December 10, 2017 | Cannabis strains from Tikun Olam, an Israeli brand recognized as the pioneer of modern medical cannabis for the past 10 years, took first place in three categories at the 2017 Canadian Cannabis Awards. The Eran Almog strain took first place for Top High THC Flower. The Avidekel strain took first place for Top High CBD Flower and Top High CDB Oil. The Midnight strain took second place in Top Hybrid Flower. These strains are grown, processed, and distributed in Canada through a licensing agreement with MedReleaf, a company that was named Top Licensed Producer at the awards this year. Since 2010, Tikkun Olam products have been used in ongoing clinical trials in Israel’s regulated medical cannabis market. They have treated sufferers of medical conditions such as cancer, PTSD, AIDS, cerebral palsy, chronic pain and more. U.S. operations for Tikkun Olam were established in 2015 as T.O. global in a joint venture with Tikun Olam in Israel. There are similar partnerships in Canada, Australia, UK, and South Africa. Tikkun Olam’s mission is to educate the traditional medical community and its patients on the application of cannabis as a scientifically proven wellness product.
December 7, 2017 |Professor Amnon Shashua, the co-founder of the Israeli company Mobileye, a major player in the autonomous car industry which developed sensors for self-driving cars, and sold to Intel last year for over $15.3 billion, was named among 100 leaders in tech, business, and media “who mattered in 2017” on the first annual “The Recode 100” list. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos topped the list and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Apple’s Tim Cook and Elon Musk were among the top 10. Shashua came in at number 41, tied with Karl Iagnemma, a co-founder of nuTonomy, a self-driving startup. Shashua was named for recently proffering “one of the first mathematical models for safety standards for autonomous vehicles,” said Recode, a tech news site owned by Vox Media. Shashua founded Mobileye with Ziv Aviram in 1999 in Jerusalem. Mobileye was known for developing a warning system that alerts drivers of road hazards using software, cameras, and sensors. Since the acquisition, Shashua was named senior vice president at Intel Corporation, and serves as CEO and CTO of Mobileye, which maintains operations in Jerusalem.
December 7, 2017 | Israeli cybersecurity think tank Team8, founded by veterans of the elite IDF intelligence unit 8200, has teamed up with leading Canadian multinational bank Scotiabank to “foster cybersecurity innovation,” the companies announced this week. The two plan to “exchange knowledge, insights, and methodologies,” they said in a press release. A bank executive will sit on Team8’s advisory board alongside executives and security officers of other global financial institutions. Scotiabank’s Chief Technology Officer Michael Zerbs said the bank was “looking forward to our partnership with Team8 to deepen our technology capabilities and know-how, which are foundational to Scotiabank’s digital transformation. He added that the “partnership will increase our access to Israel’s world-class cybersecurity and fraud prevention ecosystem.” Team8’s CEO and co-founder Nadav Zafrir says the company is “thrilled that Scotiabank will play a role in our unique company creation model to solve the big problems in cybersecurity… Their insights and experience bring incredible value to our approach.” Team8 recently announced that it was opening a new hub in New York City. The think tank and its companies, Illusive Networks, which develops deception tech to detect hacking attacks, Claroty, which provides advanced solutions to secure critical infrastructure systems, and the Sygnia, a “military-grade cyber consulting and incident response company” will all base their US operations in the hub. R&D operations for all the companies will continue to be based in Israel, Team8 said in a statement last month.
December 7, 2017 | Wix has advertised for the Super Bowl for the past three years, but this time, they have decided to move in a different direction. Instead of having their television commercial air during the game on February 4, 2018, the cloud-based web platform will push their focus towards digital ads, the company’s Chief Marketing Office Omer Shai told Calcalist. While Shai affirms that the company’s marketing budget has increased, they are spending the money differently and “adjusting where our audiences are.” Shai says that the company also has their own advertising agency in-house and can produce more of their own content. They also have been looking for web designers and developers who can be reached online rather than on television. Founded in 2006 by Avishai Abrahami, Nadav Abrahami, and Giora Kaplan, Wix has run ad campaigns using recognizable celebs like fashion model Karlie Kloss and Israeli breakout actress Gal Gadot.
