By SGN | 1 Apr 2022
When Yoav moved to Singapore in 2007, he brought with him a global outlook and a penchant for combining business with technology.
“All my life I’ve worn two hats: a business hat and an IT hat,” he explains. He had built a career in optical media security, digital rights management (DRM) and mobile Internet solutions, at one point managing a product that generated US$40 million in annual sales.
Having moved around the world and lived in Japan and the UK, he was extremely impressed during a visit to Singapore for a project and decided it would be a great place to live and raise his family.
Problem = opportunity
It was in Singapore, a few years later, that Yoav embarked on the path to becoming a founder.
“A startup is about identifying a big problem as an opportunity and solving it in a significantly different way from the alternatives out there,” he says. “And in a fast-growing country like Singapore, you have a lot of good problems to solve.”
Through the Jewish community in Singapore, he met his business partner, Kineret Karin. She had been feeling restless in her job at a pharmaceutical company, so her husband urged her, “Oh, go talk to Yoav. He always has all kinds of crazy ideas.”
Together, in 2010, they started Singapore Dine, a portal that offered food delivery from restaurant chains such as Subway, Bergs and 4Fingers – long before such a service became a ubiquitous aspect of everyday Singaporean life. After close to five years of operating, Singapore Dine was acquired by Foodpanda.
In 2015, the pair created WatchMe88, a dating app that triggers glowing rings on the Apple Watch to indicate interest and availability to nearby users. It too was eventually acquired, this time by a dating agency.
“We’ve had a long run together,” Yoav says of his collaboration with Kineret. He attributes the strength of their partnership to their polar-opposite personalities: he is the dreamer and storyteller who conjures a vision, while she is the doer and executor who makes things happen.
Even today, Yoav encourages young entrepreneurs to seek out co-founders with complementary qualities, rather than “BFFs” who think in exactly the same way.
Keeping riders safe
Yoav and Kineret’s latest venture – Rider Dome, launched at the end of 2020 – once again took them into completely different territory.
The idea sprang from Yoav’s personal experience of almost getting into an accident on his motorcycle. After the near miss, he went online in search of a riding assistance system that could monitor blind spots or warn him of collision risks.
“I was very surprised to see that, while driving assistance was significantly developed in the car industry, I could not find a similar solution for motorcycles,” he says.
The dangers of riding a motorcycle are common knowledge, and the associated numbers staggering – motorcyclists are over 13 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than car drivers – yet somehow the technology for keeping riders safe had fallen far behind. Yoav recognised a huge problem and, within, an opportunity to solve it.
With a team of experts from Singapore, Germany, France and Israel, Yoav set out to create an AI-powered alert system that uses wide-angle front and rear cameras, sensors and proprietary algorithms to warn the rider of dangers in front (collision alert, safe distance alert) and from the sides (blind spot alert).
Before the product is made available to consumers at a later stage, Yoav is looking to implement it on motorcycle fleets, where a sizeable impact might be made, especially given their exponential growth globally due to the COVID pandemic.
Rider Dome offers a safety analytics platform that allows logistics, food delivery and postal service companies to manage fleets, analyse riding habits, view heat maps of danger zones, and automatically call emergency services in the event of an accident. Pilot programmes have been launched with SingPost’s and Deliveroo’s motorcycle fleets in Singapore.
Nurturing impactful startups
Besides executing his own business ideas, Yoav has been nurturing other startups through ImpacTech, an accelerator (also co-founded with Kineret) that focuses on social or environmental impact. “The future of the human race is determined not by governments and conglomerates, but by young innovative minds,” he proclaims.
ImpacTech has run custom accelerator programmes for corporations and institutions such as Shell, Singtel and the World Bank, selecting five to ten startups to nurture over a period of four months or so. Yoav likens these intensive programmes to an “MBA on steroids for startups”.
One area that he hopes to improve in Singapore’s entrepreneur community is the ease and speed of networking. Back in Israel, getting introduced to a new contact happens in next to no time: a friend mentions the contact, texts them, and you are soon on an introductory call. In Singapore, he notices, this process might unfold over two weeks of polite emails.
On the value of networking, Yoav emphasises, “You want to surround yourself with like-minded people in a nurturing environment. As an entrepreneur, you may not have a lot of resources, so you need to rely on the knowledge and capabilities of others.”
He recommends aspiring entrepreneurs to proactively join events, meetups, communities like Singapore Global Network, as well as adopt his practice of meeting someone new every week. “Good things arise from such meetings, and you always learn something new,” he says.
Two years after its inception, the success of ImpacTech led to its expansion into Tokyo and Bangkok. Yoav cites this as an example of how Singapore is well-positioned to export its know-how, and not just goods or services.
A conducive environment
Starting businesses in Singapore has had its unique advantages and tailwinds, Yoav notes. There is a variety of capacity builders available, the government offers tax exemptions that encourage companies to innovate and succeed, and, because the country is highly digitalised, interacting with the authorities – to register a company, manage taxes, or apply for grants – is a breeze.
Beyond business, Singapore has also provided a conducive growth environment for Yoav’s family. His wife has found opportunities for career advancement in the IT industry, while their daughters have benefited from interacting with an international community that practises tolerance of differences in religion or nationality.
For Yoav, it has been fascinating to witness Singapore’s rapid transformation over the past 14 years, particularly the great shifts towards digitalisation and entrepreneurship.
“14 years ago, parents would encourage their children to work in banks and big corporations. Today, a Singaporean kid that goes to his mum and says he wants to found or join a startup is more likely to gain support,” he says. “That is a huge change.”
Join us and meet others like Yoav
Yoav is an Israeli entrepreneur who has lived in Singapore for 14 years. He is the co-founder of Rider Dome, an advanced rider assistance system, and ImpacTech, an accelerator for impact-driven startups.
Connect with him here.