Shalom Life | January 23, 2015

Startup Club: BreezoMeter

The Tel Aviv-based startup informs you about the quality of the air around you, in real time

By: Caitlin Marceau

Published: January 15th, 2015 in Business » Israel

Over the past few decades, a growing number of small businesses involved in various industries have popped up around the world meeting the needs of an ever-growing, ever-changing market.

Jewish businessmen and innovators continue to excel throughout these industries, displaying their prowess as creative, forward-thinking entrepreneurs, and tapping into continuously developing markets with 'startup' companies.

In a bid to recognize these decorated entrepreneurs for their ongoing contributions and advancements to these fields, Shalom Life is pleased to present: Startup Club, highlighting the best and the brightest of Jewish entrepreneurs who continue to provide our community with new, influential and innovative ideas that will forever change the way we interact with the world, and with one another.

Follow our lead and we’ll follow yours – send us tips or suggestions via email, comment below or tweet us @ShalomLife, in our mission to celebrate the most visionary of Jewish entrepreneurs.

Check out last week's inductee into the Club here.

Business: BreezoMeter

Base of Operations: Tel Aviv, Israel

Entrepreneurs: Revital Hendler, Emil Fisher, Ran Korber, and Ziv Lautman

Industry: Technology/Health

Founded: 2014

The weather can be dangerous. From days so hot they burn your skin, to freezing temperatures that are cold enough to give you frostbite, it’s important to stay informed before you go outside. However, one thing that’s often neglected in the daily forecast is the quality of the air you’re going to breathe. For people with respiratory conditions, allergies, or even autoimmune disorders, the air outside can make or break your plans for the day.

Thanks to BreezoMeter, people can know the quality of the air around them in real time, and plan for the day ahead. Through their app, which is available for download for Android devices and coming soon for iPhones, users will immediately know whether it’s safe for their child with asthma to go out and play or if they should wait for the quality of the air to improve, so as to avoid a potential asthma attack.

The app, which collects air and weather information from a variety of reliable sources and uses algorithms to determine air quality, also provides users with help tips and advice on how to make the most out of the both the good days, and the bad. BreezoMeter is fully functional for the U.S. and Israel, and is constantly adding locations to their app. Right now it’s possible to get air quality information for a variety of locations outside of Israel and the U.S. although not all locations are active just yet.

The company was founded in 2014, although their story goes back to 2012, by four like minded individuals: Revital Hendler, Emil Fisher, Ran Korber, and Ziv Lautman. Currently their headquarters are in Tel Aviv, Israel.

We at Shalom Life got a chance to speak with CFO, and co-founder, Ziv Lautman about how BreezoMeter came to be and the company’s plans for the future.

Shalom Life: How did the company come together?

Ziv Lautman: The idea for mapping air pollution in real time came three years ago, when Ran Korber (back then a good friend, and today BreezoMeter’s CEO) was looking to buy house for his family in Israel. As an environmental engineer, Ran knew that air pollution is the leading environmental cause for lung cancer, many respiratory diseases, and more (his wife has asthma). So Ran was looking for air quality information that could tell him what were the air pollution levels, and also the trends from recent years for the specific address he wanted to buy a house at. Ran did find some information (as an environmental engineer he knew that the air we breathe is being monitored), but the data was scattered, incomprehensible to the layperson, and actually for himself as well. While discussing the problem, we understood that people don’t have a clue about what they breathe and that it’s a global problem. We decided to make air pollution visible.

One of our first steps towards a company was applying for accelerator programs (...) We were lucky to participate in two programs, Siftech and BizTec, that gave us the tool kit needed for the “real world”; it starts from basic law and finance (which are super important for an early stage company), from there to understanding the customers and your unique value proposition and usually (if it’s a really good accelerator) ends at MVP (Minimal viable Product) that is ready to be launched to the market. For BreezoMeter it was also the first engagement with the entrepreneurship world, we met with people that already did it – built companies, failed, succeeded – people who have deep knowledge in product or marketing and, most importantly we met with investors.

What have been the biggest challenges in starting BreezoMeter?

For a startup, every day there is a challenge you need to face. Today, having a bit of perspective I can say we had two major challenges that I am happy to say we overcame. First, design and UX. How can we make air quality information beautiful, fun and professional? Our first version of BreezoMeter was far from that. We were lucky to meet Ohad Zadock, BreezoMeter’s product manager, who brought a new meaning of design to the company. I can still remember our arguments. Ohad claimed, “It’s all about the design! Look at Google Play, apps are well planned – till the last pixel. We have to work on the design & UX. Users demand it. It's a matter of life or death.” He was right.

Secondly, we had to deal with an enormous amount of air quality data. That’s a real software challenge. It took us more than 6 months to build the right architecture to the servers for US (that’s a lifetime in a startup’s timeline). How did we overcome that? Our team has a lot of passion and believe in BreezoMeter’s goals and vision. And, of course brilliant software engineers, like Emil Fisher (CTO), Amit Gil, Eyal Levine, and Shahar Polak.

What I’m trying to say is that in the end, as a startup, you have endless challenges. That’s why you need a great team. Thats the most important thing.

Alternatively, what have been the biggest rewards of it?

For us the reward is the users. For example, getting an email saying we are really helping a parent with a small child. We are rated 4.3 stars by more than 800 people. Also, it's speaking with companies that have been waiting for air quality data like ours. It's about knowing (that) we are making the impact we wanted.

Why do you think it’s so important that people be aware of air pollution levels, and the quality of the air they breathe? Also, what do you hope to accomplish with your app, and what do you hope people take away from using it?

Dr Maria Neira, Director of WHO’s Department for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health said, “The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes. Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe.”

Moreover in 2012, around 7 million people died, (that’s) one in eight of the total global deaths, as a result of air pollution exposure (World Health Organization, 2013). Approximately 200,000 in US alone. Just a couple of days ago a Harvard study in the US found that the chance of children developing autism doubles among mothers exposed to high levels of air pollution during late pregnancy, compared with those living in cleaner areas.

Is it clear that air quality is a major health effect. We want people to make informed choices about their health, about their life. By providing air quality data in real time parents could know which park is the best for their kids. Those who exercise outdoors could choose the healthiest route, and much more. We want to make the connection between our environment and our health clearer, and we believe the knowledge that comes with it will empower people to live a healthier life.

Are there any new features users can expect to see with Breezometer in the near future?

With the feature we are now working on the ability to report on low air quality, our users are asking for it. We are also working on providing statistical data for previous weeks, months and even the year.

We are also working on an API for businesses that can be used by weather platforms, real estate, fitness, wearable (tech) and more!

Are there any other projects our readers can look forward to seeing from your team?

Yes, we are working on a real estate report that summarizes past air quality levels and future trends, so everyone can make informed choices about where they want to live.

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