Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County was looking to raise money for its Stephanie Prezant z”l Israel Scholarship Fund, which helps send eighth-graders to Israel.
Solomon Schechter Day School also has students whose parents are Israeli innovators.
Putting them together made good sense.
“It further reinforces students’ understanding of modern Israel as a leading technology innovator,” Leah Silberstein, the school’s director of marketing and communications, said. “And it demonstrates a core educational value of students finding their passions, and stretching the limits of their imaginations.”
The program drew more than 100 people who came to listen to two Schechter fathers: Gil Eyal, co-founder and CEO of Hypr, and Ron Teicher, founder and CEO of EverCompliant. Both are high-tech CEOs, both have roots in Israel, and both told their fellow parents about the Israeli startup scene.
Mr. Eyal was born in Israel. His father, a shaliach for the Jewish Agency, brought his family to the United States when Gil was 4, and then they stayed here. Gil Eyal returned to Israel when he was 18 to enlist in the IDF. There he became a computer crimes investigator, working to stop attempts to hack into military computers. “It got me very interested in the world of technology,” he said.
After his army service, Mr. Eyal studied law and then came back to the United States for a career in business. By 2010, he was chief operating officer for an Israeli start-up called Mobli Media, which he described as “a photo and video sharing platform before Instagram.”
The strategy for the site “was to acquire deals with influential celebrities to use the platform and promote us.” Those celebrities included Leonardo DiCaprio, Serena Williams, and Lance Armstrong.
This led Mr. Eyal to the core idea for Hypr.
“As a marketer I was used to seeing audience data everywhere,” he said. “I would never buy advertising space without knowing who reads it. Yet I was hiring these celebrities without knowing anything about their audience.”
There was no way to learn about the reach and impact of the celebrities’ social media accounts. “I tried to look for a tool that tells me who follows them, but it wasn’t available. So I decided to start a company,” he said.
At first, Hypr was just him and his co-founder, a technologist in Israel. They found venture capital and investors and their first customers. Now they have 32 employees and are closing in on $10 million in revenue.
“We collect data from social networks about each influential person’s audience. Our tool allows brands to come in, describe their audience, and find thousands of people online who can help reach them,” Mr. Eyal said.
Hypr’s staff is divided between an Israeli team working on the technology and a New York team focusing on sales.
“The biggest advantage of Israel is that my co-founder was the commander of the programming course that trains programmers for the Israeli army,” Mr. Eyal said. “We have a very strong pipeline of developers from his former pupils. We don’t need to interview. He knows who is best.”
The best are very good.
“Israel produces very performance-driven developers. They want to win. They want to build the best software,” he said.
“It used to be the common belief that Israelis know how to build technology but don’t know how to market,” he said. “We saw this change. Israeli companies became worth billions of dollars. Look at Waze. Israeli technology is growing up. This ecosystem is becoming bigger and bigger.”
Hypr is in good company in having Israeli roots and a New York center, Mr. Eyal said. “New York has become, some would say, a mecca for Israeli entrepreneurs. A lot of startups are moving to New York.”
Compared to Silicon Valley, “New York offers the convenience of a relatively shorter time-zone difference, more visitors from Israel, enormous markets that you can target.”
Mr. Eyal said that there are 400 Israeli startups in New York City, and they are having an impact. “Israelis are the driving force in this major shift in the way New York views itself, from a capital of finance to something that can offer a whole lot more,” he said.
Do you want to learn more about Israeli startups? Mr. Eyal recommends going to Israelimappedinny.com, which maps the Israeli startups.
“If you’re looking for an internship, or to invest, or to work for a startup, go there and start browsing and find someone doing something you’re excited about — whether it is AI or drones or self-driving cars,” he said. “Connect with them, see if you can become involved. It’s an amazing community of people who like to help each other.”
Mr. Eyal wants to forge connections between the Schechter community and his company.
“I plan on offering internships over the summer to eighth graders after they graduate,” he said.
Gil and his wife Inbal live in Hoboken, and they send their first grader to Schechter. “The other child will be there eventually,” he said. “There are seven or eight kids who take this bus from Hoboken. It’s a long ride, but it’s worthwhile.
“I was a Schechter student as a kid. I value the Hebrew access, the familiarity with biblical stories. We want to make sure our kids keep the language, understand where they came from, know the holidays.”
The fund is named for Stephanie Prezant, who died in 2012, at 22, in a rock-climbing accident. Her family has chosen to honor her memory through benefiting the school from which she graduated, and that she loved.