The government has held high-level meetings with Palestinian officials and aided the Palestinians economically, a sharp change from the previous government.
In a letter to constituents, the New York congresswoman suggested she had changed her “no” vote because she had been subjected to “hateful targeting” for opposing the aid.
The fate of Eitan Biran, whose parents were killed at an Italian mountain resort in May, has become an international cause pitting relatives in Israel against those in Italy.
Progressive Dems are wrong to target a defensive weapon system.
Progressives balked at sending military aid to a country they accuse of human rights abuses, angering centrists and Jewish lawmakers who said the United States must support a crucial ally.
Malka Leifer, who was extradited from Israel after a long battle, pleaded not guilty to 70 counts.
Often overlooked, the communities in South and Southeast Asia complicate notions of Jewish identity while emphasizing its malleability.
Six prisoners had tunneled out of a maximum-security facility on Sept. 6, in an embarrassment for Israel.
سالها بود که ماموران اسرائیلی میخواستند دانشمند هستهای ایران را ترور کنند. عاقبت راهی پیدا کردند تا بدون حضور مأموران در صحنه این کار را انجام دهند.
Israeli agents had wanted to kill Iran’s top nuclear scientist for years. Then they came up with a way to do it with no operatives present.
Blumberg Capital, founded in 1991 by investor David Blumberg, has just closed its fifth early-stage venture fund with $225 million, a vehicle that Blumberg says was oversubscribed — he planned to raise $200 million — and that has already been used to invest in 16 startups around the world (the firm has small offices in San Francisco, New York, Tel Aviv, and Miami, where Blumberg moved his family last year).
We caught up with him earlier this week to talk shop and he sounded pretty ecstatic about the current market, which has evidently been good for returns, with Blumberg Capital’s biggest hits tied to Nutanix (it claims a 68x return), DoubleVerify (a 98x return at IPO in April, the firm says), Katapult (which went public via SPAC in July), Addepar (currently valued above $2 billion) and Braze (it submitted its S-1 in June).
We also talked a bit about his new life in Florida, which he was quick to note is “not a clone of Silicon Valley.” Not last, he told us why he thinks we’re in a “golden era of applying intelligence to every business,” from mining to the business of athletic performance.
More from our conversation, edited lightly for length and clarity, follows:
TC: What are you funding right now?
DB: Our last 30 to 40 deals have basically been about big data that’s been analyzed by artificial intelligence of some sort, then riding in a better wrapper of software process automation on rails of internet and mobility. Okay, that’s a lot of buzzwords.
DB: What I’m saying is that this ability to take raw information data that’s either been sitting around and not analyzed, or from new sources of data like sensors or social media or many other places, then analyze it and take it to the problem of all these businesses that have been there forever, is beginning to make incremental improvements that may sound small [but add up].
TC: What’s a very recent example?
One of our [unannounced] companies applies AI to mining — lithium mining and gold and copper — so miners don’t waste their time before finding the richest vein of deposit. We partner with mining owners and we bring extra data that they don’t have access to — some is proprietary, some is public — and because we’re experts at the AI modeling of it, we can apply it to their geography and geology, and as part of the business model, we take part of the mine in return.
TC: So your fund now owns not just equity but part of a mine?
DB: This is evidently done a lot in what’s called E&P, exploration and production in the oil and gas industry, and we’re just following a time-tested model, where some of the service providers put in value and take out a share. So as we see it, it aligns our interests and the better we do for them, the better they do.
TC: This fund is around the same size of your fourth fund, which closed with $207 million in 2017. How do you think about check sizes in this market?
DB: We write checks of $1 million to $6 million generally. We could go down a little bit for something in a seed where we can’t get more of a slice, but we like to have large ownership up front. We found that to have a fund return at least three x — and our funds seem to be returning much more than that — [we need to be math-minded about things].
We have 36 companies in our portfolio typically, and 20% of them fail, 20% of them are our superstars, and 60% are kind of medium. Of those superstars, six of them have to return $100 million each in a $200 million fund to make it a $600 million return, and to get six companies to [produce a] $100 million [for us] they have to reach a billion dollars in value, where we own 10% at the end.
TC You’re buying 10% and maintaining your pro rata or this is after being diluted over numerous rounds?
DB: It’s more like we want 15% to 20% of a company and it gets [diluted] down to 10%. And it’s been working. Some of our funds are way above that number.
TC: Are all four of your earlier funds in the black?
DB: Yes. I love to say this: We have never, ever lost money for our fund investors.
TC: You were among a handful of VCs who were cited quite a lot last year for hightailing it out of the Bay Area for Miami. One year into the move, how is it going?
DB: It is not a clone of Silicon Valley. They are different and add value each in their own way. But Florida is a great place for our family to be and I find for our business, it’s going to be great as well. I can be on the phone to Israel and New York without any time zone-related problems. Some of our companies are moving here, including one from from Israel recently, one from San Francisco, and one from Texas. A lot of our LPs are moving here or live here already. We can also up and down to South America for distribution deals more easily.
