January 17, 2018 | Automotive tech company Delphi Automotive has reportedly shut down its office in Israel, less than a month after opening, according to a report in Haaretz. The UK-based automotive giant had announced in November that it planned to set up shop in Israel in order to identify opportunities for partnership with Israeli startups. In December 2017, the company decided to split, forming Aptiv, the former Delphi Automotive and another company, Delphi Technologies, a powertrain division supplying parts and technologies for internal-combustion engines. The company made the split, in part, to focus on electric vehicles and the self-driving industry, for which reports say it is an important contender. After the separation, company leaders decided there was no need for an Israeli office, Haaretz reports. Delphi denies ever opening an Israeli office, saying in a statement, “We chose to put planning the office on hold during our transition with launching Aptiv, which was completed only in early December. We remain committed to continuing our investments in Israel, which we see as a main source of technology and growth in capabilities.”
January 17, 2018 | Israeli startup accelerator MassChallenge Israel signed an agreement this week with The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), an Indian non-profit organization and trade association, to fund 10 Indian startups, according to a report in Firstpost, an Indian news website. The agreement will see that each chosen startup will get $5000. Deshpande Foundation, a US organization founded in 1996 to accelerate the creation of sustainable and scalable enterprises, will also contribute to the fund, alongside Nasscom. The fund hopes to help the chosen Indian startups focus on their businesses and access MassChallenge resources. The selected Indian startups join other MassChallenge Israel finalists for a four-month Jerusalem accelerator program. A trilateral fund has also been established by the Israel-India Technology Group (I-ITG) to promote entrepreneurship between the US, India, and Israel. The Trilateral fund will invest in Israeli startups and bring those technologies to the Indian market, according to the report. The announcement of this agreement occurs just as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is visiting India. During his trip, the Israel PM signed 9 trade deals alongside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
January 16, 2018 | Four students from Tel Aviv University won first place in the Accenture Israel’s Universities Competition, according to a statement from the company. The first place winners, Gal Meshulam-Lautker of the Faculty of Law and Economics, Mahmoud Meidlij of the Faculty of Accounting and Economics, Matan Marudi studying Industrial Engineering and Management, and Sari Kader of the Department of East Asia and Japan, proposed an interactive virtual store and built a VR-based digital strategy to implement the idea. The students have won a one month at the Herzeliya-based Accenture office, with a stipend, that could potentially lead to a job offer, as was the case with winners from last year’s competition. As part of the competition, Accenture presented students with a business problem the company has deal with in the past — to build a strategic plan for a toy company interested in conquering the digital sales market. The teams were asked to propose solutions and methods of action including planning and development. Later, finalists were asked to present their solution to company representatives. According to Accenture, hundreds of students submitted proposals but only 20 from Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, and the Interdisciplinary Center reached the third and final stage. The annual Accenture Israel Universities Competition is in its second year. The local competition is part of a long tradition of similar competitions held by Accenture worldwide, according to CEO Jacob Ben Adiva. Accenture Israel is a global professional services and consulting company with a wide range of services including strategy, digital, technology, and operation solutions.
January 14, 2018 | Auto alliance Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, also known as Alliance Ventures, announced on Sunday that it was launching a new $1 billion venture capital fund for “next-generation mobility,” with offices in Tel Aviv, Silicon Valley, Paris, Yokohama, and Beijing. The alliance says the locations were chosen based on proximity “to the technology and research centers of the Alliance member companies, as well as to areas with strong innovation ecosystems.” The fund will prioritize “open innovation in new mobility, including electrification, autonomous systems, connectivity and artificial intelligence,” according to a press release. The funds will be invested over the next five years. The first deal will be a strategic investment in Ionic Materials, a US company developing cobalt-free solid-state battery materials, the companies announced. Carlos Ghosn, chairman and chief executive officer of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, said, “Our open innovation approach will allow us to invest and collaborate with start-up companies and technology entrepreneurs, who will benefit from the global scale of the Alliance. This new fund reflects the collaborative spirit and entrepreneurial mindset at the heart of the Alliance.” Renault (40 percent), Nissan (40 percent) and Mitsubishi Motors (20 percent) will jointly fund the venture. Renault opened an innovation center in Israel in 2016.
