January 18, 2018 | Palo Alto Networks, a cybersecurity company founded by Israeli Nir Zuk, announced the opening of a new office and research and development center in Tel Aviv. The company’s new operations will be located near the Hashalom train station, the company said in a press release on January 11. The Santa Clara, California-based firm said its Israel team has grown significantly over the past 3.5 years since Palo Alto acquired Cyvera, an Israel-based cyber firm for some $200 million in 2014. The company also acquired LightCyber in 2017 for a total of $105 million, further growing its Israel team as “other teams have grown and new functions are now housed in Israel, including customer support, sales and DevOps.” Palo Alto says the “rapid expansion prompted the need for a new facility that enables collaboration, provides room for future growth, and features great amenities for an increasing employee base.” The new offices, the company said in the statement, “will host over 200 employees across several operational functions, including IT, HR, facilities and finance.” Tel Aviv is the only R&D site for Palo Alto outside of its Santa Clara global headquarters.
January 18, 2018 |Israel-based data automation tech company Sigmento has been acquired by French technology firm Akeneo, an open source product information management solutions provider, the companies announced in a joint statement. The acquisition will boost Akeneo’s position as a leader in product information management (PIM) providers as it is now equipped with Sigmento’s cutting-edge machine learning technologies. Sigmento’s founders will join the Akeneo management team, with a combined development set to advance Sigmento’s technology while integrating into Akeneo’s PIM products. Sigmento’s Israel office will Akeneo’s fourth global location, joining locations in the US, France, and Germany. Founded in 2013, Akeneo’s mission is to help retailers turn product information into powerful brand assets. Sigmento, founded in 2015, has machine learning algorithms that optimize product listings for ecommerce vendors.
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.”
December 31, 2017 | The Tower of David Museum’s new innovation lab in Jerusalem, which was launched in October 2017 as a center to support companies in their development of unique tech solutions catering to the museum’s visitor experience, is now seeking applications for round one of its program, starting in January 2018. If accepted, the team will be able to develop their solution in the lab over a period of up to six months, the museum says. According to the museum, companies that apply to the program should be beyond the concept stage and also have a good knowledge of AR, VR, MR, and 360 technology. After a company submits their online application and is deemed eligible to participate they will be invited to make a live or online presentation of their solution before a professional panel. Companies that are chosen for the lab will have access to industry leaders and creative professionals that will work with the team to achieve desired results. Applications must include a proposed solution, team’s goals and impact addressing their solution, a detailed explanation of the team’s approach to AR, VR, or MR technology, evaluation goals, a progress plan, and how the solution can be used for worldwide collaboration. While the lab is open to all companies providing an AR or VR solution, the museum is also accepting two companies as “wild cards” meaning they “will permit new teams with groundbreaking ideas to enter the lab during one of the existing rounds.” The innovation lab will provide mentorship, a device lab, workspace, a real-time beta site, and groups of visitors / international delegations.
December 27, 2017 | A new plan headed by Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel and director general Shlomo Ben Eliyahu for collaboration with the Chinese market is being promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, according to a report in Globes. A portion of the plan calls for 250,000 acres of land (one million dunams) in the Negev to be specifically held for the purpose of growing crops and produce for China. Ben Eliyahu, who visited China two weeks ago where he held talks with the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, and where the idea was first brought up, calls the venture “the million dunam project.” The distributed Negev land is not an essential part of the land — Globes says it is already leased to some communities under special contracts. The land will now be used to grow particular “premium” crops, which interested Chinese customers will buy in advance. The interested Chinese investors will fund irrigation costs of the farms, with two desalination locations to be built specifically for irrigating those areas. Concerns about being raised about the project by the agricultural sector in Israel because the Negev is a region prone to drought, but the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has still given it the go-ahead.
December 26, 2017 | Chinese pharmaceutical firm WuXi AppTec Group will team up with Merck Serono, a subsidiary of Merck KGaA, to set up a biotech/pharma incubator in Israel in early 2018, Calcalist reported this week. The startup incubator, called Explore Bio, will be situated in the Israeli town of Yavne, where Merck Sorono already has a location. The incubator will evaluate investments, assist with drug development, assess market demand, and offer early-stage mentoring, according to the report. Each Israeli firm will receive seven million dollars in an initial investment from the company. Israeli businessman Mori Arkin and life sciences VC fund Pontifax are also part of the venture.