If we need to get to California or New York, airplanes still work, too, so it hasn’t been a negative at all. I’m going to a JPMorgan event tonight for a bunch of tech founders where there should be 150 people.
TC: That sounds great, though did you feel about summer in Miami?
DB: We were in France.
Pictured above, from left to right: Firm founder David Blumberg, managing director Yodfat Harel Buchris, COO Steve Gillan, and managing director Bruce Taragin.
During the Cold War, she fought for the rights of others and waged a 16-year fight of her own for an exit visa to Israel. She finally won in 1987.
David Halbfinger comes to the job after almost four years heading The Times’s Jerusalem bureau. “I just can’t think of a more important way that I could contribute,” he said of his new post.
A week before President Biden’s plan is to roll out, scientists are at odds about whether extra coronavirus shots are needed and for whom.
The ability to offer stock options is utterly essential to startups. They convince talented people to join when the startup is unlikely to be capable of matching the high salaries that larger, established tech firms can offer.
However, it’s a complex business developing a competitive stock option plan. Luckily, London-based VC Index Ventures today launches both a handy web app to calculate all this, plus new research into how startups are compensating their key hires across Europe and the US.
OptionPlan Seed, is a web-app for seed-stage founders designing ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Plans). The web app is based on Index’s analysis of seed-stage option grants, drawing on data from over 1,000 startups.
The web app covers a variety of roles; 6 different levels of allocation benchmarks; calculates potential financial upside for each team member (including tax); and adjusts according to policy frameworks in the US, Canada, Israel, Australia, and 20 European countries.
It also builds on the OptionPlan for Series A companies that Index launched a few years ago.
As part of its research for the new tool, Index said it found that almost all seed-stage employees receive stock options. However, while this reaches 97% of technical hires at seed-stage startups and 80% of junior non-technical hires for startups in the US, in Europe only 75% of technical hires receive options, dropping to 60% for junior non-technical hires.
That said, Index found stock option grant sizes are increasing, particularly among startups “with a lot of technical DNA, and weighted towards the Bay Area”. In less tech-heavy sectors such as e-commerce or content, grant sizes have not shifted much. Meanwhile, grants are still larger overall as seed valuations have grown in the last few years.
Index found the ESOP size is increasing at seed stage, following a faster rate of hiring, and larger grants per employee. Index recommends an ESOP size at seed stage is set at 12.5% or 15%, rather than the more traditional 10% in order to retain and attract staff.
The research also found seed fundraise sizes and valuations have doubled, while valuations have risen by 2.5x, in Europe and the US.
Additionally, salaries at seed have “risen dramatically” with average salaries rising in excess of 60%. Senior tech roles at seed-stage startups in the US now earn an average $185,000 salary, a 68% increase over 3 years, and can rise to over $220,000. But in Europe, the biggest salary increases have been for junior roles, both technical and non-technical.
That said, Index found that “Europe’s technical talent continues to have a compensation gap” with seed-stage technical employees in Europe still being paid 40-50% less on average than their US counterparts. Indeed, Index found this gap had actually widened since 2018, “despite a narrowing of the gap for non-technical roles”.
Index also found variations in salaries across Europe are “much wider than the US”, reflecting high-cost hubs like London, versus lower-cost cities like Bucharest or Warsaw.
The war for talent is now global, with the compensation gap for technical hires narrowing to 20-25% compared to the US.
Index’s conclusion is that “ambitious seed founders in Europe should raise the bar in terms of who they hire, particularly in technical roles” as well as aiming for more experienced and higher-caliber candidates, larger fundraises to be competitive on salaries.
Researchers at Citizen Lab found that NSO Group, an Israeli spyware company, had infected Apple products without so much as a click.
The grandfather of a 6-year-old boy who survived an accident that killed his parents in May is under investigation after taking him to Israel.
An animated epic depicting a Jewish civil war and the destruction of the Second Temple 2,000 years ago is being seen as a warning in a deeply divided country.
The escape on Monday was seen as a rare humiliation of Israel’s security establishment, and celebrated by Palestinians. The other four inmates remain at large.
A huge manhunt has failed to find six Palestinian prisoners who escaped an Israeli jail early on Monday morning.
Four of the fugitives had been convicted of terror offenses and were serving at least two life sentences, while legal proceedings continued for the other two.
The 1-year-old twins were separated in surgery lasting over 12 hours. “For the first time, the family can hold the babies separately,” a pediatric neurosurgeon at the hospital said.
For months, the Palestinian authorities struggled to get doses. Now they have the shots, but disinformation and conspiracy theories have led to widespread hesitancy.
The White House played down the president’s remarks, saying the administration had not changed its original proposal to administer a third shot to most vaccinated adults eight months after the second.
On Iran, a subject on which the two sharply disagree, President Biden said the United States was planning to put “diplomacy first” but “ready to turn to other options” if that fails.
A lack of systematic evidence has kept scientists one step behind in the pandemic.
“Even with its vast local talent, it seems Israel still has many hurdles to overcome in order to become a global fintech hub. [ … ] Having that said, I don’t believe any of these obstacles will prevent Israel from generating disruptive global fintech startups that will become game-changing businesses.”
