Israel’s Internal Security Agency Selects 7 Startups For First Cycle Of New AI, Robotics Accelerator
Seven Israeli startups were selected by Israel’s Internal Security Agency (ISA, also known as the Shin Bet in Hebrew) and TAU Ventures, the investment arm of Tel Aviv University, to participate in a unique accelerator that would allow the domestic security service to tap into entrepreneurs working in artificial intelligence (AI), primarily natural-language processing (NLP) technologies, robotics, and data science.
The project, dubbed Xcelerator, was first announced in May and was aimed at entrepreneurs and early-stage startups who have established proof-of-concept for their products or services.
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The first cycle of the accelerator will last approximately four months. Each startup – selected by a joint committee of professionals from the ISA and TAU Ventures will receive a $50,000 grant from the ISA, with no equity and no restrictions. The companies will be hosted by TAU Ventures in a recently renovated complex within the venture capital fund’s offices, and will mentored by tech experts from the ISA, as well as those from the university and the tech industry.
ISA and TAU ventures said in a statement in May that their cooperation will “offer opportunities to jointly explore new capabilities, look into potential cooperation, and take advantage of short feedback loops.”
“The ISA is already developing and implementing advanced technologies in a wide array of fields. This program is launched with great faith in the tremendous value of the Israeli technology industries, the brilliant minds behind them, and the technological breakthroughs we have witnessed in various field,” said the ISA’s chief innovation officer at the time. The person’s identity is not publicly known, as per policy.
“Fostering these technologies and having the ISA and the entrepreneurs share and exchange knowledge and information between them could facilitate further breakthroughs and enhance our ability to meet any challenge,” the ISA chief innovation officer added.
The ISA is headed by Nadav Argaman and answers directly to the Prime Minister’s Office. The agency is in charge of internal state security, including counter-terror and counter-espionage efforts in the West Bank and Gaza, personal protection of Israeli leaders, securing Israeli embassies abroad and providing security for Israeli airlines.
At an event last week announcing the selected startups for the accelerator, Argaman was quoted by The Times of Israel as saying that “the very establishment of the program attests to a new spirit in the Shin Bet.”
Argaman said that an organization like the ISA, which deals with matters of life and death, “must be at the forefront of technology. This means reshaping the organization’s technological approach and connecting us to the most innovative ideas and solutions that will best meet our needs.”
The seven selected startups in the first Xcelerator cohort are:
– CannyAI, a startup currently in stealth mode that developed AI-based technology for editing and synthesizing video footage
– XTend, which is developing technology for connecting human capabilities and drones
– Cyabra, which says it protects brands and organizations from disinformation, fake news and fake users. In June, it raised $1 million in a seed funding round led by TAU Ventures, according to Crunchbase
– Legal Automation, a startup developing a system using artificial intelligence capabilities to automatically generate legal documents from case materials
– Talamoos, which is developing prediction platforms based on AI’s machine learning and Big Data to track behavior
– AutoPlay AI, which develops bots for automated software products tests
– Clone, a startup leveraging AR and VR tech to develop holograms that can enable users to send a virtual avatar to different environments
Last year, the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, launched a venture capital arm to invest in cutting-edge Israeli technologies. The fund was named Libertad (which means “freedom” in Latin, but is also the name of a ship that carried Jewish refugees escaping the Nazis in 1940) and offered as much as $500,000 for research and development projects.
It completed its first round of startups investments in March and is set to issue another call for applications later this year.