December 26, 2017 | The chairman of the Israel Securities Authority (ISA), Shmuel Hauser, said on Monday that he will move to ban companies based on crytocurrencies, like Bitcoin, from trading on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Speaking at the annual conference held by business daily Calcalist, Hauser said he would bring the proposal to the ISA next week. “If we have a company that their main business is digital currencies we would not allow it. If already listed, its trading will be suspended,” Hauser was quoted by Reuters as saying at the conference. Israel must find the appropriate regulations for such companies, added Hauser, who is stepping now as ISA chairman next month. “We feel that the prices of bitcoin behave like bubbles and we don’t want investors to be subject to that volatility and uncertainty,” Hauser said.
December 26, 2017 | A class action suit against American tech giant Apple was filed in a Tel Aviv court on Monday, amid accusations the company failed to disclose that its routine software updates on older iPhone devices would slow down performance. At least four similar lawsuits were filed in the United States against the company after it announced that the indeed the updates were slowing down older iPhone devices but that these measures were taken to save on battery life. Users faced with the slow-downs usually concluded that they needed to buy new devices, the American lawsuits allege, accusing the company of “deceptive, immoral and unethical” practices. The $125 million lawsuit in Israel similarly claims that Apple had “a clear interest in hiding the information from users because it would prefer they replace old iPhones with new ones as soon as possible,” JTA reported. Affected devices include the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE and iPhone 7. Last month, an Israeli startup filed a lawsuit for an undisclosed amount against Apple, alleging that the US tech giant copied its patented camera technology and incorporated it into the iPhone.
December 25, 2017 | Israel’s Sheba Medical Center has been chosen by American biotechnology company BioMarin to conduct clinical trials and research of a breakthrough gene therapy product related to hemophilia. According to Gili Kenet, Director of the National Hemophilia Center at Sheba, the center will start enrolling patients in 2018, pending Ministry of Health approval. The gene therapy is said to be a “magic bullet” treatment for hemophilia A, a genetic blood disorder caused by missing or defective factor VIII, a clotting protein. The gene single therapy treatments use viruses to implant new genes into patient cells. An initial trial on nine patients has already been conducted by BioMarin. According to the report, all nine patients stopped using clotting factor drugs to treat their hemophilia and bleeding rates fell to almost zero. The National Hemophilia Center at Sheba Medical Center is an internationally recognized Hemophilia Training Center (HTC,) treating over 700 hemophiliacs a year.
December 25, 2017 | Israel’s Ben-Gurion University has teamed up with auto giant Mercedez-Benz for a new challenge, offering students a platform to come up with new ideas for multinational corporations. Ben Gurion’s Bengis Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation in the Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management has launched its new innovation platform last week with a find the “Next 100 Million” challenge in collaboration with Mercedes-Benz. Defining what the “100 million” is is part of the challenge. According to a statement from the university, the Challenge innovation platform connects competitors to real-world opportunities and offers global organizations a way to present current challenges with new and innovative thought processes from students. Israeli students from various fields and backgrounds are invited to develop ideas over the next month. According to Professor Oded Lowengart, Chairman of the Bengis Center, Mercedes-Benz recently launched its R&D center in Israel and Ben-Gurion University is one of the first to collaborate with them. Daimler AG’s Mercedez-Benz runs 25 R&D centers across the globe.
December 24, 2017 | Israel’s Center for Digital Innovation (CDI), established in 2015 at Gav Yam Technology Park in the Negev in collaboration with the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Israeli entrepreneurs, announced that it was launching a “Healthy Aging Lab” to cater to the needs of the elderly population. “CDI is establishing a multidisciplinary center and simulation laboratory to deepen understanding of the third age, develop solutions, and boost this fast-growing global industry among Israeli innovators,” the center says on its website. Globes reported that the lab was set up with an investment of NIS 5 million, in collaboration with a number of partners including the National Insurance Institute of Israel, the City of Beersheba, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). A number of startups are already operating in the lab to work toward pilot programs. CDI co-founder Boaz Gur Lavie told Globes that the lab was the “first of its kind in the entire world.” He added: “The prolonged life expectancy of today’s 3rd and 4th aged senior citizens has brought upon us new challenges. The market for these initiatives is huge and holds great potential. Now we are simply giving a chance to the great minds of our startup nation, to prove their capabilities in this area as well.” CDI also operates a digital health lab, an education lab and a smart cities lab.
December 24, 2017 | Israeli robotics startup, Intuition Robotics, which made international headlines for its elder care assistant robot ElliQ, raised six million dollars from the Mirai Creation Investment fund backed by Japanese giant Toyota Motor and financial multinational Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp, according to the Asian Review. Earlier this year, the Ramat Gan-based startup founded in 2015 raised $14 million in a Series A funding round led by the Toyota Research Institute (TRI). Intuition Robotics co-founders Itai Mendelsohn, Dor Skuler, and Roy Amir, have developed a robot companion that uses artificial intelligence to improve the lives of the aging population. The company has raised $28 million so far.