January 11, 2018 | OurCrowd, a global leader in equity crowdfunding, announced on Thursday that it was launching a new, global $100 million fund for early-stage startups that specialize in artificial intelligence, robotics, IoT, and digital manufacturing. The fund, Cognitiv Ventures, will give investors access to roughly 20 companies, with initial investments in EquityX, an online venture funding platform, KolGene, which does genetic testing, and FreshKeep, an IoT start-up that designs food storage. Cognitiv General Partner Avi Reichental said in a press release: “AI powered transformation is poised to disrupt and automate every sector in business – from healthcare and financial services to agriculture and manufacturing and could create the largest transfer of wealth in recorded history.” OurCrowd Founder & CEO Jon Medved said the platform was thrilled to partner with Cognitiv to “launch a fund that is at the intersection of tech disruption and wealth creation.” Cognitiv is the third fund offering of OurCrowd First, a leading Israeli seed-stage fund. OurCrowd is set to host the 2018 OurCrowd Global Investor Summit on February 1 in Jerusalem, the “largest equity crowdfunding event in the world, and the largest investor event in the entire Middle East,” according to the company.
January 11, 2018 | The 17th annual MIXii BioMed 2018 conference, taking place on May 15-17, 2018 in Tel Aviv as part of the 17th National Life Science & Technology Week, has invited companies to submit presentation abstracts in one of the nine tracks of the conference program this year. Tracks include brain health, digital health, gene editing, and cannabis therapy. This year’s MIXiii BioMed conference, an annual meetup for members of Israel’s healthcare industry and other healthcare professionals around the world, focuses on innovations in the future of healthcare. Abstracts submissions for company presentations are due April 9, 2018.
January 11, 2018 | Israeli startup Bisec has been acquired by CyberProof, a cybersecurity company under IT services and solutions provider UST Global for $5.8 million, according to a statement from both firms. Bisec’s technology will integrate into CyberProof’s platform and Yair Bar-Touv and Eran Alshech, co-founders and current CEOs of Bisec will join CyberProof as VP of Business Development and CTO. CyberProof’s R&D center is located in Tel Aviv’s Azrieli Towers, after being established only a few months ago. The company provides services and cybersecurity solutions based on machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies. The Holon-based company Bisec has developed a platform to help security teams share, collaborate and automate tasks and incident response by using ChatOps Platforms. It was founded in early 2016.
January 11, 2018 | Israel-based pharma solutions company SoluBest has signed a Service Agreement with Pivot Pharmaceuticals’ medical cannabis products division Pivot Green Stream Health Solutions (PGS) to develop bio-cannabis products, according to a statement in Nasdaq GlobeNewswire. Two doctors from Thrudermic, a company that Pivot has announced through a letter of intent that it will acquire, lead the development of Pivot’s cannabis programs at SoluBest and use SoluBest’s cutting-edge lab facility, which is located near Weizmann Institute of Science south of Tel Aviv. According to Pivot Pharmaceuticals’ CEO Dr. Patrick Frankham, Pivot will be able to introduce several bio-cannabis products into the market in 2018, thanks to the opportunity of being able to use the SoluBest lab. Founded in 2001, SoluBest has developed a technological platform to solve the issue of drug insolubility in the pharma industry.
January 9, 2018 | Israeli water tech company Lishtot, Hebrew for “to drink,” won first place at the CES Startup Night competition in Las Vegas on Monday night, on the eve of the CES 2018 annual conference, the largest tech and innovation tradeshow of its kind. The Jerusalem-based startup that develops and builds products to detect for drinking water contamination, was up against 15 other companies. Each had 60 seconds to showcase the technology, which Lishtot CEO Netanel Raisch did by testing two cups filled with water with the company’s TestDrop Pro. The handheld device detects for “contaminants such as E. coli, lead, arsenic and chemicals,” and is being showcased it at the convention. Lishtot says it also developing more products such as the TeStraw, “which can distinguish between different contaminants and concentration levels,” and the TestPipe, a device that attaches to faucets for “real-time advanced water monitoring.” Lishtot was founded in 2015.
January 9, 2018 | Two Israeli companies have been selected for the Ontario-based Canada-Israel Collaboration Program, a joint partnership program by the Center for Aging and Brain Health Innovation (CABHI) and the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA), according to a report from Nasdaq Globenewsire. This program provides Israeli companies looking to test their aging and brain health solutions at Ontario senior healthcare facilities with $250,000 CAD ($200,973 USD) from CABHU and added funding from IIA. The two companies are HeartBeat Technologies, an Israeli-founded firm that has developed an algorithm enabling doctors, nurses, and patients to monitor heart-related parameters and provide care management and Brainsway, a Jerusalem-based company with patented technology for brain disorder treatment. In 2016, the Ontario government signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with Israeli organizations in order to establish collaboration and partnerships in innovation.
