arnon, Fiverr
Arnon joined Fiverr in 2017 and now serves as the company’s CMO. She was a crucial part in leveraging the increase in demand for remote work, and setting up the platform to be the solution - both for the army of freelancers who appeared almost overnight, and for the businesses in need of skill.
Through unique marketing campaigns, like “It Starts Here” - where small businesses reveal their tales of digital transformation; the launch of ‘The Shift’, which helps businesses make the transition, and the launch of SMBHelp - Fiverr has hit a record number of 2.8 million customers in 160 countries.
The world was further exposed to Fiverr through one of the ultimate pinnacles of the marketing realm - a branded ad aired during the Super Bowl.
New Startup of the Year: Wiz
It’s not every day that the people behind the highly successful startup, Adallom, found a new startup. But, in early 2020, just before COVID crisis, former Microsoft Israel R&D CEO, Asaf Rappaport and his team founded their new baby - Wiz. What began with a $21 million funding round for a two-month-old startup, blew up within a few months to a massive $100 million round, and remember this happens all during the startup’s rookie year. Despite the company being young, something that hasn’t hurt its revenue cycle, the Wiz platform is already operational for global customers. This marks one of the better rookie seasons for a new startup - definitely during an incredibly challenging year.
Startup of the Year: Lemonade
Just 5 years after it was founded and with $480 million in mega-investments from Softbank, Google, and other market giants, Shai Winniger and Daniel Schreiber’s Lemonade hit the New York Stock Exchange at $29 a share. True to this moment, the stock has climbed to over $150 per share, and the company’s valuation has skyrocketed to the $10 billion neighborhood.
What started as an Israeli startup that took the archaic world of insurance into the 21st century, has become a leader in the digital transformation era. Lemonade might be shedding the ‘startup’ title this year, but still, the Israeli company achieved what many in the local ecosystem aspire to: Disrupt a multi-billion conservative market and grow as an independent global powerhouse.
We really appreciate all our collaborating partners who helped make this award show possible: Amdocs, Yigal Arnon & Co., SwitchUp, Intel Ignite, Sap.iO, LeumiTech - Aman Group, GotFriends, 365x, Xinergy Global, and Check Point’s innovation center, which hosted the event. A special thanks to the awesome production crew at VEO. See you next year.