Startup nations | Williams-Sonoma expert tells Israelis how to sell it right

Amazon, eBay and Etsy are online retailers most everyone knows. But what about Stitch Fix, Charlotte Russe, Ditto and Framebridge? All are innovative e-retailers, playing key roles in shaping the way we shop for goods.

Failing to adapt to the new reality will likely leave a traditional consumer goods company in the dust. So just about every company out there has been rapidly incorporating technology into the way it sells products.

Williams-Sonoma is one such company. Headquartered in San Francisco, the 60-year-old kitchenware and home furnishings giant has become one of the largest e-commerce retailers in the United States — and one of the leading multichannel specialty retailers, adept at using multiple platforms to sell its products.

So how does Israel come into this equation?

Last month, Israel’s Economic Mission to the West Coast initiated and hosted a working visit by Michelle Foss to Israel. Foss is Williams-Sonoma’s vice president of merchandising, an expert in online retailing.

Her visit included participation in a seminar about penetrating the U.S. market, whether via e-commerce or other means. The seminar in Tel Aviv, coordinated by the Israel Export Institute, was titled “Consumer Goods — Marketing to the U.S.” More than 150 people attended.

Foss also met separately with executives from 15 Israeli startups and other companies, including Monkey Business, Klipy Design, Humavox, Arcosteel and GreenIQ. The aim was to discuss cooperation and show Israeli companies how to better market their consumer products.

Foss also visited the SodaStream factory in southern Israel and the food technology incubator called “The Kitchen” in Ashdod. Daniel Birnbaum, CEO of SodaStream, was one of the speakers at the Tel Aviv seminar, talking about the success SodaStream has had working with the Williams-Sonoma “network” (brick-and-mortar locations, subsidiaries such as Pottery Barn and online sales).

The Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Ramat Gan was another stop on Foss’ itinerary. This institute has produced and continues to produce some of Israel’s top tech workers, researchers and designers.


Moovit joins with Uber and other tech news outlets reported that Moovit, the Israeli transit app, has announced an integration with Uber’s ride-sharing app.

Moovit uses official transit data plus crowdsourced data to give riders information about potential routes. Is the train running too slow? Moovit gives faster bus or shared bike options. Is the bus caught in traffic? Moovit offers alternatives — and now the options could include ride-sharing with Uber.

The integration with Uber’s app will be rolled out in the coming weeks to Moovit users in the United States and elsewhere; in all, 131 cities in 22 countries.


Startup of the month

Headquartered in Tel Aviv, Join VR is a streaming service for virtual reality on smartphones. “We believe that [virtual reality] video, if done right, is the next evolutionary step in online communication, which we are pioneering through a fresh, simple and technologically advanced virtual reality ecosystem,” Join VR touts its product on its website.

The company’s mobile app is said to let users capture complete experiences in 360-degree video and share them instantly. “We enable everybody to create experiences that come as close as possible to teleportation,” its website notes. Beam me up, Scotty.


Exit of the month

Oracle recently announced that it has acquired Crosswise, a 3-year-old Israeli marketing company that provides a consumer device map (for cross-device advertising) to ad-tech vendors, consumer brands and premium publishers. The acquisition value was not officially disclosed but was reported by the Times of Israel to be around $50 million.

Gili Ovadia is the S.F.-based Israeli consul for economic affairs to the West Coast.