By Avigayil Kadesh
Israeli President Shimon Peres may be 90 years old, but that did not keep him from spontaneously pedaling a bike across a Google Street View map when he visited the worldwide company’s Tel Aviv offices in late August 2013.
Peres was in town to welcome senior developers from Google’s Android Games team in California’s Silicon Valley, who had just landed in Israel for the launch of Code Lab – a brainstorming workshop with Israeli game developers to create sophisticated new mobile fun with the aid of Google products.
At Google Israel’s multi-floor headquarters in the iconic Electra Tower, Peres also learned of the latest innovations created by entrepreneurs at Campus TLV, a shared startup space hosted by Google for Entrepreneurs.
Among them were developers of UpSense
, an intuitive touch keyboard for the blind; small robots controlled by Android smartphones; Action Painter, an Android virtual painting app; and Veed.Me
, an online platform connecting businesses with a screened community of videographers.
Checking out UpSense keyboard for the blind with
co-inventor Nissan Yaron. Photo by Mark Neiman/GPO
Meir Brand, managing director of Google Israel, Greece and Sub-Saharan Africa, and Yossi Matias, managing director of Google's R&D Center in Israel, told Peres about the new Google Campus for Moms, an eight-session “baby-friendly” tech entrepreneurship course led by Google and Yazamiyot, an Israeli women’s entrepreneurship organization. The idea is to create a local hub of female leaders and provide the content and space for learning and networking without having to leave baby at home.
Google Israel Managing Director Meir Brand, left, and Google Israel R&D Center Managing Director Yossi Matias explaining Campus for Moms to President Peres
Making entrepreneurs better
Introducing Code Lab, Google Israel Developer Relations Program Manager Amir Shevat said the goal of bringing in corporate experts from Android and YouTube divisions is “to make mobile games and video products more successful by bringing our expertise and our technology in order to empower the [Israeli] entrepreneurs who come with the ideas and the innovation.”
Shevat explained that Code Lab is open to anyone from nine-year-olds to senior citizens, Arabs and Jews alike, with great ideas. “Usually we work with them for a week to 10 days, but some for only one day.”
The president Google biking. Photo by Niv Kantor
“We advise them on how to leverage Google technology at no cost to them,” said Daniel Dobson, a senior Android Games team member. “I love coming out here because we get the best questions from Israeli developers. That helps us figure out what we need to do to help developers use our infrastructure.”
Added Shevat: “A few years ago, you had to work very hard to develop your product yourself, while we [at Google] have a platform and technology that will help you to develop the game or app and distribute it to your audience.”
Peres asked how many of the ideas come to fruition.
“I would say about seven percent make it through the first year,” said Shevat. “That is a high percentage!” Peres responded.
“Yes,” said Shevat. “And those who become very successful compensate for all those ideas that did not make it. Also, people with an idea can experiment, trying it again and again until they get it right. Campus TLV isn’t about choosing startups but making the entrepreneurs better. You can have three or four ideas that are not successful, but you learn from them and then you create something very successful at the end.”
President Peres trying his hand at Action Painter, with CEOs Sharon Paz and Tzvika Markfeld. Photo by Mark Neiman/GPO
Peres laughed when he learned that each Google-sponsored startup CEO gets a colorful propeller beanie emblazoned with the word “Noogle,” to show off being a “new Googler.”
“That’s the way you know someone is new in the company,” joked Shevat.
In his remarks to hundreds of employees at the end of his visit, Peres observed that “Israelis are full of imagination and ambition.”
"The most impressive thing about Google is the good will and ideology that leads you to always think about the other, and how to help and develop solutions for millions of people,” he said. “Googlers, I'm proud of you for what you do.”