In a Covid-caused era when so many things are accomplished remotely, half the management of Israeli technology startup UVeye decided the only way to grow their business in the United States was to ditch doing business by Zoom, instead packing their families and things and moving halfway around the world to this country.
“I really believe in order to build a relationship and really see how the customer is using the product you really need to be there,” UVeye co-founder and CEO Amir Hever told Forbes.com. “It’s one thing to have the Zoom calls and try to build the relationship over Zoom, it’s a completely different thing when we’re showing them.”
“It’s not only customers, but hiring local American employees,” added UVeye chief marketing officer Yaron Saghiv. “It’s very hard to give your real kind of legacy and passion from Zoom calls, and also to get sticky with that passion with local people who understand the market. It’s just a different ballgame.”
Hever and his family made the move a almost two years ago, while Saghiv has been here a little over a year and celebrated the birth of his second son three weeks ago—both settling in northern New Jersey. They like the fact it’s only about 30 minutes from New York City and it’s an area that’s attracted a number of Israelis.
That doesn’t minimze the challenges of such a drastic relocation.
“Of course it’s a big move. We need to remember we still have an office with over 100 employees in Israel,” said Hever. “Yaron and I are the executives but we have more of the management that moved here as well, so it’s a big change also for the company, not just on the personal side.”
“It’s a hard move but on the other hand there are a lot of good things here,” notes Saghiv. “Family-wise, each family, is pretty happy.”
Hever, Saghiv and the rest of the UVeye team have plenty to be happy about based on tremendous progress the company has made in the U.S this past year.
Uveye’s drive-through vehicle inspection technology has attracted attention and investments from automakers such as General Motors Co., Volvo Cars USA and Hyundai Motors along with major used car dealership chain CarMax Inc. and Toyota Tsusho, the trading unit for the Toyota Group, which includes Toyota Motor and auto parts maker DENSO.
In the case of GM, its capital investment arm, GM Ventures, made an investment in UVeye to help fund the development and commercialization of its inspection technology. At the same time, the automaker itself entered into an agreement with UVeye to look into installing the inspection systems at its 4,000 dealerships.
Volvo Cars USA is also encouraging its dealers to install UVeye inspection stations and hopes the majority of its 280 independent U.S. dealerships will do so.
UVeye inspection stations detect a variety of issues as the vehicle passes through. They’ve also been used in vehicle assembly plants and at international border crossings to reveal contraband.
There are three major types of inspection stations in UVeye’s portfolio:
- Atlas – A 360-degree exterior inspection system scans sheet metal and other exterior components for paint chips, dents and other issues. While UVeye advises Atlas scanners are best suited for high-volume service facilities, fleet operations and assembly lines, Atlas Lite is specially designed for dealership use.
- Artemis – Detects sidewall damage and tread depth, as well as tire air pressure, age and brand.
- Helios – An underbody scanner able to detect a wide variety of potential safety issues, including fluid leaks and frame damage, as well as brake and exhaust system problems.
Current UVeye inspection technology is already capable of detecting exterior damage to batteries in electric vehicles, but Hever revealed the growing popularity and number of EVs hitting the market have led to stepping up the technology.
“We’re adding more sensors that will be able to provide us more information about the battery cell in the battery,” said Hever. “It will tell us if there are any issues we should be aware of that might say the battery is not safe to use or has any issues. These are the things we’re working on. Probably be available Q2, Q3 next year.”
Indeed, Uveye’s success is leading to even more expected growth in 2023 with plans to begin production in the U.S., more than double its U.S. headcount to over 100 employees and focus on new auto industry segments.
“Auctions and fleets are probably next big thing for us in 2023,” said Saghiv.
“Definitely we see we’re able to increase the trust we’re getting from consumers buying used vehicles and the data they’re getting about the used vehicles,” added Hever. He teased more announcements on new partnerships can be expected next year.
How much credit are Hever and Saghiv giving the move from Israel to the U.S. for the speed of Uveye’s progress?
“We became a global company once we moved here and we have such a big office that probably next we’ll be even bigger than in Israel,” said Hever. “It would probably take us a lot more time to achieve the same results which we achieved in two years and we achieved a lot.”
Saghiv puts it bluntly, stating, “Building the team, building the relationships, improving the product, getting the scale is obviously a direct result of the move.”
When asked if their move to New Jersey is a permanent relocation, Amir and Saghiv were non-committal.
“Right now this is home for us,” offered Hever.
“Right now, I think is the answer,” asserted Saghiv.
They and their families enjoy the proximity to the big city, the company is growing and when it comes to New Jersey itself, Saghiv grins as he noted, “it’s got the Sopranos as well.” Badda Bing!