5 innovative fundraising methods for emerging VCs and PEs

Approaching institutions to raise capital for your venture capital or private equity fund is relatively transparent, but what if you’re targeting family offices and high-net-worth individuals? I see five innovative new methods for raising capital that emerging managers such as Versatile VC are using, which I’ve ranked in roughly descending order of popularity:

  1. Join online communities and virtual conferences where investors participate.
  2. Use a platform that helps other investors access your fund.
  3. Generally solicit under the 506(c) designation.
  4. Launch a rolling fund.
  5. Crowdfund from retail investors into your general partnership.

Will Stringer, CEO of Chisos, feels most family offices won’t respond to cold outreach. “You need to build a true relationship with family office investors or other general partners that can make warm intros to family office decision-makers,” he says. “Family offices, more than any other allocator, rely on trust. [It’s] not always the case (and always changing), but today it’s still the majority.”

When you’re raising capital for a fund, you’re fundamentally selling a luxury good, which is seen as more valuable because it’s scarce. That’s part of the secret of the hedge fund industry’s success in gathering assets.

The obvious solution therefore is to get in touch with your friends who have earlier raised or pitched to the family offices. You may also find professional intermediaries who are willing to make an introduction to family offices.

That said, the five methods I outline below may be faster and more efficient.

Join online communities and virtual conferences where investors participate

To meet other VCs (some of which may become LPs), among your options are Confluence, Gen Z Mafia, InnovatorsRoom (European focus) and TechAviv (Israeli focus). To find others, see: How to find the right online communities. I maintain a proprietary database of the communities I’ve found most valuable, which I share with other members of the Versatile team.

These venues allow you to efficiently get in front of many pre-qualified investors and follow up with those who seem like a tight fit. Unsurprisingly, the best online communities are limited strictly to LPs. Ideally, you’d partner with an anchor/friendly LP who can pass the word on your fund to other potential investors.

In general, at virtual conferences, I recommend first fill out your online profile with all possible keywords and your photo. Side-channeling is powerful and is the equivalent of going into a corner at a conference and talking privately. Look up the profiles of all the people attending a conference or in an online community and send the relevant folks a customized message introducing yourself.

This is one of the primary advantages of virtual events versus traditional face-to-face conferences, where people do not conveniently wear a hat with their LinkedIn profile visible.

#column, #corporate-finance, #crowdfunding, #ec-column, #ec-how-to, #funding, #ourcrowd, #private-equity, #retail-investors, #venture-capital, #venture-capital-funds

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Materials Zone raises $6M for its materials discovery platform

Materials Zone, a Tel Aviv-based startup that uses AI to speed up materials research, today announced that it has raised a $6 million seed funding round led by Insight Partners, with participation from crowdfunding platform OurCrowd.

The company’s platform consists of a number of different tools, but at the core is a database that takes in data from scientific instruments, manufacturing facilities, lab equipment, external databases, published articles, Excel sheets and more, and then parses it and standardizes it. Simply having this database, the company argues, is a boon for researchers, who can then also visualize it as needed.

Image Credits: Materials Zone

“In order to develop new technologies and physical products, companies must first understand the materials that comprise those products, as well as those materials’ properties,” said Materials Zone founder and CEO Dr. Assaf Anderson. “Understanding the science of materials has therefore become a driving force behind innovation. However, the data behind materials R&D and production has traditionally been poorly managed, unstructured, and underutilized, often leading to redundant experiments, limited capacity to build on past experience, and an inability to effectively collaborate, which inevitably wastes countless dollars and man-hours.”

Image Credits: Materials Zone

Before founding Materials Zone, Anderson spent time at the Bar Ilan University’s Institute for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, where he was the head of the Combinatorial Materials lab.

Assaf Anderson, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Materials Zone

Assaf Anderson, PhD, founder/CEO of Materials Zone. Image Credits: Materials Zone

“As a materials scientist, I have experienced R&D challenges firsthand, thereby gaining an understanding of how R&D can be improved,” Anderson said. “We developed our platform with our years of experience in mind, leveraging innovative AI/ML technologies to create a unique solution for these problems.”

He noted that in order to, for example, develop a new photovoltaic transparent window, it would take thousands of experiments to find the right core materials and their parameters. The promise of Materials Zone is that it can make this process faster and cheaper by aggregating and standardizing all of this data and then offer data and workflow management tools to work with it. Meanwhile, the company’s analytical and machine learning tools can help researchers interpret this data.