December 7, 2017 | Israel-based Viola Ventures, the investment arm of Viola Group, has raised over $100 million, the company announced this week, for the creation of a dedicated FinTech investment fund, Viola FinTech. Some of the fund’s backers include Scotiabank, a Canadian bank with operations worldwide and Israel’s Bank Hapoalim. Founded in 2000, Viola Ventures invests in Israeli early-stage companies with “transformational ideas.” With close to three billion dollars under management, the group has invested in 200 tech companies. The fund will be run by Daniel Tsiddon, a former deputy CEO of Bank Leumi, who said it will provide financial institutions “with the optimal response to cope with the fast-changing environment. Viola FinTech accelerates the integration of innovative ideas into financial institutions while providing the necessary resources to FinTech companies as they scale to transform the financial sector.” Scotiabank’s Ignacio Deschamps says the bank is “delighted to partner with Viola Group to accelerate the bank’s digital transformation and find the most promising FinTech companies across the globe. He said the “partnership will allow us to access Israel’s innovation ecosystem, including well-established cybersecurity and anti-fraud expertise by leveraging Viola’s unique access to relevant companies and technologies.”
December 7, 2017 | Israel-based international defense company Elbit Systems gave the Ethiopian government spyware software which was later used to track supporters of the Oromo ethnic group, a report says. The report published by The Citizen Lab, a laboratory at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto says the Ethiopians created an online campaign which targeted dissidents, journalists, and those who advocated the Oromo ethnic group across 20 countries. It reports the Ethiopian government infected the computers of these targets using the PC Surveillance System (PSS), a commercial spyware system developed by Cyberbit, a subsidiary of Elbit. This is not the first time Israeli spyware is identified by Citizen Lab but it is the first time spyware is identified as a method to track anti-supporters as a cyber campaign. The Toronto researchers who reported it in The Citizen Lab discovered a digital fingerprint called logfile, which gave them the opportunity to follow this Ethiopian campaign for more than a year. In response to a request for comment from Calcalist, who published an article on the findings, Cyberbit said, “Intelligence and defense organizations buying the products are required to use them by law, and in accordance with the jurisdiction given to them by law. Cyberbit does not operate its products, and like other Israeli and non-Israeli defense companies, it is not fully aware of the way its products are being used in covert by nature activities by intelligence and defense agencies. In light of this, Cyberbit is committed to full confidentiality with regard to its clients and is not able to refer to any specific deal it has made, or to any specific client. The company’s products aid the national security of countries in which they are sold, and state agencies in such countries are required to operate these products within the law.” Founded in 1966 and based in Haifa, Elbit, the defense and homeland security manufacturer, has also acquired the intelligence division of Israel-based intent-based solutions company NICE Systems for $158,9 million, merging it into Cyberbit. The company has just announced it has signed a $74 million deal with the Israeli Ministry of Defense for a 13-year contract.
December 6, 2017 | Israel’s umbrella organization of high-tech and life sciences industries Clal Biotechnology announced its US cancer vaccine developer company Neon Therapeutics, where it holds a 5 percent stake, has raised $106 million in a finance round. The company had already announced that it had raised $70 million in the round and later added $36 million to bring it to the current total. The company was already valued at $125 million prior to the round. While Neon says this round helps them further their journey towards IPO, according to a report in Globes, this is also good news for Clal because it will profit from the closing of the round. Clal currently holds 70 percent of shares from the immunotherapy company Vedantra Pharmaceuticals and Vedantra has signed a deal with Neon where it will develop technology used to improve anti-cancer vaccine responses. Clal has said that it has Nasdaq offerings for four of the companies it has recently invested in, including Israeli companies Gamida Cell and BioCancell in 2017. One of the participants in this funding round for Neon was Len Blavatnik’s American holding company Access Industries, who Globes reports indirectly controls Clal Biotech. Clal Biotechnology was founded in 1998 and is based out of Ramat Gan, Israel.