I wrote that back in 2018, when I was determined to answer whether Israel had the potential to become a global fintech hub. Suffice to say, this prediction from three years ago has become a reality.
In 2019, Israeli fintech startups raised over $1.8 billion; in 2020, they were said to have raised $1.48 billion despite the pandemic. Just in the first quarter of 2021, Israeli fintech startups raised $1.1 billion, according to IVC Research Center and Meitar Law Offices.
It’s then no surprise that Israel now boasts over a dozen fintech unicorns in sectors such as payments, insurtech, lending, banking and more, some of which reached the desired status just in the beginning of 2021 — like Melio and Papaya Global, which raised $110 million and $100 million, respectively.
Over the years I’ve been fortunate to invest (both as a venture capitalist and personally) in successful early-stage fintech companies in the U.S., Israel and emerging markets — Alloy, Eave, MoneyLion, Migo, Unit, AcroCharge and more.
The major shifts and growth of fintech globally over these years has been largely due to advanced AI-based technologies, heightened regulatory scrutiny, a more innovative and adaptive approach among financial institutions to build partnerships with fintechs, and, of course, the COVID pandemic, which forced consumers to transact digitally.
The pandemic pushed fintechs to become essential for business survival, acting as the main contributor of the rapid migration to digital payments.
So what is it about Israeli-founded fintech startups that stand out from their scaling neighbors across the pond? Israeli founders first and foremost have brought to the table a distinct perspective and understanding of where the gaps exist within their respective focus industries — whether it was Hippo and Lemonade in the world of property and casualty insurance, Rapyd and Melio in the world of business-to-business payments, or Earnix and Personetics in the world of banking data and analytics.
This is even more compelling given that many of these Israeli founders did not grow within financial services, but rather recognized those gaps, built their know-how around the industry (in some cases by hiring or partnering with industry experts and advisers during their ideation phase, strengthening their knowledge and validation), then sought to build more innovative and customer-focused solutions than most financial institutions can offer.
Having this in mind, it is becoming clearer that the Israeli fintech industry has slowly transitioned into a mature ecosystem with a combination of local talent, which now has expertise from a multitude of local fintechs that have scaled to success; a more global network of banking and insurance partners that have recognized the Israeli fintech disruptors; and the smart fintech -focused venture capital to go along with it. It’s a combination that will continue to set up Israeli fintech founders for success.
In addition, a major contributor to the fintech industry comes from the technological side. It is never enough to reach unicorn status with just the tech on the back end.
What most likely differentiates Israeli fintech from other ecosystems is the strong technological barriers and infrastructure built from the ground up, which then, of course, leads to the ability to be more customized, compliant, secured, etc. If I had to bet on where I believe Israeli fintech startups could become market leaders, I’d go with the following.
Voice technologies have come a long way over the years; where once you knew you were talking to a robot, now financial institutions and applications offer a fully automated experience that sounds and feels just like a company employee.
Israel has shown growing success in the world of voice tech, with companies like Gong.io providing insights for remote sales teams; Bonobo (acquired by Salesforce) offering insights from customer support calls, texts and other interactions; and Voca.ai (acquired by Snapchat) offering an automated support agent to replace the huge costs of maintaining call centers.
BreezoMeter has been on a mission to make environmental health hazards accessible to as many people as possible. Through its air quality index (AQI) calculations, the Israel-based company can now identify the quality of air down to a few meters in dozens of countries. A partnership with Apple to include its data into the iOS Weather app along with its own popular apps delivers those metrics to hundreds of millions of users, and an API product allows companies to tap into its dataset for their own purposes.
Right on the heels of a $30 million Series C round a few weeks ago, the company is radially expanding its product from air quality into the real-time detection of wildfire perimeters with its new product, Wildfire Tracker.
The new product will take advantage of the company’s fusion of sensor data, satellite imagery, and local eyewitness reports to be able to identify the edges of wildfires in real-time. “People expect accurate wildfire information just as they expect accurate weather or humidity data,” Ran Korber, CEO and co-founder, said. “It has an immediate effect on their life.” He added further that BreezoMeter wants to “try to connect the dots between climate tech and human health.”
Fire danger zones will be indicated with polygonal boundaries marked in red, and as always, air quality data will be viewable in these zones and in surrounding areas.
Korber emphasized that getting these perimeters accurate across dozens of countries was no easy feat. Sensors can be sparse, particularly in the forests where wildfires ignite. Meanwhile, satellite data that focuses on thermal imaging can be fooled. “We’re looking for abnormalities … many of the times you have these false positives,” Korber said. He gave an example of a large solar panel array which can look very hot with thermal sensors but obviously isn’t a fire.
The identified fire perimeters will be available for free to consumers on BreezoMeter’s air quality map website, and will shortly come to the company’s apps as well. Later this year, these perimeters will be available from the company’s APIs for commercial customers. Korber hopes the API endpoints will give companies like car manufacturers the ability to forewarn drivers that they are approaching a conflagration.
