Yandex Blog

Yandex Acquires Israeli Developer of Smart Geo-Location Technology – KitLocate

Always on the lookout for top talent and breakthrough technology, Yandex has long been eyeing Israel’s Silicon Valley – Silicon Wadi. And now we are happy to report that the award-winning startup,KitLocate, the developer of a smart, energy-efficient cloud location technology for mobile devices, together with its brilliant team of eight, is joining our mobile search team.

KitLocate’s co-founders Omri Moran, CEO (fourth from the right), Yoav Cafri, CTO (first from the right) and Ron Miller, VP R&D (far left) with their team.

KitLocate’s technology, packed into a developer-friendly SDK, provides location capabilities, including geo-fencing, motion detection and social location, for location-based apps on the user’s iOS or Android smartphone. The trick is, while doing that it lowers battery power consumption down to less than 1% per hour. KitLocate's algorithms allow location-based apps to request the device's geographic coordinates less frequently without losing precision, which considerably extends the phone's life between charges.

The Israeli team’s technology has already been successfully implemented in a mobile app, which helps drivers to find available parking spaces in their immediate vicinity. Popular in Israel financial service, Isracard, uses KitLocate’s technology to deliver its offers to users’ phones based on their current location.

Those of Yandex’s mobile products that don’t need continuous GPS synching, such as our location-based search, cannot wait to be augmented by KitLocate’s smart solution. With KitLocate’s technology, we’ll be able to deliver search results, as well as product or service offers, on the user’s mobile phone or tablet, relevant not only to a specific user, but also to their current location. This cloud solution looks especially promising for location-based recommendation apps.

Yandex’s previous experience working with a startup from Israel was investment in a facial recognition technology developer,, which was later acquired by Facebook. After joining Yandex, KitLocate’s brilliant team, also based in Tel Aviv, is very likely to soon be growing both in size and scale of expertise. Their solution will continue to be available for implementation in other location-based apps that don’t require continuous geo-tracking.

Tolstoy Campers Cross Finish Line

Graduates of our summer school for startups, Tolstoy Summer Camp, which we announced in May 2013, have now presented their projects to investors and some even secured financial support, in addition to advice, a biscuit and an encouraging pat on the back.

We opened this summer school to give young and enthusiastic boys and girls a chance to hatch their ideas and develop them into fully functioning projects in a supportive and nurturing environment, which would also be as close to real life as possible. Most importantly, the school would teach the bright and brilliant how to pitch their ideas to investors and give them an opportunity to do just that and receive funding for their projects at the end of the program.

‘Russia’s talent is as numerous as its territory is vast. We felt that we had enough resources and experience to gather the like-minded, gifted and eager people with brilliant ideas and fast-track them straight to realisation of these ideas,’ says Ksenia Yolkina, Tolstoy Summer Camp’s director. ‘The startup climate in Russia is quite favourable at the moment, with more money on the market than viable ideas. Tolstoy Summer Camp aimed at giving the startup community in Russia a boost with a few working projects developed from a few interesting ideas and released at the end of the Camp.’

From the total of 1,075 applications we received, 65 candidates from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan and US were chosen. We paid for their travel to Moscow and covered part of their living expenses for the Camp’s duration. The campers had one week to organise themselves into teams around pivotal ideas. Out of 22 teams, who managed take their ideas to the prototype or business plan stage in almost four weeks, only 12 made it to the finals. Those were the teams that had a working prototype, customer audience analysis and a business model to demonstrate to the Camp’s evaluation committee:

SpeakingMind is a text-to-speech app, which reads social news feed for its user, while they are busy doing something else.

TaskCube a web-based project management service for medium and small IT businesses, which allows users to run their projects and monitor expenditures.

MediCard is a patient recruitment service, which allows medical specialists to shorten patient enrollment process, the most time-consuming part of clinical trials. is an ‘on-demand software’ service for bus tour operators in Russia and other countries.

PeopleAnalytics, which started off as a social media analytics service for human resources, is now a gift recommendation service based on information on people’s social networks.

3DPrintus is a 3D-printing and personalisation service, which allows users to implement their ideas in real objects.

FiveCards is an app that stores user’s discount cards on their smartphone.

Football Second Screen is an app that gives football fans an opportunity to view detailed information about each player, pass or goal in the game they are watching on their mobile devices.

CrowdTask is a crowdsourcing service for B2B content moderation. is a personal diet, exercise and daily planning service for anyone who wants to stay in shape. (Подарка.нет) is a mobile recommendation service for the last-minute gifts based on personal preferences and user’s budget. is a one-stop, global plane, train and bus ticket booking service.

