New Israeli startup Capester promises to help stop those jackasses who park in handicapped spaces or who take up more than one space at a time. It does so with a new app. What will Israel Startup Nation think up next?
Is there anything that you see on the street in your hometown on a daily basis which really bothers you? People who litter maybe, or who spray paint graffiti on public or private buildings or who blast their radios too loudly in public places.
For me it’s the idiots who ride their bikes on the sidewalks, especially those new electric bicycles. They ride along as if the sidewalks were meant for them and that we the pedestrians are the ones in the wrong.
They come up from behind you and almost run you over, then yell at you like it was your fault for just walking on the sidewalk.
Then there are the jerks who ride their bikes through the outdoor Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, known as the shuk. They do so even when it is crowded on a Friday afternoon. They do so even on the narrow covered streets. I even once saw a man on some absurd contraption which he rode standing up while he pushed handles back and forth like on an exercise machine.
It is illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk in Israel and there have been recent news reports about the police cracking down on the practice and handing out tickets for it. But actually getting fined for riding your bike on the sidewalk is about as likely as the New York Jets winning next year’s Super Bowl so people continue to do it.
I recently came up with a very simple solution to this problem. In fact, it is so simple that it is genius. I have petitioned the government of Israel to empower me personally to enforce these laws. And I would also like to be endowed with the authority to summarily execute anyone who I catch in the act. You can sign my petition to that effect on Facebook.
But Capester has a different idea. With Capester you can report such things to the police simply by filming them and submitting the videos. But can’t you do that already? Well yes, and no. Just taking a picture is not enough. It must be at least a 15 second video and it must be verified. If you do it yourself you cannot prove that the footage is authentic, at least not without testifying so in a court of law.
With the Capester app you make the film with the company and they authenticate it. It’s kind of like getting a notary public to stamp a document. The cities where Capester has been approved to operate accept its videos as legal evidence.
Leave it up to Israelis, where people generally look at parking and traffic laws as mere suggestions, to come up with this idea.
And a user can remain anonymous. You don’t need to talk to anyone or appear in court. You just take the video and Capester does the rest.
Capester promises that its videos keep the submitter safe and anonymous while allowing the city to take appropriate measures against whoever broke the law. Devised by lawyers and digital security experts, Capester boasts that it “crowdsources care to create better communities.”
Ohad Maislish, 35, is the CEO and co-founder of the two year old company. Capester is based in Petah Tikvah and currently has ten employees. Capester has $2.5 million invested so far from VC firms.
Ohad was a child prodigy. He started university at the age of 14 and met his fellow company founders at 19, when they had all already graduated from college. I asked him if he had served in the Israel Defense Forces’ vaunted 8200 high tech unit from which so many of the entrepreneurs of Startup Nation got their start. Ohad was coy about it and merely answered, “I served in the Defense Ministry.” He would not specify if he served as a soldier or a civilian employee, nor would he reveal any specifics about the work that he did.
So why did he start Capester? Well, as Ohad Maislish explains, it all started when he injured his right ankle in a sky diving accident ten years ago. “I had seven surgeries,” explained Ohad, “and I still wear a special elastic orthopedic sock on my right foot and I still need a cane at times.”
“So I have a handicapped parking permit and it would hurt me personally to see people parked illegally in handicapped spaces and take away a parking spot from me,” added Ohad. “It made me just stay at home more and so it really affected my day to day life. I had to ask my wife to do more because she is not handicapped.”
“I even stopped going out to social events as often because of it. Everything becomes more complicated when you have a disability and when you add to that the parking problem it makes things worse so I wanted to do something about it,” explained Ohad.
“The problem was that you can’t just send in a picture of the parked car with its license plate because it is not official so the authorities can’t use it.”
So Ohad and his friends founded Capester to solve this problem. It authenticates the pictures for you so that they can be used by the police to fine someone.
Capester was first launched in Israel in 2016. It is currently in use in only three cities there, though, Ramat Gan, Akko and Kfar Saba. The company is working on expanding its services worldwide.
So how does it make money? The cities pay.
“They enjoy Capester for several reasons,” said Ohad. “It engages the citizens and has them take part in solving the problem. We call this the citizen’s voice. It also helps to solve the problems for the city.”
Rates depend on the size of the city and the number of users. “We have several business models, some prefer to pay per video and others a flat annual rate.”
And that’s not all. For every verified video which actually gets used Capester makes a donation to the nonprofit organization Access Israel.
Access Israel, established in Israel in 1999, is the first non-profit organization in Israel whose main mission is to promote accessibility and improve the quality of life of the disabled population through improving access to public and commercial facilities, the environment, events, transportation, and other areas.
For now Capester only deals with people who park illegally in handicapped spots, double-park, block traffic lanes when parked, park on sidewalks or block crosswalks. Unfortunately, it cannot yet deal with the problem of people who ride bicycles on the sidewalk.
So for now just sign my petition. My idea may be a bit extreme, but I’m pretty sure that it will get people to stop doing it once the word gets out. And I promise to stop once Capester covers this most egregious offense as well.