 

#artificial-intelligence, #insight-partners, #machine-learning, #materials-science, #materials-zone, #ml, #nanotechnology, #ourcrowd, #recent-funding, #science, #science-and-technology, #startups, #tel-aviv

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Memic raises $96M for its robot-assisted surgery platform

Memic, a startup developing a robotic-assisted surgical platform that recently received marketing authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, today announced that it has closed a $96 million Series D funding round. The round was led by Peregrine Ventures and Ceros, with participation from OurCrowd and Accelmed. The company plans to use the new funding to commercialize its platform in the U.S. and expand its marketing and sales efforts outside of the U.S., too.

The company previously raised a total amount of $31.8 million, according to Crunchbase, including about $12.5 million raised through crowdsourcing platform OurCrowd.

Memic team photo

Image Credits: Memic

The Hominis, as the company calls its platform, has been authorized for use in “single site, natural orifice laparoscopic-assisted transvaginal benign surgical procedures including benign hysterectomy.” It’s worth noting that the robot doesn’t perform the surgery without human intervention. Instead, surgeons control the device — and its robotic arms — from a central console. The company notes that the instruments are meant to replicate the motions of the surgeon’s arms. And while it’s currently only authorized for this one specific type of procedure, Memic is looking at a wide range of other procedures where a system like this could be beneficial.

“The Hominis system represents a significant advancement in the growing multi-billion-dollar robotic surgery market. This financing positions us to accelerate our commercialization efforts and bring Hominis to both surgeons and patients in the months ahead,” said Dvir Cohen, co-founder and CEO of Memic.

It’s worth noting that there are a wide range of similar, computer-assisted surgical systems on the market already. Only last month, Asensus Surgical received FDA clearance for its laparoscopic platform to be used in general surgery, for example. Meanwhile, eye surgery robotics startup ForSight recently raised $10 million in seed funding for its platform.

Memic’s Hominis is the first robotic device approved for benign transvaginal procedures, though, and the company and its investors are surely betting on this being a first stepping stone to additional use cases over time.

“Given the broad potential of Hominis combined with a strong management team, we are proud to support Memic and execution of its bold vision,” said Eyal Lifschitz, managing general partner of Peregrine Ventures.

#general-partner, #hardware, #health, #medicine, #ourcrowd, #recent-funding, #startups, #surgery, #telemedicine, #united-states

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Waterfund commits $50M to OurCrowd’s water and agtech portfolio

Waterfund, an investment and trading firm that specializes in acquiring and managing water-related infrastructure assets, today announced a deal with Israel-based crowdfunding platform OurCrowd that will see the Waterfund team commit $50 million to build a water- and agtech-focused portfolio of 15 companies. The first of these investments is in Plenty, a well-funded vertical farming startup.

In addition to these direct investments, the two companies are also working together on a new water-focused platform called Aquantos, which aims to issue so-called Blue Bonds and other financial products related to the water industry. Comparable to Green Bonds that focus on projects with environmental benefits — and which have been around for more than a decade now — Blue Bonds are still a new idea and focus on projects that could benefit the oceans.

“We are working to issue Blue Bonds that can be both climate bonds-certified and backed by sovereign or sub-sovereign borrowers,” said Waterfund CEO Scott Rickards. “This new financial tool and others are being designed to enable water projects in the Middle East to acquire leading technologies to address water scarcity in a fundamentally new way.”

Rickards argues that a lack of private capital has held back innovation in the water sector and that this new partnership — and the equity and debt financing opportunities it brings with it — will help change this.

OurCrowd, meanwhile, currently has about $1.5 billion in committed funding and has made investments in about 250 companies across its 25 funds. Among the companies the platform has invested in are the likes of Lemonade, Jump Bikes and Beyond Meat. Its portfolio also includes a number of existing agtech startups and last November, OurCrowd partnered with Sprout Agritech (a company in its portfolio) to run a new agtech accelerator in New Zealand.

“The Abraham Accords present a huge opportunity to bring new water and agricultural technology to the water scarcity challenges of the entire Middle East,” said OurCrowd founder and CEO Jon Medved. “Alongside Waterfund, it is our mission to invest in and help build game-changing technology companies. We are excited to be working together with Waterfund to drive more private capital to address the critical challenges of water.”

#agtech, #articles, #beyond-meat, #ceo, #finance, #jon-medved, #middle-east, #new-zealand, #ourcrowd, #startup-company, #tc

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Edgybees raises $9.5M Series A for its aerial video augmentation service

Edgybees, a company that helps businesses, first responders and military users accurately geotag and augment their aerial video streams in real time, today announced that it has raised a $9.5 million Series A round. The news comes almost exactly two years after the company announced its $5.5 million seed round. Seraphim Capital, which specializes in space tech investments, led this new round. New investors Refinery Ventures, LG Technology Ventures, Kodem Growth, as well as existing investors OurCrowd, 8VC, Verizon Ventures and Motorola Solutions Venture Capital also participated.