During the Camp, participants were continually receiving support from their mentors – experts from Yandex and invited specialists, such as Michael Geer of Dream Industries, an experienced startup mentor and a Silicon Valley executive Marvin Liao, and Thibaut Rouffineau, VP Developer Partnerships at Wireless Industry Partnership. In addition to having personal consultants to help them on the way to the final stages of their projects, the campers were exposed to lectures and workshops delivered by Yandex experts and internationally acclaimed professionals in web development, marketing, design, project management, patent law, business administration, IT journalism and PR. Invited speakers included Colette Ballou, the founder and CEO of communications company Ballou PR, Christian Thaler-Wolski, head of Digital Media and Software at Wellington Partners, and the founder of and senior partner in investment firm Runa Capital, Serguei Beloussov.

‘I expected Tolstoy Summer Camp to be much like any other program in entrepreneurship and innovation management – lots of theory, lots of talk, a little argument, a little discussion and that’s it. The Camp surprised me pleasantly with its hands-on approach to project development. We had an excellent environment for our projects – a small and very powerful incubator for innovative ideas with an intensive supply of theoretical and methodological knowledge,’ says Roman Didych, co-founder of an innovative clinical trial recruitment service, MediCard. ‘Anyone with a seriously well-thought through idea could have greatly benefitted from this program.’

Demo Day on August 30 was attended by over a dozen venture investors, including Runa Capital, Almaz Capital, Bright Capital, Maxfield Capital, Quadriga Capital, Altair Capital, Prostor Capital, Russian Ventures, Vita Ventures. Yandex participated in the selection process on par with other investors. Three teams – SpeakingMind, FiveCards and Football Second Screen – managed to get us seriously interested. We are now considering the size and the form of investment to offer to these teams. Another Tolstoy Summer Camp project – MediCard – received a preliminary invitation to participate in Seedcamp Week in Berlin, an event of a European startup accelerator.

At the start of TSC we expected three to five strong startup teams with a solid background in technology and ideas and carefully crafted business models to emerge at the end of the program. We’ve got twelve, which is significantly more than we expected and we are thrilled with the result. So, chances are high we will repeat this success next year.

Yandex announces its summer school for startups – Tosltoy Summer Camp

There seems to be more venture capital than brilliant ideas on Russia's internet market. At the same time, many of brilliant ideas in the heads of talented people are destined to perish without a chance either because talented people cannot meet each other or because they cannot deliver their ideas in a form approachable for investors. 

We have been experimenting with startups for a while and came to an understanding that currently the best format for a large internet company, such as Yandex, to interact with a bunch of passionate enthusiasts, such as startups, is a seed accelerator. 

Seed accelerators are normally expected to contribute time and effort in exchange for equity. Not us. We are doing this for something other than money. The expertise and networking opportunities that we offer to young talent come with no strings attached. 

We are inviting exceptionally talented project managers, developers, web designers, students working their paths in IT from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan or any other country (as long as they can speak Russian) to joyfully participate in a boot-camp for future ideas and projects – Tolstoy Summer Camp.

During the two months starting from the last week of June, following the application process and interviews in May and June, everyone accepted into the boot camp program will be able to benefit from the experience and expertise of the Yandex specialists who will work with participants as mentors, as well as from international guest lecturers in digital technology, mobile, marketing and communications. All participants will be eligible to a scholarship, while boot-campers from other cities will also have additional funding to cover their travel and living costs in Moscow. 

With their mentors’ help, the Tolstoy Summer Camp participants will have ten days to come up with their ideas, build their teams and prove to other boot-campers that their ideas are viable. During the next stage, which will last twenty days, survivors of the first stage will hone their ideas, draw up business plans, sketch up prototypes, think of the market and audience and then will need to survive another presentation of their projects. The last stage will give participants time to develop their projects to the point of presenting them to potential investors on the Demo Day in September. We will be there for them and will hold their hand throughout the whole cycle – from idea through planning to attracting funding to launch. 

The Demo Day will see venture investors, seed funds and partners, including SeedCamp, GrowthUp¸ Meta-Beta and Runa Capital, review the finalists and make their decisions about funding. Yandex will participate in the selection process on par with other investors. 

Our goal at the end of Tolstoy Summer Camp is to have three to five strong startup teams with a solid background in technology equipped with well-thought-out ideas and carefully crafted business models, who can speak the same language as their potential investors. 

We are interested in giving ideas an opportunity to materialise and see what becomes of them. Looking at potential investment opportunities together with other venture funds is especially attractive when these opportunities have been created with the help of our own experts and our partners. Yandex is also always interested in recruitment opportunities, and with Tolstoy Summer Camp showcasing participants' talent, skill and expertise, these opportunities will be aplenty. In addition, this boot-camp project gives us a chance to promote our technologies via API in the CIS countries, and possibly anywhere else. 

Tolstoy Summer Camp is yet another step in Yandex’s program supporting up-and-coming projects and original ideas in IT. Depending on the outcome of this experiment, we will keep offering our help and advise to startups in one way or another.

Read more about Tolstoy Summer Camp and apply for participation here (in Russian).