January 8, 2018 | The Bank of Israel announced on Monday that it would not recognize virtual currency, such as bitcoin, as actual local or foreign currency, according to a statement from the central bank. In the statement, Deputy Governor Nadine Baudot-Trajtenberg made it clear that “no official bodies such as central banks or governments stand behind them.” Baudot-Trajtenberg said virtual currency should be viewed as a financial asset. In her remarks, she defined the country’s official currency and foreign currency and then noted that “bitcoin and similar currencies do not fit the legal definition of currency or foreign currency”, under Bank of Israel law. Virtual currency is unregulated, digital money usually controlled by its developers and used by members of a virtual community. Bitcoin is a virtual currency that does not work with a central bank or administrator. The value of bitcoin has surged in the last month, according to Reuters.
January 8, 2018 | Israeli startup Intuition Robotics, which made headlines in 2017 for its ElliQ social companion, an AI-powered robot companion meant to improve the lives of the aging population, has been named the Best of Innovation Winner in the smart home category at the annual CES conference in Las Vegas. The small tabletop robot helps the elderly connect to the outside world and keep active and engaged. ElliQ can suggest content to watch, give reminders about appointments, and set up chats with friends, among other functions. CEO and co-founder of Intuition Robotics, Dor Skuler, said in a statement: “We are honored to see the industry recognize the collaborative work we have done with older adults in awarding our product, ElliQ, the CES Best of Innovation Honoree award in the highly competitive Smart Home category.” Founded in 2015 by Skuler, Itai Mendelsohn, and Roy Amir, the company raised over $20 million in 2017, including $14 million from Toyota AI Ventures, the investment arm of the Japanese auto giant. Last summer, the Ramat Gan-based company opened an office in San Francisco as it looked to recruit staff and ramp up testing of its product.
January 7, 2018 | SuperMeat, an Israeli food tech startup developing chicken meat inside a lab, has raised $3 million in seed funding, TechCrunch reported last week. Participating in the investment are private venture capital fund New Crop Capital and venture capital fund Stray Dog Capital. SuperMeat also has an investment from PHW, a German-based poultry producer, and marketer. SuperMeat CEO and co-founder Ido Savir said PHW’s investment “is proof that the food industry is ready to embrace new technology, specifically in enabling food production to further scale and in a more sustainable way,” according to TechCrunch. Founded in 2015, SuperMeat is developing a technology to create ‘clean meat’ in a safe and controlled environment outside of an animal’s body with the idea that it will “revolutionize the meat industry” and “secure a better future for humans and animals alike.”
January 7, 2018 | Israel’s Finance Ministry said last week that it plans to invest some 1.5 billion shekels (roughly $333 million) over the coming years to boost the country’s manufacturing sector in order to increase competitiveness, Reuters reports. The ministry’s director general, Shai Babad, “recommended allocating 675 million shekels towards research and development and technological innovation, 365 million shekels to increasing skilled manpower and 110 million shekels to removing regulatory barriers,” according to the report. “The plan … will help provide the tools for traditional industry to improve human capital and productivity while adopting new technologies,” Babad was quoted as saying. In addition, the Israel Innovation Authority and the Ministry of Economy said last week that their budget for traditional industry would increase from 85 million shekels (over $24 million) in 2016 to 125 million shekels (over $36 million) in 2018.
January 5, 2018 | US business magazine Forbes announced this week that it will be holding its upcoming Forbes Under 30 Summit Global in Israel for the first time. The summit will take place in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem from May 6-9, 2018. The conference will host the “greatest young entrepreneurs and disruptors from all around the world in Israel to foster game-changing ideas and collaborations,” according to the event site, and will bring together approximately 800 people from previous the Under 30 Summit in the US and regional summits based in Asia, Europe and the Mideast and Africa. Forbes Editor Randall Lane said: “We’re thrilled to pull the best of the best young entrepreneurs and gamechangers from Asia, Europe, the US, Africa and the Middle East. This summit represents a true crossroads, a meeting of people who will help run every field in every country for the next half-century.”
January 4, 2018 | The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has formally announced its Unit 3060, an Intelligence Corps unit that had secretly formed in September 2014 through the merging of field intelligence technology units, according to various media outlets. According to the Jerusalem Post, the Unit is comprised of about 400 soldiers who specialize in technology-focused fields. It’s mission, according to JPost, is to “use modern data science for operational and visual intelligence for commanders and intelligence officers to increase the combat effectiveness of the IDF.” Half of these soldiers are career soldiers, and other half are enlisted compulsorily. The unit has a heavy focus on big data, with as much intelligence processed and presented, as possible. The unit is made up of 75 percent men and 25 percent women, JPost reports. The Unit, which reports to the head of Military Intelligence, is sometimes called the “Purple Unit” because of its fusion of blue representing the IDF and red representing the enemy, through their system built to serve intelligence officers in the field. Globes reports that the unit has a data science lab, collaborates with academia and high-tech companies, and have included various tech specialists from other parts of the army.
