Tel Aviv: On the Technology Beach

In Tel Aviv, the GeeksonaPlane are greeted by the expansive and talented Yossi Vardi, possibly Israel’s greatest entrepreneur, investor and evangelist. Vardi has a way of bringing people together, and it doesn’t hurt that his son invented ICQ, the very first IM platform, and is now an investor himself. The Vardis are at the center of the israeli tech community.

Vardi organized many of our meetings in Tel Aviv, with an eye toward showing us not only the startup community but the entire breadth of Israel’s technology ecosystem, from the enterprise companies like Microsoft and EBay who have technology and R&D programs in Israel to established online players like Wix , Another incredible Israeli company is Wix – far from a startup now with 26 million users. And there’s also Billguard, and Face.com, one-time startups that have either been acquired (Answers.com was sold last year for $125 million and Face.com is now part of Facebook) or become market leaders in their spaces (Wix has 26 million users).

Its quite amazing how much technology and entrepreneurship comes out of Israel, a country of fewer than 8 million people that is known in the US only for its problems with its neighbors.

Perhaps the most interesting place we visited was the EBay Social Center, where the e-commerce pioneer devotes resources to making online shopping as frictionless as possible. Our host there was Ron Gura. Founder of gotogether.com, a group payment system for people who want to buy tickets for the same event and pay separately. EBay first partnered with, and then purchased GoTogether, and allows Ron to operate on his own to develop several off-platform solutions .

His newest project, and the one that interested me the most, is Stuff.ebay.com. It’s in beta now and only available to people with EBay accounts, but it can give you the history of everything you have ever bought online. You log in, give it access to your gmail, and it parses the mail to find confirmations and receipts. Right now, it is good for finding receipts, tax preparation, , sharing, one-click sale on EBay, and price drops, but very soon you will be able to tell it what you want to buy and it will find something in your personal inventory that you can sell, combine with a balance in your Paypal account, and get the item you want. For example, if you own an iPad 1, and you have a balance of $100 in your Paypal account, you might be able to acquire an iPad3 as a frictionless transaction–almost like barter.

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