Volatility in the markets soared this past week as we approach the end of the first month of 2008, and as we’ll approach the likely reality that the US has already entered a recession. The San Francisco Business Journal asked me to provide a comment for the article “Israel rolls out high-tech stars“. The question was: “How is all the gloomy recession talk in the U.S. Impacting Israeli startups, if at all?”
I responded that while a US recession will impact the global economy negatively, and therefore the Israeli economy as well, I do not think that the impact of the recession will significantly decrease Israeli startup activity in 2008. We might see a decrease in sales as a result of lower spend. We might see fewer large-scale exits. But overall, the Israeli market will continue to grow steadily and startups will continue to raise capital – the talent is there and capital is still widely available for the right projects.
Below are the latest Israeli startup headlines that didn’t make it to the front page of VC Cafe this past week:
Semingo comes out of stealth at DEMO, changes name to Delver
Israel-based Delver (formerly known as Semingo) is a semantic social-infused search engine. Using NLP technology and mapping the user’s social graph, Delver prioritizes its search results according to the user’s social connections, kind of like Facebook…”Since every person’s social graph is unique—much like a fingerprint—the same Delver query will produce significantly different results for each person—as reflected through the collective experiences of each person’s contacts.” – I look forward to meeting the founders on the Israel Web Tour next week.
Israeli mobile ad platform Amobee turns down a $150 million buyout offer from Yahoo (TechCrunch)
According to an article in TheMarker (Hebrew), Yahoo offered Amobee $150 to $200 million to purchase the company’s mobile ad platform. But San Francisco/Israel based Amobee declined the M&A, in hopes to get a higher valuation in the future. This could be a very foolish move in the verge of a recession, or a strength signal for the entire mobile advertising industry. Amobee is well funded, having raised $20 million-$25 million from Accel Partners, Sequoia Capital, Globespan and Vodafone. Amobee’s propietary mobile ad platform claims to provide “precise contextual and behavioral targeting across all users on all handsets for all non-voice related applications and services”. This should essentially allow mobile carriers to serve ads on videos, music, and games.
Yahoo! rumored to buy Israel-based Foxytunes
Is Yahoo delaying the announcement until the layoffs are done? TechCrunch reported:
“The FoxyTunes core service is a Firefox plug-in that allows users to control their favorite media players from the browser. It has a small but loyal following who also use their tangential services (an email/blog signature tool and FoxyTunes Planet, a site that aggregates music information). The acquisition makes some sense given Yahoo recent overt signals that they are shaking things up in music. Last week they launched a new, stripped down, easy-to-use web based MP3 player as well. The technology that FoxyTunes has created could certainly be used to further that agenda.”
Yossi Vardi’s SeeToo moves to public beta
Israel-based SeeToo allows several people to simultaneously share and watch home videos in real time. The site is packed with other social features, including text chat while the user is watching the video with friends. SeeToo requires downloading a desktop application, which saves the need to upload heavy files of video to an online sever.
360Quan gets a $5 million from Israel’s Kolanoo (China Ventures)
This is a bit old, but worth mentioning. Kolanoo, a social network for young Jewish professionals, invested $5M in 360Quan (see traffic info from Alexa). According to Entertainment Asia, O.D. Kobo, chairman and CEO of Koolanoo Group, has announced plans to move the company’s global headquarters to Beijing and expand its China team from 40 to 100.
Blogger comes out in a Hebrew version
Writing in Hebrew or Arabic from right to left has always been a challenge for word processors and blogging platforms. Blogger will now be officially available in Arabic, Persian, and Hebrew, bringing the number of languages supported by Blogger to 40. Related: Blogger discovers the middle east.
AquAgro Fund makes first investment – $4 million for Advanced Desalination Technologies
AquAgro Fund, a cleantech vc fund connected to Gaon Agro Industries Ltd invested $4 million in Advanced Desalination Technologies Ltd, family firm founded by Prof. Avi Efrati, and his son, Nadav, who will shortly take over as CEO. The company employs subcontractors, and raised $2 million prior to Aqua Agro’s investment. AquAgro invests in late-stage cleantech ventures. Its founder and chairman, Benjamin Gaon, the chairman of Gaon Agro and its parent company, B. Gaon Holdings Ltd.. The fund has raised $40 million, and plans to close on $100 million by the end of 2008.
The Electric Car Acid Test
Agassi contends that Israel is just the start. He hopes to expand his business into several other countries over the next few years, with China, France, and Britain among the potential markets. Ultimately, he believes that his company and others like it could shake two pillars of the global economy, the $1.5 trillion-a-year auto industry and the $1.5 trillion-a-year market for gasoline. “If what I’m saying is right, this would be the largest economic dislocation in the history of capitalism,” says Agassi. Related:”Israel: Cradle of the Electric Car“.
More on the electric car… Israel vows to introduce electric cars by 2011
In an official statement, Shai Agassi says: “Our planet’s battery got charged over hundreds of millions of years, and yet we have consumed half the world’s oil in one century. In the process, we got addicted to oil, polluted our cities and altered our planet’s climate … Finally, we are running out of out most precious commodity of all — we are running out of time“. See Also NYT article: “Israel Is Set to Promote the Use of Electric Cars” and Shai Agassi’s blog, “The Long Tailpipe.
Samsung Ventures makes first investment in an Israeli technology company: Israel’s Micro Components
Samsung Ventures Investment Corp has made a multi-million dollar strategic investment in Micro Components Ltd. (MCL), a leader in semiconductor packaging technologies. MCL designs, manufactures, and markets superior packaging solutions to the advanced semiconductors packaging market. Samsung was one of MCL’s main clients. MCL was founded by current CEO Dr Uri Mirsky. Samsung plans to use the partnersip to enable growth in the rapidly developing LED market.
Startup develops underwater acoustic modem
Israel based Sea-Eye Underwater, a startup formed in April 2004, is developing an acoustic modem that it claims could transmit video images in real time wirelessly for underwater communication. The technology is based on ultrasound and is intended to for the transmission of real-time data, video or sonar images via a modem attached to video cameras or sonar, to be used by both divers and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). The company was formerly known as “Swist” and it is looking to raise $2M as of May 2007.
N-trig Releases Multi-touch Technology
N-trig, the provider of DuoSense™ technology combining pen and zero-pressure touch for mobile and fixed computers into a single device, announced that it has enhanced its DuoSense single capacitive touch technology to include multitouch capabilities. The new features will be available in May of 2008. Must see: Check out the N-Trig’s cool demo YouTube .
Aladdin Leads Equity Investment in Athena Smartcard Solution
Aladdin Knowledge Systems (Nasdaq: ALDN), an information security leader specializing in
authentication, software DRM and content security, announced an equity investment in Tokyo-based Athena Smartcard Solutions. Yanki Margalit, Chairman and CEO of Aladdin said: “”Moving forward into 2008, this investment will allow us tostreamline our strong authentication offerings and provide Aladdin eToken customers increased flexibility and enhanced functionality”
Foreign investment houses won’t need Israeli license
Transactions will be through an Israeli portfolio manager or bank. Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On has approved a legislative amendment which will enable large portfolio management companies to operate in Israel without the need to obtain a local license. The initiative is being promoted by the Israel Securities Authority, which has suggested that foreign investment houses be allowed to operate in Israel without a license, provided that they meet certain qualifying requirements