January 4, 2018| Israeli-based life sciences venture capital firm Pontifax has raised $240 million in a new fund, according to Calcalist, which obtained an internal document from the company. “It is expected Pontifax will invest the fund in the pharmaceutical industry,” Calcalist reports. This is the fifth fund for Pontifax, a company which closed $175 million 2016, the report said citing the presentation. Herzliya-based firm Pontifax, a VC group that specializes in investments in incubation, seed or startups related to life science and pharmaceutical firms, was established in 2004. The firm currently has roughly 60 companies in its portfolio, including Kite Pharma, a cancer treatment company sold to Gilead Sciences in August for almost $12 billion, and ReWalk, a bionic walking assistance system developed in Israel. It is said to have $350 million in assets, according to Calcalist. The VC fund is taking part in the partnership between Chinese pharmaceutical firm WuXi AppTec and Merck Serono to set up a biotech/pharma incubator in Israel in early 2018.
January 3, 2018 | El Al Israel Airlines, Israel’s national airline, announced it will begin nonstop flights between Tel Aviv and San Francisco later in the year, according to a report in Reuters. The carrier said it will begin flying the route three times a week with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft acquired by the company in August 2017. The San Francisco Airport is also about 30 minutes by car from Silicon Valley, home of many of the world’s largest technology companies including Apple, Cisco, Google Intel, and HP. Silicon Valley is in the southern part of the San Francisco Bay area in Northern California. “San Francisco is an important strategic city for El Al. Our target is to take the business segment,” El Al chief executive David Maimon said. El Al began to receive a delivery of 16 new 787 aircraft to replace its current long-haul fleet. The aircraft will continue to be delivered through 2020. Reuters says the company is “facing increased competition from low-cost carriers” including United Airlines, which began flights between the two cities in 2016. In November, the carrier began nonstop flights to Miami from Ben Gurion Airport.
January 3, 2018 | Israel’s Ministry of Transport signed new aviation agreements with 10 countries, inaugurating new air routes with Brazil and Chile and expanding direct flights with a number of countries including China, Canada, and Jordan, Globes reported. New agreements were also signed last month during the annual conference of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Sri Lanka with Switzerland, the UK, Vietnam, Uganda, Tanzania, Jordan and the Dominican Republic. According to the report, Israel was engaging in talks with Laos and Rwanda for similar agreements.
January 3, 2018 | Israel’s Poalim Bank and the country’s prime aerospace and aviation manufacturer Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announced they will team up to collaborate on using blockchain technology to create innovative cyber solutions. Joint research by the two companies will look at how blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, can be used to develop cybersecurity solutions such as “the secure transmission of information between services and supply chains, user authentication, critical devices, and elements that run with no human intervention and additional solutions for the cyber challenges in a hyper-connected world,” an IAI statement read. The two companies will investigate the use of blockchain for secure management and transfer of their information within their own systems and between customers/partners. IAI said it hopes to develop top-notch cybersecurity tech for military and civilian systems that are part of its cyber operations.
January 2, 2018 | Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority has announced that it will launch an online application form for foreign high-tech experts, in order to ease the process for those looking to enter the country, Yoel Lipovetsky, Head of Service Administration for Employers and Foreign Workers told Israel’s financial news site Globes. The form will be available “within a week,” Lipovetsky said. In the interview with Globes, he explained that the Population and Immigration Authority has created the interface with the Israel Innovation Authority. He reaffirmed that he will automatically give a permit to bring in experts if it’s from a recognized high-tech company, according to the report. A company will not have to apply in person or send an application by mail, he says. “He can file applications remotely and attach all the documents.” In the past, applicants had to file papers and wait for months for a response from the Foreign Trade Administration in the Ministry of Economics and sometimes from the Industrial Administration. Permits expire after a year, but foreign high-tech experts have been allowed two years, as long as the work permit is renewed each year, according to the country’s law of entry. In January 2017, the government approved the “National Program To Increase Skilled Personnel For The High-Tech Industry,” with the aim of addressing the estimated shortage of 10,000 high-tech workers in Israel. The program focuses mainly on returning Israelis but addresses and encourages the inclusion of foreign high-tech workers. The system is expected to be online in the coming days, according to the report.
