More than 500 people showed up at Gan Oranim Tuesday night, including just about everyone who is everyone in Israel's Internet industry. Ten companies showed off their wares, generally quite well. Shimon Peres made a slightly controversial (and in my opinion slightly rambling) speech about how the Internet means we shouldn't have to study history. And Yossi Vardi did his patented Vardi schtick. (Pictures from the event can be found here).
In all, an auspicious start to what hopefully will evolve into an institution.
I won't give my opinions of the individual companies (especially since I already did so). From reading other people's blogs, it seems that ClickTale, G.ho.st, and Double Trump made strong impressions. I would, however, like to address two issues.
A lot of the commentary notes that the companies didn't dwell on things like their revenue model, competition, or market analysis in their presentation. This is true and it was done on purpose. The companies each had seven minutes for their presentations, and we instructed them to focus on presenting their product and their vision. The rest of the pitch they could then save for potential investors.
Also, I heard a bit of grumbling about the quality of the finalists. Which I think is unfair and may stem from the wrong expectations about the event. If you came to the event looking to see the top 10 Web 2.0 hopefuls in Israel you might have come out disappointed. The finalists represented a broad spectrum of business possibilities available on the Internet, from classic Web 2.0/social networking sites to diagnostic services to B2B applications and technologies.
Also, while I think all 10 finalists have the potential to be viable businesses, not all of them (and perhaps not even the majority of them) are VC-grade investments. One or two have the potential to be significant exits. The rest may be successful on a scale that would make the founders and angels happy, but aren't large enough to interest heavier institutional investors.
Sadly, that's just how the game is played.
If you ask me the best thing about TWS is that it showed that there is a real internet industry here in Israel (or, as Deb Schultz put it, we've developed a scene like the one they had in Silicon Valley back in the good old days).
You suddenly see a lot of entrepreneurs trying out new ideas: very passionate Internet fanatics and kids who grew up on the Web. We're seeing second-generation Internet companies founded by people who worked at Hotbar, ICQ, and Incredimail. And you are increasingly seeing investors <shameless plug>who understand the potential of the Internet and who live it from the inside.</shameless plug>
As Martha Stewart would say, it's a good thing.