December 24, 2017 | The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, dubbed “Israel’s MIT,” is wrapping up its inaugural HaifaTeenTech 2017 program, an initiative aimed at young tech entrepreneurs from Israel and Jewish teens from around the world. The 10-day program started on December 12, bringing 60 teens — 30 from Israel, 30 international students — ages 16 to 18 together for a series of tours, events, meetings across Israel and a hackathon. Over the course of the program, the teens were hosted by the City of Haifa and traveled to a number of cities and spots such as Jerusalem, Masada, the Dead Sea and Tel Aviv, met with representatives of various Israeli startups, and went on a tour of high-tech companies, the Technion and Rambam Medical Center in the city. The participants will continue to be involved in the program through a “virtual technological incubator,” which according to the program’s website, will “serve as the main tool for the ongoing relationship.”
December 21, 2017 | Israeli-South African philanthropist and entrepreneur Morris Kahn announced this week that he was donating an additional $1 million to the Genesis Prize, dubbed the “Jewish Nobel,” awarded to US-Israeli actress Natalie Portman for 2018. The Genesis Prize, established in 2012, recognizes individuals “who have attained excellence and international renown in their fields, and whose actions and achievements express a commitment to Jewish values, the Jewish community and the State of Israel.” Last month, Portman became the 5th Genesis Prize Laureate and announced she would give the money to organizations promoting women’s rights and equality in the educational, political and health spheres. Kahn said in a press statement that he was “happy to have the opportunity to support Natalie Portman in the noble mission to which she has devoted herself.” Portman said she was grateful to Kahn “for his incredible support of the 2018 Genesis Prize theme” and said his “generosity once again reinforces how relevant and important the issue of women’s equality is today – in Israel, in the US and beyond.” Stan Polovets, chairman and co-founder of the Genesis Prize Foundation, said, “The bonus will significantly increase the ability of Genesis Prize Foundation’s projects to influence the advancement of equality for women.”
December 21, 2017 | Israel’s mPrest, the software developer for Iron Dome’s anti-missile technology, announced together with the New York Power Authority that its system would be deployed in a number of utility plants across New York state, in addition to the Niagara Power Project where the tech has been in place for several months. NYPA and mPrest said in a press statement that the Israeli company’s monitoring and control systems for preventing outages would be installed at the Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Project in Schoharie County and the 500 MW Combined-Cycle Power Plant in Queens as well as the St. Lawrence Power Project in New York State’s North Country. The companies said the system would soon be installed in additional NY sites. Alan Ettlinger, director of Research, Technology Development, and Innovation for NYPA said mPrest’s tech, named the Transformer Health Management system, “is improving the efficiency of the field workforce and enhancing safety.” The system, which won a Best of New York Award this year, “uses advanced prediction and smart analytics technologies to monitor all sensor-enabled transformer equipment while also analyzing offline measurements in a single application and dashboard,” according to the company. Chief commercial officer of mPrest, Ron Halpern, said the Israeli company was “proud to see NYPA’s confidence in our asset health management product as expressed through their expansion of our mutual production contract.”
December 20, 2017 | The Israeli Tax Authority is currently in negotiations with Airbnb for a retention tax stipulation that will allow the platform to tax hosts in Israel directly through the Airbnb website, Israeli business daily Calcalist reported. According to the proposal, Airbnb will “collect income tax on any payments to Israeli hosts,” Calcalist reported, which will “negate the possibility of tax evasion and neutralize at least some of the discrimination claims brought forth by traditional paid-lodging businesses.” While Airbnb does collect tourist tax in certain major cities, many countries, like Israel, do not want to give the online lodging marketplace or it renters leeway in taxation. Israel’s intention to tax Airbnb was announced last month by David Shilon, chief coordinator of the Assessment Review and VAT Advisory and Directives at the Israeli Tax Authority. Airbnb was founded in 2008 to offer popular and cheaper community alternative to hotels and hostels with apartments for rent around the world.