“Our mission is to ensure positive human outcomes during life-saving missions,” says Edgybees co-founder and CEO Adam Kaplan. “Our new partners will be key to continuing to push our mission forward. With their unique industry expertise, we are poised to expand our global footprint and drive innovation within the industry. We look forward to the next phase of growth, meeting the critical demands of the defense, public safety and critical infrastructure markets.”

Using the company’s Visual Intelligence Platform, users can easily register and track assets in video show by a drone, for example. The standard use case here would be to help first responders get an accurate picture of an evolving emergency on top of live images from the scene, with the ability to track all of their assets and personnel in real time. But Edgybees has also shown other use cases that range from tracking and visualizing golf games to insurance and defense use cases.

About a year ago, Edgybees, which had its start in Israel but is now based in San Diego, launches its Argus platform, which makes it easier for users to bring their own drone and other live video platforms to the service’s geo-registration engine.

Image Credits: Edgybees

“Edgybees solves a huge problem in spatial computing: how do you really know what you are seeing through fast moving airborne or other video feeds? Edgybees brings together the real and virtual worlds and helps first responders save lives, industrial drone users save money, and defense teams get the mission done,” Ourcrowd CEO Jon Medved explained.

Similarly, Seraphim managing partner and CEO Mark Boggett noted that he thinks of Edgybees as a Google Maps fused with live video. “Their geo-referencing capability is a breakthrough technology that brings a new level of insight and usability to video streams from space, drones or bodycams. We are very excited about Edgybees, not only for the innovation it brings to public safety and defense, but because its ability to be utilized in a wide range of industries,” he said.

Image Credits: Edgybees

#artificial-intelligence, #augmented-reality, #edgybees, #lg-technology-ventures, #motorola-solutions-venture-capital, #ourcrowd, #seraphim-capital, #verizon-ventures

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NeuReality raises $8M for its novel AI inferencing platform

NeuReality, an Israeli AI hardware startup that is working on a novel approach to improving AI inferencing platforms by doing away with the current CPU-centric model, is coming out of stealth today and announcing an $8 million seed round. The group of investors includes Cardumen Capital, crowdfunding platform OurCrowd and Varana Capital. The company also today announced that Naveen Rao, the GM of Intel’s AI Products Group and former CEO of Nervana System (which Intel acquired), is joining the company’s board of directors.

The founding team, CEO Moshe Tanach, VP of operations Tzvika Shmueli and VP for very large-scale integration Yossi Kasus, has a background in AI but also networking, with Tanach spending time at Marvell and Intel, for example, Shmueli at Mellanox and Habana Labs and Kasus at Mellanox, too.

It’s the team’s networking and storage knowledge and seeing how that industry built its hardware that now informs how NeuReality is thinking about building its own AI platform. In an interview ahead of today’s announcement, Tanach wasn’t quite ready to delve into the details of NeuReality’s architecture, but the general idea here is to build a platform that will allow hyperscale clouds and other data center owners to offload their ML models to a far more performant architecture where the CPU doesn’t become a bottleneck.

“We kind of combined a lot of techniques that we brought from the storage and networking world,” Tanach explained. Think about traffic manager and what it does for Ethernet packets. And we applied it to AI. So we created a bottom-up approach that is built around the engine that you need. Where today, they’re using neural net processors — we have the next evolution of AI computer engines.”

As Tanach noted, the result of this should be a system that — in real-world use cases that include not just synthetic benchmarks of the accelerator but also the rest of the overall architecture — offer 15 times the performance per dollar for basic deep learning offloading and far more once you offload the entire pipeline to its platform.

NeuReality is still in its early days, and while the team has working prototypes now, based on a Xilinx FPGA, it expects to be able to offer its fully custom hardware solution early next year. As its customers, NeuReality is targeting the large cloud providers, but also data center and software solutions providers like WWT to help them provide specific vertical solutions for problems like fraud detection, as well as OEMs and ODMs.

Tanach tells me that the team’s work with Xilinx created the groundwork for its custom chip — though building that (and likely on an advanced node), will cost money, so he’s already thinking about raising the next round of funding for that.

“We are already consuming huge amounts of AI in our day-to-day life and it will continue to grow exponentially over the next five years,” said Tanach. “In order to make AI accessible to every organization, we must build affordable infrastructure that will allow innovators to deploy AI-based applications that cure diseases, improve public safety and enhance education. NeuReality’s technology will support that growth while making the world smarter, cleaner and safer for everyone. The cost of the AI infrastructure and AIaaS will no longer be limiting factors.”