December 6, 2017 | An Israeli researcher nabbed a prize worth close to $50,000 last month for his work on regenerative medicine research over the past 15 years at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. Professor Dror Seliktar, who is also the co-founder and chief scientific officer of Regentis Biomaterials, a biomaterials company that develops tissue repair solutions, was awarded the Rita Levi Montalcini Award, established in 2015 by the Israeli government, at an event hosted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in November. The prize promotes “the exchange of scientific scholars between Italy and Israel with funds provided to an Italian researcher to work in Israel and an Israeli researcher to work in Italy,” according to a press release announcing the winner. The award is named after the famed Italian-Jewish scientist and Nobel laureate, honored for her work in neurobiology. Seliktar said receiving the award was “a great honor” and that he was “especially grateful for my collaboration with Tor Vergata University professor Sonia Melino, and look forward to continue researching regenerative medicine technologies in Italy.” He said the collaboration presented “an enormous opportunity to face global challenges while strengthening bonds between countries.” Regentis Biomaterials’ core technology is Gelrin, “a unique hydrogel matrix of polyethylene glycol diacrylate (PEG-DA) and denatured fibrinogen,” which Seliktar originally developed while serving as an associate professor in the faculty of biomedical engineering at the Technion.
December 6, 2017 | Georgia’s Business and Technology University, a private university in Tbilisi, is set to open a new education center focused on Israeli technology. The new hub will train students and graduates and provide employment opportunities in Israel and in local Georgian industry. According to a report in the Georgian news agency Inter Press News, the project is at least partly funded by the Israeli government. The amount was not disclosed but is said to be several million. The hub hopes to complete training for roughly 100 students by next year. The university, located in an area dubbed “Silicon Valley Tbilisi,” held an event celebrating the launch of the project, attended by university and government officials in Georgia, the Israeli Ambassador to Georgia, Shabtai Tsur and the Honorary Consul of Georgia in Israel, Meni Benish. University Rector Mikheil Batiashvili said the “project and cooperation with the Israeli side is very important for the University of Business and Technology,” adding that graduates of the program are expected to be involved “in international level projects that provide high pay.” Benish said the project was an investment in the students who would later have the experience to play a major role in Georgia’s tech industry. “At the initial stage, the trained [students] will be remotely employed at companies in Israel. During the next year about 100 people will be trained,” Benish said according to the report.
December 6, 2017 | Mobileye, the Israeli tech company acquired by software solutions giant Intel in March, has unveiled its newest chip, the Mobileye EyeQ5 for autonomous vehicles, according to a statement from Intel. Earning its name EyeQ5 is the fifth chip of the EyeQ family and is the first to come out after the company’s acquisition by Intel. The chip is designed for autonomous vehicles Grade 4 and 5 (L4/5). While the first silicone chip comes out in 2018, it will be in full mass production by 2020. According to Intel’s CEO Brian Krznitz, Mobileye’s new chip offers higher deep learning performance efficiency. Intel expects the chip to deliver 2.4 DL TOPS per watt, which it claims is 2.4 times more efficient than what the Nvidia tech company claims for its new AI supercomputer, Xavier, designed for autonomous vehicles. TOPS (Tera Operations Per Second) is a recognized benchmark for measuring the performance of chips. As the percentage of TOPSWatt is higher, it produces higher efficiency because the chip produces less heat and is easier and cheaper, saving fuel and providing a greater driving efficiency and range. Mobileye develops vision-based advanced driver assistance systems to help prevent collisions. It was founded by Amnon Shashua and Ziv Aviram in 1999 and acquired by Intel earlier this year for $15.3 billion. The acquisition was completed in August 2017.
December 5, 2017 | Israel’s military and commercial aerospace tech company IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries) announced that it opened a new representative office in Mexico. The launch was marked at an event attended by local Mexican officials and the Israeli ambassador to Mexico, Jonathan Peled, IAI said in a press release. IAI’s executive VP marketing, Eli Alfassi, said IAI “consider[s] Latin America, and specifically Mexico, as an important market, with significant potential, both in the defense and commercial markets.” He added that the new office in Mexico, “is aligned with IAI’s strategy to bring its technological solutions to the customer’s door, offering solutions that answer the customer’s precise needs, and providing real-time available and accessible services.” IAI indicated that Mexico’s arms imports grew by almost 200 percent in four years, between 2012 and 2016, “placing the country as the 2nd largest importer of defense systems in Latin America during this period.” IAI co-developed Israel’s world-famous Iron Dome anti-missile defense system as well as the Arrow III interceptor system for long-range missiles. According to the Israeli Space Agency, the Arrow III can also serve as an anti-satellite defense system. Earlier this year, an Arrow III battery shot down incoming Syrian anti-aircraft missile in the first reported use of the system. IAI also develops drones, satellites, naval systems, and radars for military and civilian use.