December 19, 2017 | Israeli-founded insurance startup Lemonade has raised $120 million in a Series C funding round led by the Softbank Group Corporation. The Japanese tech investor was joined by participating investors Google Ventures, Sequoia Capital, and Thrive Capital. Lemonade, a New York-based startup providing renters and homeowners insurance, has raised a total of $180 million since it was founded in 2015, according to Crunchbase. Crunchbase also reported that this is the third largest insurance investment deal of the year. The company said it would use the funds to “become the first consumer-facing insurer to expand internationally and would be launching new coverage products for its customers in 2018.” Lemonade’s insurance platform is powered by artificial intelligence and behavioral economics. The company was founded by veteran Israeli tech entrepreneurs CEO Daniel Schreiber, former president of Powermat and president and CTO Shai Winniger, a co-founder of Fiverr.com.
December 19, 2017 | Israel and China inaugurated this week the Guangdong Technion-Israel Institute of Technology (GTIIT) near Shantou University in the Chinese city of Shantou, Guangdong province. The new campus of the private research university covers 100,000 square meters and includes “13 buildings, 29 classrooms, 14 teaching laboratories, and 55 research laboratories,” according to a Technion press release. The university hope to teach about 3,000 students in the first decade of operations including 300 postgraduates. It currently offers undergraduate degrees in Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology and Food Engineering, and Materials Engineering and graduate programs in Chemical Engineering, Materials Engineering, Food Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. PhD programs will include engineering and the sciences, “according to the fields of specialization of the GTIIT faculty,” the Technion said. The Guangdong Technion was established in 2015 with financial backing from the private foundation of Hong Kong business giant Li Ka-shing who provided a grant of $130 million, and the Guangdong and Shantou municipal governments which allocated over $140 million for the project. The inauguration ceremony of Monday was attended by Li Ka-shing, Technion President Professor Peretz Lavie, Shantou Mayor Zheng Jiange, Israeli Consul General to Guangzhou Nadav Cohen, Israeli Consul General to Hong Kong Ahuva Spieler, Israeli and Chinese government representatives, and Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and Technion Distinguished Professor Aaron Ciechanover who will be Israel’s representative at the GTIIT. Ciechanover said at the ceremony that “the opening of the Technion campus in China is a testament to the excellent relations between China and Israel and, no less important, to the great appreciation of the Chinese giant for Israel’s scientific and engineering achievements and to the education leading to them.” The university’s new chancellor, Li Jiange, said in the ceremony that “China offers Technion a broad platform to realize its academic excellence. We in turn must learn from Technion and Israel as to what innovative thinking is.”
December 19, 2017 | Israel’s City TLV group and the Singapore FinTech Association (SFA) have signed a memorandum of understanding for greater fintech cooperation between the two non-profit organizations, the global fintech community Finextra reports. The MOU focuses building global business opportunities for the two communities, with the purpose of innovation development and the exchange of new technology-related ideas and goals. City TLV says it “aims to implement the agreement into all relevant organization in Israel,” including Fintech Aviv, The Floor, and the Israel Export Institute, said President of City TLV Shmuel Ben-Tovim. SFA President Chia Hock Lai also praised the agreement. City TLV is a non-governmental organization working to promote Tel Aviv as an international financial center.
December 18, 2017 | Israeli high school student Yuval Sprintz recently discovered a security breach in the Facebook-owned instant messaging and voice-over IP service app WhatsApp, and reported it to the online social network giant, Ynet has reported. Facebook responded by fixing the breach and awarding the teen a $1,250 prize. Sprintz, a gifted high school student from the Israeli moshav of Tzurit, also studies for his computer science degree at Haifa University and participates in the Davidson Institute of Science Education’s Alpha program at the Weizmann Institute of Science. He contacted Facebook through its “Bug Bounty” program in September. The program is intended for independent information security specialists to report security breaches to Facebook for monetary compensation. The breach Sprintz found allows users to add fake numbers to group chats, add blocked users back into groups, and add as many users as one sees fit, without having to go through the administrator of the group, who is currently the only one allowed to add new users. With the breach, a fake user with an exceptionally long phone number can also be added, which could lead to a crash of the app on certain smartphones.
December 18, 2017 | Israeli startup Solo Gelato, a company that has worked to create an ice cream capsule system similar to Nespresso coffee capsules, has teamed up with chocolate and cocoa manufacturer Barry Callebaut for a new project, the companies announced this week. The partnership will enable Solo Gelato to use the chocolate producer’s Chocogelato mixes in its capsules. Testing has already proved the mix to be viable, according to a report in FoodBev Media. The pair’s partnership was established through MassChallenge, a global startup accelerator that provides $2 million in funding to startups each year and is partially founded by Barry Callebaut. Massimo Selmo, the head of global sourcing at Barry Callebaut, initiated the company’s involvement in the MassChallenge. Solo Gelato is led by high tech entrepreneur and gelato expert Barak Beth-Halachmi. The capsule system is to be released in 2018.