The new feature is just a continuation of BreezoMeter’s long-time expansion of its product. “When we started, it was just air quality … and only forecasting air pollution in Israel,” Korber said. “Almost every year since then, we expanded the product portfolio to new environmental hazards.” He pointed to the addition of pollen in 2018 and the increasingly global nature of the app.
Wildfire detection is an, ahem, hot area these days for VC investors. For example, Cornea is a startup focused on helping firefighters identify and mitigate blazes, while Perimeter wants to help identify boundaries of wildfires and give explicit evacuation instructions complete with maps. As Silicon Valley’s home state of California and much of the world increasingly become a tinderbox for fires, expect more investment and products to enter this area.
Both new leaders have struck a supportive tone after signs of strain in the longtime allies’ bond. But they still have vast differences on policy.
Israel’s new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, heads to Washington promising better relations and seeking support for covert attacks on Iran’s nuclear program.
In an interview before meeting with President Biden, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he opposed U.S. efforts to restore a nuclear deal with Iran and ruled out peace talks with the Palestinians.
Israel-based AI healthtech company, DiA Imaging Analysis, which is using deep learning and machine learning to automate analysis of ultrasound scans, has closed a $14 million Series B round of funding.
Backers in the growth round, which comes three years after DiA last raised, include new investors Alchimia Ventures, Downing Ventures, ICON Fund, Philips and XTX Ventures — with existing investors also participating including CE Ventures, Connecticut Innovations, Defta Partners, Mindset Ventures, and Dr Shmuel Cabilly. In total, it’s taken in $25M to date.
The latest financing will go on expanding its product range and going after new and expanded partnerships with ultrasound vendors, PACS/Healthcare IT companies, resellers, and distributors while continuing to build out its presence across three regional markets.
The healthtech company sells AI-powered support software to clinicians and healthcare professionals to help them capture and analyze ultrasound imagery — a process which, when done manually, requires human expertise to visually interpret scan data. So DiA touts its AI technology as “taking the subjectivity out of the manual and visual estimation processes being performed today”.
It has trained AIs to assess ultrasound imagery so as to automatically hone in on key details or identify abnormalities — offering a range of products targeted at different clinical requirements associated with ultrasound analysis, including several focused on the heart (where its software can, for example, be used to measure and analyze aspects like ejection fraction; right ventricle size and function; plus perform detection assistance for coronary disease, among other offerings).
It also has a product that leverages ultrasound data to automate measurement of bladder volume.
DiA claims its AI software imitates the way the human eye detects borders and identifies motion — touting it as an advance over “subjective” human analysis that also brings speed and efficiency gains.
“Our software tools are supporting tool for clinicians needing to both acquiring the right image and interpreting ultrasound data,” says CEO and co-founder Hila Goldman-Aslan.
DiA’s AI-based analysis is being used in some 20 markets currently — including in North America and Europe (in China it also says a partner gained approval for use of its software as part of their own device) — with the company deploying a go-to-market strategy that involves working with channel partners (such as GE, Philips and Konica Minolta) which offer the software as an add on on their ultrasound or PACS systems.
Per Goldman-Aslan, some 3,000+ end-users have access to its software at this stage.
“Our technology is vendor neutral and cross platform therefore runs on any ultrasound device or healthcare IT systems. That is why you can see we have more than 10 partnerships with both device companies as well as healthcare IT/PACS companies. There is no other startup in this space I know that has these capabilities, commercial traction or many FDA/CE AI-based solutions,” she says, adding: “Up to date we have 7 FDA/CE approved solutions for cardiac and abdominal areas and more are on the way.”
An AI’s performance is of course only as good as the data-set it’s been trained on. And in the healthcare space efficacy is an especially crucial factor — given that any bias in training data could lead to a flawed model which misdiagnoses or under/over-estimates disease risks in patient groups who were not well represented in the training data.
Asked about how its AIs were trained to be able to spot key details in ultrasound imagery, Goldman-Aslan told TechCrunch: “We have access to hundreds of thousands ultrasound images through many medical facilities therefore have the ability to move fast from one automatic area to another.”
“We collect diverse population data with different pathology, as well as data from various devices,” she added.
“There is a Phrase ‘Garbage in Garbage out’. The key is not to bring garbage in,” she also told us. “Our data sets are tagged and classified by several physicians and technicians, each are experts with many years on experience.
“We also have a strong rejection system that rejects images that was taken incorrectly. This is how we overcome the subjectivity of how data was acquired.”
It’s worth noting that the FDA clearances obtained by DiA are 510(k) Class II approvals — and Goldman-Aslan confirmed to us that it has not (and does not intend) to apply for Premarket Approval (PMA) for its products from the FDA.
The 510(k) route is widely used for gaining approval for putting many types of medical devices into the US market. However it has been criticized as a light-touch regime — and certainly does not entail the same level of scrutiny as the more rigorous PMA process.
The wider point is that regulation of fast-developing AI technologies tends to lag behind developments in how they’re being applied — including as they push increasingly into the healthcare space where there’s certainly huge promise but also serious risks if they fail to live up to the glossy marketing — meaning there is still something of a gap between the promises made by device makers and how much regulatory oversight their tools actually get.