December 5, 2017 | Israeli car sensor company Guardian Optical Technologies has completed a $5.1 million Series A funding round. The round was led by Mirai Creation Fund, a subsidiary of Asian equity management company SPARX Group and Maniv Mobility, an Israeli auto and mobility-focused venture capital fund. Mirai Creation Fund, an investor in automotive giant Toyota, is investing in an Israeli company for the first time, according to a statement from Guardian. The Tel Aviv-based company, which develops sensors that will monitor a car’s interior, says it wants to invest the funding in research and development for its new automatic sensor system. The system combines video image recognition, in-depth mapping, motion detection. A statement from the company says according to their estimations, the senor could save car manufacturers as much as $200 million every year. Founded in 2014 by Gil Dotan and Gideon Carmon, Guardian has developed a 3D sensor that works with seatbelts, airbags and other safety systems to protect drivers and passengers. According to the company, it is also a solution to the problem of babies and pets forgotten in cars.
December 4, 2017 | Israeli-based company Ayalon Insurance and Halman-Aldubi Investment House have partnered with Israeli co-founder Uri Levine of the social navigation app Waze, to invest in companies of interest for a total sum of $25 million. Levine intends to invest in eight companies, including public transit app Moovit, pension financial analysis service FeeX, and more, which the fund will commit to, as well. The fund will also invest in Refundit, a new company by Levine. Though not specifically part of the fund, Levine will receive 20 percent of fund profits. Fund founders say that partnering with Levine will “enable them to skip over the selection process and present a ready portfolio,” Calcalist reported. This fund is one of five funds competing for government backing following a tender published by Israeli Ministry of Finance. Levine’s company Waze was bought by Google in 2013 in a $1.3 billion deal.
December 4, 2017 | A group of Israeli researchers from Haifa’s Bnai Zion Medical Center and the Technion, calling themselves Team Prismatix, have won a Discovery Award for promising developments in rapid diagnostics for antibiotic resistance. Team Prismatix is a collaboration between Professor Ester Segal’s research group at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology department of biotechnology and food engineering and clinicians from Haifa’s Bnai Zion Medical Center. Discovery Awards are UK seed grants helping teams and individuals develop ideas to for solutions to combat antibiotic resistance for the Longitude Prize, a challenge worth £10 million ($13.4 million). The program is run by UK innovation foundation Nesta and Innovate UK as a partner in funding. Thirteen teams from countries such as India, Israel, Australia, Belgium, Holland, the USA, and the UK receive awards between £10,000 and £25,000 (between $13,000 and $34,000.) The technology developed by Team Prismatix determines antibiotic resistance in less than three hours. Bacteria are grown on small photonic silicon chips, using minimal volumes, according to the ACS Nano journal where the findings were published. Leading researcher and Technion PhD student Heidi Leonard said in a statement that “by measuring how light reflects off the surface of those bio-chips, we can determine whether bacteria are growing or dying in the presence of certain antibiotics.” Other researchers on the team include graduate Liran Holtzman; Dr. Ofer Nativ, chairman of urology at Bnai Zion; Dr. Sarel Halachmi, vice chairman of urology at Bnai Zion; and Prof. Leigh Canham from the University of Birmingham, England.
December 4, 2017 | Microsoft has leased a new campus in Herzliya Pituah. The software corporation has rented a building currently under construction from the Israel Canada group, Tidhar Group, and Acro Real Estate. A report to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange by Israel Canada says the building will have 44,000 square meters in space on 10 floors with 4,000 square meters per floor and 875 stores and storage rooms. Microsoft will rent the building and adjust it to a finishing level. The company is expected to move its office, currently spread among several buildings in Herzliya Pituah to the new campus. Rent will be a little more than $15 million a year. The three owners who first bought the land in May 2016 paid a little more than $57 million. Microsoft Israel is said to rent the building for office space over the next 15 years, according to a report published by Globes in December 2016.
