Startup nations

tel-avivIsrael has gained international recognition as one of the great hubs of innovation — second only to Silicon Valley — with more startups per capita than anywhere else in the world. Many Israeli startups are also looking global, enjoying the benefits of various innovation ecosystems of entrepreneurs and investors.

This monthly column will take an inside look at some of the tech highlights coming out of this mix, from Israel’s “Silicon Wadi” and other global locations, including the latest about Israeli-related businesses in Poland and the CEE region, and more.

Making miracles happen

One exciting development has been in the field of regenerative technology; where science and technology based in varying degrees on stem cell research help create synthetic organs to save human lives.

This breakthrough technology is set to take a huge leap forward following the agreement recently signed between the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the Israeli Industry Center for R&D (MATIMOP) to develop the transplant miracles of the future. This R&D collaboration also holds the promise of stimulating the body’s own repair mechanisms to heal previously unsalvageable tissues or organs, much the same way that our own skin repairs itself. The Israel-California relationship promises a future of collaborative scientific developments and information sharing, academic exchanges and expanded academic bilateral working groups, all for the purpose of devising global solutions.

Israeli companies have long excelled in stem cell technologies, with global leaders such as BrainStorm developing breakthrough solutions for diseases such as ALS, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. American companies came a little later to the game once the Obama administration lifted strict limits on stem cell research. This collaboration holds the potential to help countless lives.

This mutually beneficial relationship aims at disrupting a number of fields, including alternative energy, environmental technology and business innovation.

Looking upon such frameworks as platforms for global cooperation, in a similar manner in Nov. 2014, the governments of Israel and Poland signed an agreement for Industrial R&D Cooperation to encourage bilateral R&D activity.

We look forward in sharing a breakthrough technology coming out of this new initiative.

Startups, M&As and Exits

To give you a taste of some of the thousands of Israeli startups born, acquired or sometimes even fading away, we’ll shine our spotlight on one or a few each month.

But before we begin, a word on the fantastic start of 2015 has to be noted; this year has begun with a flood of Israeli high-tech exits. Since the start of the year acquisitions and funding totaled above $1.3 Billion. In all of 2014, acquisitions of Israeli companies totaled $4.3 billion.

In one of the biggest deals, Amazon Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) acquired Yokne’am-based company Annapurna Labs for a reported $350-370 million. The biggest financial winner here was Avigdor Willenz who founded the company in 2011. This is Willenz’s second baby having sold his first, Galileo, to Marvel in 2001 for $2.7 billion.

This month’s featured startup: Artbit.

This mobile app enables users to interact directly with a work of art simply by pointing their smart device’s camera at it. Users then get a wealth of information about the piece, including information about the artist, as well as the work’s cultural and historical significance, kind of like the Shazam of the art world. You can use the app in your favorite art museums and galleries with Artbit’s logo.

And a thought for next time:

From a research done by IVC Research Center and ReversExit:

Of more than 5,400 (Israeli) companies active today, only 139 companies can be defined as successful (about 2.5 percent). The indicators for successful active companies consist of annual revenues of $100 million or 100-plus employees. The application of more flexible criteria to include companies with valuations of $50 million or more exhibiting sales growth, or companies that no longer require capital raising from shareholders and are sustained by sales, expands the number of successful companies to below 350. In other words, even with a lower threshold, only six percent of currently active startups can be deemed successful.

Are these good statistics or bad..? Should we take the risk? (ofcourse yes)


Tal Harmelin is the Warsaw-based Israeli economic and commercial affairs representative to Poland.