In the European Union, for example, the CE scheme — which sets out some health, safety and environmental standards for devices — can simply require a manufacturer to self declare conformity, without any independent verification they’re actually meeting the standards they claim, although some medical devices can require a degree of independent assessment of conformity under the CE scheme. But it’s not considered a rigorous regime for regulating the safety of novel technologies like AI.
Hence the EU is now working on introducing an additional layer of conformity assessments specifically for applications of AI deemed ‘high risk’ — under the incoming Artificial Intelligence Act.
Healthcare use-cases, like DiA’s AI-based ultrasound analysis, would almost certainly fall under that classification so would face some additional regulatory requirements under the AIA. For now, though, the on-the-table proposal is being debated by EU co-legislators and a dedicated regulatory regime for risky applications of AI remains years out of coming into force in the region.
Jewish activists say they are exercising their right to free worship at a site holy to Jews and Muslims. But the change upsets a longstanding compromise aimed at staving off conflict.
Up a mountain in the West Bank, several hundred villagers practice an ancient Israelite religion while maintaining an ambiguous national identity.
Millions will be funneled to impoverished families under an agreement reached by the United Nations and Qatar, a step forward in firming up a cease-fire with Israel.
One of the most vaccinated societies, Israel now has one of the highest infection rates in the world, raising questions about the vaccine’s efficacy.
We are brainstorming a new solution to a widespread challenge in many countries: How to develop a self-sustaining, independent local tech ecosystem. We propose that governments should systematically support funding for their diaspora founders, not just founders locally.
There are three main players in any tech ecosystem:
- The first are founders who want to build companies and need funding. In many ecosystems outside of the major tech hubs, founders face cultural, legal, reputational and other hurdles to building a successful tech company. As a result, many of them emigrate to the U.S. Immigrants contribute to the success of the U.S. innovation economy at a vastly disproportionate rate.
- Next are VC firms looking for founders. In a very small number of geographies, there is no shortage of VC funds (NY, CA, Boston, Israel, Beijing). But in most cities in the world, there is only a relatively small number of VC funds.
- Then you have national and local governmental organizations interested in promoting economic growth and job creation. They particularly want to see a thriving tech ecosystem generating high-paid jobs.
Our proposal is that many governments that are not major tech hubs (i.e., most countries excluding the U.S., China, Israel and India) should stop restricting themselves to supporting locally domiciled VC funds.
Many countries’ governments (Canada, France, etc.) have created or supported funds to invest in local VC managers. Usually, governments have a two-part goal: Achieve good returns and generate jobs. However, in many cases, these VC funds have failed on one or both counts.
There is a reason the definitive book on the topic has such a depressing title: “Boulevard of Broken Dreams: Why Public Efforts to Boost Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Have Failed — and What to Do about It,” by my former professor, Josh Lerner, head of the entrepreneurial management unit and the Jacob H. Schiff Professor of Investment Banking at Harvard Business School.
Silicon Valley, Singapore, Tel Aviv ― the global hubs of entrepreneurial activity ―all bear the marks of government investment. Yet, for every public intervention that spurs entrepreneurial activity, there are many failed efforts that waste untold billions in taxpayer dollars … [The book] reveals the common flaws undermining far too many programs ― poor design, a lack of understanding for the entrepreneurial process, and implementation problems.
Our proposal is that many governments that are not major tech hubs (i.e., most countries excluding the U.S., China, Israel and India) should stop restricting themselves to supporting locally domiciled VC funds. Instead, they should consider investing in VC funds that invest in their diaspora.
We argue that this benefits the home country in three ways:
Remittances: Entrepreneurs will send money home to their families.
Brain gain: If you look at the leaders of the tech ecosystem in most countries, you will see a very disproportionate number of people who have education and work experience abroad, especially in the U.S. Diaspora entrepreneurs bring the knowledge and understanding acquired outside the country that may help them see possibilities not apparent to people who have not lived elsewhere. On the other hand, these entrepreneurs often encounter entrenched attitudes, resentment from non-migrants, and administrative barriers in bringing money, materials and equipment from abroad.
Job creation: Even if a French emigrant starts their business in New York, when they expand, France will be a logical place for a European HQ. In addition, as the firm grows, there are many functions they may set up in their home country, such as engineering, QA and customer support.
The private sector has already identified this opportunity. In New York City, there already exist numerous VC funds with particular interest in certain diasporas. For Israel, we have Elevator Fund, Hanaco, Innovation Endeavors, JANVEST Capital Partners, Pereg Ventures, Team8, numerous others. See “The ultimate guide to US investment in Israeli startups.”
Governments could model these efforts on leading global public/private organizations that have supported diaspora entrepreneurs in many other ways.
Networking, mentoring and training: Governments can offer opportunities for diaspora and local business leaders to meet one another and discuss potential business and investment opportunities in the homeland. Many of these groups also offer startup services such as market research, business plan advisory, matching with seasoned executives and registering a business. A few such groups are the African Diaspora Network (ADN), The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) (Southeast Asia), Advance (Australia) based in New York, C100 (focused on Canadian tech leaders), GlobalScot, Irish Executive Mentorship Program and Red de Talentos Mexicanos.