December 4, 2017 | Mazor Robotics CEO Ori Hadomi has been the subject of questioning during an ongoing investigation by the Israel Securities Authority, which claims it has reason to believe insider trading took place around the time of a May 2016 agreement with medical device maker Medtronic. At the time, the deal was that Medtronic received control of the distribution of Mazor’s spinal surgery systems in the United States. In September, the two companies announced Medtronic would have global control of the distribution. They would also invest an additional $40 million in Mazor, bringing the company’s total investment to $74 million. In May 2017, the Israel Securities Authority raided offices of Mazor after a substantial suspicion arose that information was leaked to associates prior to the public announcement, leading them to buy Mazor securities before everyone else. Senior executives were questioned in the raid and it has now become apparent that Hadomi was also questioned in the investigation as a suspect. Investors were told of the investigation in June 2017. No formal indictments have been submitted so far. If Hadomi was to be found guilty, it would likely severely damage Mazor’s image and business. So far, the Caesarea-based surgical robotics company has not been hurt by the investigation, as Globes reports that since the agreement, its share price has “soared by almost 400 percent.” The strategic agreement combined with the significant rise in the company’s share price and revenue have made it one of Israel’s most successful medical device companies ever, according to Globes. Founder in 2001, Mazor Robotics develops and manufactures robotic guidance systems for brain and spine surgery.
December 3, 2017 | Online video marketing platform Innovid has announced it will buy New York-based data intelligence company Taykey. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Both companies have Israeli founders and deal with the video ad industry. As part of the acquisition, Innovid would have access to Taykey’s technology, big data platform, and 14 web content analysis patents. Taykey’s product development team will also be joining Innovid. Innovid also said the deal would allow its company to provide clients with new data on video engagement including the analysis of the ads within their web and social media content.
December 3, 2017 | Israel may have to adjust its corporate tax rate, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon told a local politics show on Saturday in response to a tax cut approved by the U.S. Senate. The corporate tax rate is already being reduced from 24 to 23 percent, but a lower rate in the U.S. for Israeli companies could persuade those companies to move there permanently, according to a report in Reuters. Kahlon told the Israeli politics program that there are many implications for companies who move to the U.S. and so Israel has to make adjustments. Many Israeli high-tech companies have operations in the United States but research and development centers in Israel. U.S. President Donald Trump says the U.S. tax overhaul could cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent, once both the Senate and the House of Representatives match their respective versions of the bill. Israel’s technology industry makes up about 14 percent of the country’s economic output and 10 percent of its workforce.
November 30, 2017 | An Israeli resolution focused on using agriculture technology for sustainable development was approved this week at United Nations Second Committee, also known as the Economic and Financial Committee, by 141 countries and co-sponsored by 117 of them. It was the highest number of co-sponsors to date for any Israeli resolution, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. The only country to vote against the initiative was Syria; the rest of the Arab bloc — 34 countries — abstained. Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said “Israel is proud to work with our friends around the world in promoting cutting-edge solutions to some of the world’s oldest agricultural challenges. This is an issue that should bring all of us together.”
November 30, 2017 | Israeli-founded social traffic and navigation platform Waze has launched a new feature for motorcyclists. The navigation mode is available for Android and iOS users. Waze now has motorcycle drive times and is optimized to include roads that are optimal for both cars and motorcycles. Drivers can now receive recommendations based on data from those riding motorcycles. This will include time estimations and route suggestions (including narrow roads specifically for motorcyclists.) Waze has also introduced new features that include a new voice command that allows users to start hands-free control by saying the phrase “Ok Waze.” This mode is available for English-speaking users in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Ireland, and New Zealand. A third feature introduced by Waze is a carpool mode suggesting navigation options for carpool lanes. This feature is only available in the US and Canada. Waze was bought by Google in 2013 for approximately $1 billion. It was founded by Amir Shinar, Uri Levine, and Ehud Shabtai in 2008.
