We wrote about the VentureGeeks incubator on VC Cafe a few months ago, and its plans to set up a $2 million early stage fund making pre-seed investments. In a nutshell, the program provides startups with $20,000, office space, account and legal help as well as a small network of mentors, all of which are aimed to help the companies get to a proof of concept. The cost for the startups is 10% of their equity, which is taken by the fund GeekVentures I as payment. The fund is backed by David Moche, a Florida based real estate investor, and one of the co-founders of About.com.
Since their inauguration in February 2011, little has been shared on the VentureGeeks program or its participants – until now. Yesterday, VentureGeeks unveiled its first five investments in their Investor Day event, following the Y Combinator model.
SixScan – SaaS security product to protect sites from hacker attacks
Yaron Tal and Nitzan Maron both served at the National Center for Information Protection, are hoping to stop the growing rate of site hacking. According to their research, over 150,000 sites were hacked in the first half of 2011, including those of the New York Times, Sony and even the CIA. Furthermore, a research report reveals that 90% of the sites in the world, 270 million, do not use proper security and theoretically prone to easy hack attacks.
Sixscan alerts publishers on security problems before hackers discover them themselves. The engine can also correct the problem as it is detected using a SaaS platform. The cost is only $10 per month, and they hope to attract the SMB market which currently isn’t served by Cisco or Juniper. They plan to scale by using ecommerce aggregators as affiliates.
Lassoit – a more personal way to learn a language
Dr. Jan Himls and Dr. Orly Furman, two Phds in linguistics and bioinformatics, have created Lassoit, an interface for learning languages ??by automatically adapting to the level of the student. They accomplish their mission by first establishing the level of the student through a series of online questions, and once established, they then serve relevant online content to match the student’s level.
The technology behind the project is based on studying the behavior of individual learning and by understanding the student’s interests, whether it be film or sport. The language learning market is worth of $50 billion a year and Lassoit would love to take a small part of it. Board of Advisors of the Company can be found in Jeffrey haunted, the investor behind and Nz’rgik and Israeli Udi Netzer, the founder of Evergreen.
Nogeno – an about.me for artists
Using Nogeno artists can create their own personal landing page, including links to their Twitter accounts and Facebook fan pages. So far 500 artists signed up, mostly from Israel and the US. According to the founders, Eyal Yair and Ron Hartman, the main benefit of the system is the ability for artists to distribute their music and charge for downloads, across social networks, but especially on Facebook.
Sleeve – a cross platform application that turns tablets and PCs into sophisticated social learning devices.
Sleeve is a social network for universities, that through a tablet and PC app, enables easy sharing of files such as digital textbooks or lesson summary notes. It is intended to serve both students and faculty. The founders Ido Volff and Dr Barak Avraham put an emphasis on gamification, rewarding activities in the system with virtual points for contribution. A first collaboration with an Israeli university will be announced soon.
Veradata – creators of a mobile coupons app
Veradata is the company behind Shop Rooster, an iPhone app that shows discounts in various stores throughout Israel. The app has gotten some early traction in Israel with 5000 downloads, and provides coupons based on location. It managed to attract partnerships with 800 Israeli businesses, making it one of the most attractive shopping apps in Israel – combining check-ins with coupons. The company was established by Elran Levy, Oded Greenberg and Noam Toister.
Overall, an interesting set of companies in the first batch of VentureGeek graduates. While incubators have existed in Israel since the early 90s (and potentially before) they have been primarily government backed, and funded by the Chief Scientist Office. Surprisingly, VentureGeeks is the first instance of a privately funded incubator in Israel, and judging by this lot, they have good runway ahead.
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