Investment (almost entirely in the home country): Investment is typically in the form of pooled private and public funds, or matching grants, and typically requires a physical presence in the home country. A few such organizations include:
- The African Foundation for Development (AFFORD) was founded in 1994 as a nonprofit organization by Africans living in the U.K. to help expatriates there create wealth and jobs back home. Its investment activities include the Diaspora Finance Initiative (DFI), AFFORD Diaspora Grants and the AFFORD Business Club.
- Moldova has a Pare 1+1 program that offers funding and entrepreneurial training to immigrants (and returnees) into Moldova.
- Chile Global Ventures (part of Fundación Chile) finances startups through its network of over 100 influential Chileans living in the U.S., Canada and Europe. They invest in Chilean startups or companies abroad founded by Chileans.
- Ecuador’s Fund El Cucayo provides risk capital in a matching-funding format, 50-50 or 25-75, to returning Ecuadorian entrepreneurs in Ecuador.
Recruiting new citizens: The Canadian Startup Visa Program is great for recruiting international talent. This is an enormous opportunity for Canada to further leverage its historic openness to immigrants. From my point of view as an American, our history of welcoming immigrants (including my French father) is one of our greatest advantages compared to our geopolitical rivals. We’re fools if we don’t aggressively leverage this unique asset.
So here’s our question: Which forward-thinking governments are open to the idea of supporting funding to their diaspora? In our conversations with some senior government officials outside of the U.S., what we’ve heard is, “We love the idea, but it would be difficult to get political support for anything that involves sending money abroad.”
Who can surmount this challenge?
In March, Brex launched Instant Payouts for Shopify sellers using the startup’s technology.
The results were impressive enough that by April, Brex co-founders Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi participated in Weav’s $4.3 million seed round as strategic angel investors.
Over the past few months, the pair determined that Weav’s technology — and team — was too good to share. So today, the fintech is announcing that it is acquiring one-year-old Weav for $50 million in its first significant acquisition, TechCrunch has learned exclusively.
Interestingly, the deal was forged without the founders of either company having met — which may have been more unusual before the COVID-19 pandemic but is likely more commonplace these days. (Although they have since met.) Brex has previously made ‘acquihires’ but has not previously acquired both a company’s team and technology.
Brex started working with Weav “pretty early on” in the company’s life as a partner, Dubugras said.
“We were so impressed with [CEO] Nadav [Lidor] and his team, how fast they were building and how good the technology is, that we wanted to expand to a more strategic partnership,” he told TechCrunch. “Then, we started talking about an acquisition.”
TechCrunch talked with Dubugras and Weav CEO and co-founder Lidor to find out the details of the deal, and why it’s significant for both companies.
For one, as part of the acquisition, Brex will be expanding its global presence by building an “innovation hub” and hiring employees in Israel beyond Weav’s nine-person team, which is located in Israel and New York. CEO Lidor will head up Brex’s new Israeli office.
Besides expanding its global reach, the technology that Brex is acquiring will help accelerate the fintech’s connectivity of its platform, Dubugras said. Currently, Brex offers credit cards, business cash accounts, spend management and bill pay software together in a single dashboard for its customers. Its goal is to continue expanding its product and services portfolio to become “a fully-integrated and holistic financial platform for businesses.”
“Weav’s technology helps make Brex even better for our customers,” he said.
Founded last year by engineers Ambika Acharya, Avikam Agur and Lidor after participating in the W20 YC batch, Weav was among the wave of fintech infrastructure companies that aimed to give fintechs and financial institutions a boost. Specifically, Weav’s embedded technology was designed to give organizations access to “real time, user-permissioned” commerce data that they could use to create new financial products for small businesses.
Its products will allow customers to connect to multiple platforms with a single API that was developed specifically for the commerce platforms that businesses use to sell products and accept payments. Weav has operated under the premise that allowing companies to build and embed new financial products creates new opportunities for e-commerce merchants, creators and other entrepreneurs.
Since its inception last year, Weav’s API call volume has grown by 300% each month.
The increased adoption of cloud and SaaS technologies has led to data being stored in a variety of disparate systems. Weav’s API aims to build digital connections that enable automatic sharing and analysis, thus (as mentioned above) allowing commerce platforms to access their customers’ standardized transaction data in real time. This is important to Brex because the premise is that by using Weav, businesses can get financial services and new products “more quickly and precisely.”
“We want to build this all-in-one finance platform,” Dubugras told TechCrunch. “That was already the direction we were headed with the partnership but this acquisition helps us so that we can build a better integration across all our financial products, and we can do more, and a lot faster than what we were originally planning.”
For example, he added, Brex integrates with platforms such as Shopify. With the acquisition of Weav, it intends to build more lending, visualization and insights products for its customers.
“The Weav team will basically manage any third-party integration,” Dubugras said, “so that Brex can be your financial operating system no matter where your data is. You can have everything in one place.”
Lidor admits that Weav did not expect to be exiting so soon after founding. But the companies found themselves on the same page, he said.