November 30, 2017 | Florida Governor Rick Scott is expected to arrive in Israel on Friday on a trade mission with a delegation of businesspeople and education leaders of approximately 70 people. According to a release from the governor’s office this week cited by Florida media, the mission will include economic development meetings with Israeli business leaders, a recognition of Israel’s national carrier El Al’s recently launched direct flights from Miami to Tel Aviv, which the governor’s office said will continue to support tourism and economic development in Florida, and the “signings of multiple agreements between Florida and Israeli universities and economic development organizations to support continued partnerships, research opportunities and job creation.” The delegation will also honor the Florida-Israel Memorandum of Understanding Agreement between Space Florida and Israel, established after the governor’s previous trade mission to Israel in 2011. The MOU promotes research, development, and aerospace and technology projects. Scott said in a statement by his office that “working with international partners like Israel is critical to strengthening Florida as a global destination for trade and to ensuring that our economy will continue to grow for years to come.”
November 30, 2017 | Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba is in talks to buy Israel-based QR code startup Visualead LTD for an undisclosed amount, Israeli busines daily Calcalist reports. Citing a person familiar with the talks, Calcalist said the deal in the works is worth tens of millions of dollars. In 2015, Visualead raised $5 million in a Series B round led by Alibaba. Visualead, founded in 2012, is a “software company focused on the research, development and enablement of IOT technologies using Visual QR Code.” In October this year, Alibaba said it would be opening seven R&D centers around the world over the next three years including one in Israel.
November 29, 2017 | Israeli social community and engagement startup Spot.IM has raised $25 million in a Series C funding round. The round was led by New York-based venture capital firm Insight Venture Partners with contribution from existing investors Altair VC, a Tel Aviv-based venture capital firm, and Norma Investments, a company that represents Russian businessman Roman Abramovich. In total, the company has raised $37 million. Spot.IM says it will use the money to double the size of its team in New York and expand further throughout the world. Spot.IM is a social engagement platform for the online publishing industry, collaborating with publishers to create social communities and comment platforms directly on publisher websites. The goal is to compete with social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Spot.IM was founded in 2012 with headquarters in New York City and additional offices in Tel Aviv.
November 29, 2017 | NFX, a seed and series A venture firm, has raised $150 million for a venture capital fund to invest in a select group of early-stage startups across all sectors in Silicon Valley and Israel, including artificial intelligence, biotech, blockchain, fintech, robotics, and more. Globes reported that the company will consider all startups that “have the potential in them to develop network effects and thus defensibility.”The company’s partners are Israeli Gigi Levy-Weiss, an angel investor and former CEO of 888 Holding, and Americans James Currier and Pete Flint. According to a published report in Globes, the venture firm will invest $250,000 on a rolling basis to early startups along with six months of structured support. For seed and early A startups, NFX will invest from $500,000 to $5 million and work with them through an exit. NFX was founded in June 2015 and is currently based in San Francisco.
November 29, 2017 | Three Israeli researchers have won a top science award and a $100,000 prize each. The 2018 Blavatnik Awards, a signature program of the Blavatnik Family Foundation administered by the New York Academy of Sciences and were awarded in Israel for the first time, in collaboration with the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. They were given to Dr. Oded Rechavi, a senior lecturer at the Department of Neurobiology at Tel Aviv University, for his “groundbreaking work uncover[ing] novel mechanisms of inheritance” for traits and diseases; Dr. Charles Diesendruck, an assistant professor of chemistry at the Technion’s Schulich Faculty of Chemistry, whose work “shows exceptional promise in the growing field of ‘mechanochemistry,’ where mechanical force is used to drive chemical reactions or changes; and Professor Anat Levin, an associate professor at the Andrew & Erna Viterbi Faculty of Electrical Engineering at the Technion for her “ground-breaking contributions to the emerging field of computational photography.” The winners were announced by the Blavatnik Family Foundation in a press release. The Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists are handed to promising young scientists and engineers under the age of 42 and were first established in 2007. The Israeli scientists will be honored at a formal ceremony in Jerusalem on February 4, 2018.