January 2, 2018 | British and Israeli research institutions will team up to work on four joint projects concerning stem cells over the course of a three-year period, the British Council announced last month. They will be awarded £1.5 million ($2,033,175 million) for their efforts by the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange (BIRAX) program, a £10 million ($13.5 million) initiative of the British Council to invest in significant research from the cooperation of British and Israeli scientists. The projects will develop stem cell treatments for diabetes, heart disease, leukemia, anemia, and Alzheimer’s, according to the British Council. The new round partners together British scientists from Edinburgh University, Exeter University, University of Cambridge, and the University of Glasgow with Israeli scientists from Weizmann Institute of Science, the Technion – Israel Institute for Technology, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. One of the projects will have a Weizmann Institute of Science researcher collaborating with a University of Edinburgh researcher to explore how cells lining blood vessels in the body develop in order to learn how new blood vessels are regenerated in damaged tissue. Another Weizmann Institute of Science researcher will work with a University of Cambridge researcher to establish “how mutations in blood stem cells affect their function and will lead to a better understanding of why the blood and immune system deteriorate with age,” the report said. The other projects will be collaborations between Hebrew University researchers and University of Exeter researchers investigating type 1 diabetes. Researchers from Technion and the University of Glasgow will look into a “mechanism that may be implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.” BIRAX began six years ago as a collaboration between the British Council, British Embassy in Israel, and the UK Science & Innovation Network with founders Pears Foundation and the United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA.)
January 1, 2018 | Israeli startups raised an all time high of over $5 billion in 2017, Globes reported this week based on a report released by Israel Venture Capital (IVC) Research Center and law firm Zag. The numbers beat last year’s record of $4.8 billion in 2016, wihch at the time had been up 11 percent from the $4.3 billion raised in 2015. IVC-Zag reported that startups raised more than $3.8 billion in the first nine months of 2017 and more than $1.3 billion during the fourth quarter. The number could be even bigger, as some companies don’t publicize their investments. Globes says three startups raised 60 percent of the funds, which pointed to the trend that “fewer startups are raising more money.” Those startups were medical device company Insightec which raised $150 million, online insurance firm Lemonade which raised $120 million, and 3D imaging company Vayyar Imaging, which raised $45 million.
A PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report shows that Israeli high-tech company exits totaled $7.44 billion in 2017, according to Israel21C. This is a significant increase from the $3.5 billion exits in 2016. Almost half the exits were computing or software, including cybersecurity tech. Life sciences companies were a quarter of the exits. A high-tech exit is a merger, acquisition, or initial public offering (IPO).
December 31, 2017 | The US mobile and tech giant Apple has issued an apology amid accusations that software updates were slowing down older iPhone devices. “We’ve been hearing feedback from our customers about the way we handle performance for iPhones with older batteries and how we have communicated that process. We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize,” the company wrote in a press release. “First and foremost, we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that,” it went on. The company said it was offering a reduced price for an out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement from $79 to $29 through December 2018. In Israel, iStore, which sells Appel products but is not owned by Apple, announced that it will lower the battery replacement price to NIS 149 ($42) including VAT starting the end of January 2018. Apple also promises a software update in early 2018 that will target the battery and its condition. Last week, NoCamels reported that a $125 million class action suit was filed against Apple in a Tel Aviv court. The lawsuit claims that Apple “had a clear interest in hiding the information form users because it would prefer they replace old iPhones with new ones as soon as possible,” according to JTA. At least four similar lawsuits were filed in the US against the company as well. The lawsuits in the US accused the company of “deceptive, immoral, and unethical” practices, the Huffington Post reported.
December 31, 2017 | Sirin Labs, the Israeli-founded, Switzerland-based blockchain firm known for developing a $17,000 secure smartphone for high-end clients — and signing Leo Messi as a brand ambassador — said it wrapped up its crowdsale for the SRN token, Sirin’s cryptocurrency, raising over US $157,800,000. The initial coin offering was launched on December 12 for Sirin Labs’ new project — a blockchain-secured, open-source phone and PC called FINNEY. The devices, built on an in-house operating system, SirinOS, and supported by SRN, are set to feature crypto-wallets, a secure exchange access, encrypted communications, and a P2P resource sharing ecosystem for payment and apps, Sirin Labs said. The ICO ended on December 26 and Sirin Labs launched a pre-order of the FINNEY Smartphone for a downpayment of 50 SRN on December 28. The phone and PC have target pricess of $999 and $799, respectively on Sirin Labs’ website. CEO and co-founder of Sirin Labs, Moshe Hogeg said in a statement that the company was “both humbled and thrilled by the support that FINNEY™ has received during the course of our crowdsale. Becoming the 4th largest crowdsale of the year shows both the need in the market, and usefulness of having devices that can support and secure cryptocurrencies. It really is the first step in bringing blockchain technology to a more mainstream audience.”