“Our goal has always been to connect businesses, creators, and other entrepreneurs with fintech to expand financial access, and this aligns with Brex’s mission,” Lidor added. “After working with Henrique and Pedro, we realized they couldn’t be a better partner. We too were so impressed with the Brex team, and had a great time learning from them, and building with them.”
The company did not disclose its valuation at the time of its $4.3 million seed round earlier this year. The $50 million price tag represents a “healthy multiple for all involved,” Dubugras said.
The expansion into Israel is also exciting to the Brex team, which went remote last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic with operations in the United States, Canada and Brazil.
Founded in 2017, San Francisco-based Brex earlier this year was valued at $7.4 billion after raising a $425 million Series D led by Tiger Global. The company has raised $1.2 billion in debt and equity financing, according to Crunchbase data.
Earlier this year, the company announced it had put together a new service called Brex Premium that costs $49 per month.
“The number of premium subscribers that we now have definitely blew away our expectations,” Dubugras said.
In February, Brex was the latest fintech to apply for a bank charter.
The company, which sells a credit card tailored for startups, with Emigrant Bank currently acting as the issuer, had submitted an application with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Utah Department of Financial Institutions (UDFI) to establish Brex Bank.
Earlier this month, the company said it would voluntarily withdraw its bank charter and federal deposit insurance applications.
“This will permit us to modify and strengthen our application and resubmit at a later date,” the company said. “We appreciate the support and thoughtful guidance from the Utah DFI and FDIC.”
We’re quick to celebrate the extraordinary victories of Israel’s multiplying cybersecurity unicorns, but every success story must start somewhere. The early days of any young startup decide how successful it can be, which is why we’ve developed a focused, value-add program to support cybersecurity founders during this most critical stage and maximize their potential in building market-leading companies.
However, the early stages of cybersecurity company-building are often shrouded in mystery, only coming into the light for fundraising and feature announcements. This leaves many entrepreneurs we speak with asking what exactly cybersecurity companies are achieving behind the curtain to earn these huge victories.
Though every company’s journey is unique, we can tease out trends and patterns to establish performance benchmarks for the cybersecurity ecosystem as a whole. To most entrepreneurs, however, the sensitive data required to understand the early success of a company is often unavailable or obscured. Moreover, the industry has yet to formally define proxies for growth and momentum beyond fundraising — leaving cybersecurity founders aiming for landmarks without guideposts.
When it comes to contracts, timing can provide important insight into the quality and performance of the sales pipeline. On average, successful companies will have closed their first paying customers in the U.S. within 12 months of their seed round.
Entrepreneurs require guideposts to aspire to when building large companies, and critical customer and revenue expectations can be best established by looking at what already successful cybersecurity companies have accomplished. Such metrics have been previously established for wider areas of technology, such as SaaS.
Leveraging our experience and resources, we collect this knowledge to keep our founders informed with the most up-to-date cybersecurity-specific metrics for long-term and large-scale growth. We hope that sharing these unique insights into early-stage cybersecurity companies — based on our own portfolio companies’ average performance — will help entrepreneurs in the wider Israeli ecosystem more confidently build their budgets and roadmaps with industry evidence.
What should revenue look like over the first few years?
Though today’s investors are growing more aggressive, $500,000 in annual recurring revenue (ARR) is a traditional baseline requirement for a successful Series A from strong investors, and hitting that mark quickly should remain every entrepreneur’s goal. Hitting this target indicates product-market fit and customer willingness to commit to your solution.
Discounting variances in pricing, the best companies we’ve seen are able to reach the $500,000 benchmark in less than 18 months. From there, top-performing companies can expect to gain momentum and reach $1 million in ARR in 18 to 24 months. Such momentum is contingent on a number of factors for Israeli cybersecurity entrepreneurs, but growth is mainly reliant on how well founders connect with relevant customers outside the Israeli market.
This charade doesn’t leave anyone safer. It’s gone on long enough.
The godfathers of “Woke Inc.” stumble in the Middle East.
Siga OT Solutions, an Israeli cybersecurity startup that helps organizations secure their operations by monitoring the raw electric signals of critical industrial assets, has raised $8.1 million in Series B funding.
Siga’s SigaGuard says its technology, used by Israel’s critical water facilities and the New York Power Authority, is unique in that rather than monitoring the operational network, it uses machine learning and predictive analysis to “listen” to Level 0 signals. These are typically made up of components and sensors that receive electrical signals, rather than protocols or data packets that can be manipulated by hackers.
By monitoring Level 0, which Siga describes as the “richest and most reliable level of process data within any operational environment,” the company can detect cyberattacks on the most critical and vulnerable physical assets of national infrastructures. This, it claims, ensures operational resiliency even when hackers are successful in manipulating the logic of industrial control system (ICS) controllers.
Amir Samoiloff, co-founder and CEO of Siga, says: “Level 0 is becoming the major axis in the resilience and integrity of critical national infrastructures worldwide and securing this level will become a major element in control systems in the coming years.”
The company’s latest round of funding — led by PureTerra Ventures, with investment from Israeli venture fund SIBF, Moore Capital, and Phoenix Contact — comes amid an escalation in attacks against operational infrastructure. Israel’s water infrastructure was hit by three known cyberattacks in 2020 and these were followed by an attack on the water system of a city in Florida that saw hackers briefly increase the amount of sodium hydroxide in Oldsmar’s water treatment system.
The $8.1 million investment lands three years after the startup secured $3.5 million in Series A funding. The company said it will use the funding to accelerate its sales and strategic collaborations internationally, with a focus on North America, Europe, Asia, and the United Arab Emirates.
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Israel’s Jewish and Palestinian communities looked past each other until violence and bloodshed forced a reckoning.
We support the company’s decision to end the sale of its ice cream in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Fireblocks, an infrastructure provider for digital assets, has raised $310 million in a Series D round of funding that tripled the company’s valuation to $2.2 billion in just over five months.
Sequoia Capital, Stripes and Spark Capital co-led Fireblocks’ latest round, which also included participation from Coatue, DRW VC and SCB 10X – the venture arm of Thailand’s oldest bank – and Siam Commercial Bank. The latter is the third global bank to invest in Fireblocks in addition to the Bank of New York (BNY) Mellon and SVB Capital.
In February, the New York-based startup raised $133 million in a Series C round at a $700 million valuation. The latest financing brings Fireblocks’ total raised since its 2018 inception to $489 million. And as for Fireblocks’ valuation boost, the growth correlates with its increase in customers and ARR this year, according to CEO and co-founder Michael Shaulov.
Since January, Fireblocks has seen its customer base increase to about 500 compared to 150 in January. Its ARR (annual recurring revenue) is also up – by 350% so far in 2021 compared to 2020. Last year, ARR rose by 450% compared to 2019.
“We expect to end the year up 500%,” Shaulov said. “We’ve already adjusted our revenue predictions for 2021 three times.”
Put simply, Fireblocks aims to offer financial institutions an all-in-one platform to run a digital asset business, providing them with infrastructure to store, transfer and issue digital assets. In particular, Fireblocks provides custody to institutional investors and has secured the transfer of over $1 trillion in digital assets over time.
Fireblocks launched out of stealth mode in June of 2019 and has since opened offices in the United Kingdom, Israel, Hong Kong, Singapore, France and the DACH region. Today, it has over 500 financial institutions as customers – a mix of businesses that already support crypto and digital assets and those that are considering entering the space. Customers include global banks, crypto-native exchanges, lending desks, hedge funds, OTC desks as well as companies such as Revolut, BlockFi, Celsius, PrimeTrust, Galaxy Digital, Genesis Trading, crypto.com and eToro among others.
Of those 500 institutions, Fireblocks is working with 70 banks that are looking to join the cryptocurrency space, and start platforming their infrastructure, according to Shaulov. Siam Commercial bank, for example, is using the company’s infrastructure to transform into a blockchain-based bank.
“Our platform creates highly secure wallets for cryptocurrencies and digital assets, where institutions can store their funds or their customer funds, and also get security insurance,” he said.
Fireblocks’ issuance and tokenization platform allows for the creation of asset-backed tokens.
“We handle all the security or compliance, all the policies and workflows,” Shaulov said. “Basically all the complicated stuff you need to do as a business when you want to start working with this new technology. So it’s a bit like ‘Shopify for crypto.’ ”
Sequoia Partner Ravi Gupta is naturally bullish on the company, describing Fireblocks as “the leading back-end infrastructure for crypto products.”
“The team has the potential to build a large, enduring business serving crypto-native companies, consumer fintech companies, and traditional financial institutions alike,” he told TechCrunch. “Their growth has been tremendous, and the quality of their product and customer sentiment are remarkable.”
Fireblocks has also started to see businesses outside of what would be identified as fintech or finance show interest in its platform such as e-commerce websites that are looking to create NFTs on the back of their merchandise.
The Fireblocks platform, Shaulov said, helps spread the expansion of digital asset use cases beyond bitcoin into payments, gaming, NFTs, digital securities and “ultimately allows any business to become a digital asset business.”
What that means is that Fireblocks’ technology can be white labeled for crypto custody offerings, “so that new and established financial institutions can implement direct custody on their own without having to rely on third parties,” the company says.
Shaulov emphasizes Fireblocks’ commitment to staying an independent company after a wave of consolidation in the space. Earlier this year, PayPal announced its plans to acquire Curv, a cryptocurrency startup based in Tel Aviv, Israel. Then in early May, bitcoin-focused Galaxy Digital Holdings Ltd. said it agreed to buy BitGo Inc. for $1.2 billion in cash and stock in the first $1 billion deal in the cryptocurrency industry.
“Consolidation can be painful for clients,” he told TechCrunch. “It’s Important for us that we stay independent and that’s part of the purpose of this round.
The company will also use the funds to increase its engineering and customer success operations, and expand geographically, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Fireblocks provides the most secure and flexible platform for a wide range of customer needs,” said Sequoia’s Gupta. “It uses world-class multi-party computation technology to secure digital assets in storage and in transit, and has the most flexible platform with controls for product teams to be able to build on and manage Fireblocks effectively.”
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