NeuReality team. Photo credit - NeuReality

Image Credits: NeuReality

#artificial-intelligence, #cardumen-capital, #computing, #ethernet, #fpga, #funding, #fundings-exits, #habana-labs, #hardware-startup, #intel, #mellanox, #ml, #neureality, #nvidia, #ourcrowd, #recent-funding, #science-and-technology, #startups, #tc, #technology, #varana-capital, #xilinx

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Classiq raises $10.5M Series A round for its quantum software development platform

Classiq, a Tel Aviv-based startup that aims to make it easier for computer scientists and developers to create quantum algorithms and applications, today announced that it has raised a $10.5 million Series A round led by Team8 Capital and Wing Capital. Entrée Capital, crowdfunding platform OurCrowd and Sumitomo Corporation (through IN Venture) also participated in this round, which follows the company’s recent $4 million seed round led by Entrée Capital.

The idea behind Classiq, which currently has just under a dozen members on its team, is that developing quantum algorithms remains a major challenge.

“Today, quantum software development is almost an impossible task,” said Nir Minerbi, CEO and Co-founder of Classiq. “The programming is at the gate level, with almost no abstraction at all. And on the other hand, for many enterprises, that’s exactly what they want to do: come up with game-changing quantum algorithms. So we built the next layer of the quantum software stack, which is the layer of a computer-aided design, automation, synthesis. […] So you can design the quantum algorithm without being aware of the details and the gate level details are automated.”

Image Credits: Classiq

With Microsoft’s Q#, IBM’s Qiskit and their competitors, developers already have access to quantum-specific languages and frameworks. And as Amir Naveh, Classiq’s VP of R&D told me, just like with those tools, developers will define their algorithms as code — in Classiq’s case a variant of Python. With those other languages, though, you will write sequences of gates on the cubits to define your quantum circuit.

“What you’re writing down isn’t gates on cubits, its concepts, its constructs, its constraints — it’s always constraints on what you want the circuit to achieve,” Naveh explained. “And then the circuit is synthesized from the constraints. So in terms of the visual interface, it would look the same [as using other frameworks], but in terms of what’s going through your head, it’s a whole different level of abstraction, you’re describing the circuit at a much higher level.”

This, he said, gives Classiq’s users the ability to more easily describe what they are trying to do. For now, though, that also means that the platform’s users tend to be quantum teams and scientists and developers who are quantum experts and understand how to develop quantum circuits at a very deep level. The team argues, though, that as the technology gets better, developers will need to have less and less of an understanding of how the actual qubits behave.

As Minerbi stressed, the tool is agnostic to the hardware that will eventually run these algorithms. Classiq’s mission, after all, is to provide an additional abstraction layer on top of the hardware. At the same time, though, developers can optimize their algorithms for specific quantum computing hardware as well.

Classiq CTO Dr. Yehuda Naveh also noted that the company is already working with a number of larger companies. These include banks that have used its platform for portfolio optimization, for example, and a semiconductor firm that was looking into a material science problem related to chip manufacturing, an area that is a bit of a sweet spot for quantum computing — at least in its current state.

The team plans to use the new funding to expand its existing team, mostly on the engineering side. A lot of the work the company is doing, after all, is still in R&D. Finding the right software engineers with a background in physics — or quantum information experts who can program — will be of paramount importance for the company. Minerbi believes that is possible, though, and the plan is to soon expand the team to about 25 people.

“We are thrilled to be working with Classiq, assisting the team in achieving their goals of advancing the quantum computing industry,” said Sarit Firon, Managing Partner at Team8 Capital. “As the quantum era takes off, they have managed to solve the missing piece in the quantum computing puzzle, which will enable game-changing quantum algorithms. We look forward to seeing the industry grow, and witnessing how Classiq continues to mark its place as a leader in the industry.”

#computer-science, #emerging-technologies, #entree-capital, #funding, #ourcrowd, #quantum-computing, #recent-funding, #science, #science-and-technology, #startups, #team8, #tel-aviv

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Israel’s startup ecosystem powers ahead, amid a year of change

Released in 2011 “Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle” was a book that laid claim to the idea that Israel was an unusual type of country. It had produced and was poised to produce, an enormous number of technology startups, given its relatively small size. The moniker became so ubiquitous, both at home and abroad, that “Israel Startup Nation” is now the name of the country’s professional cycling team.

But it’s been hard to argue against this position in the last ten years, as the country powered ahead, famously producing ground-breaking startups like Waze, which was eventually picked up by Google for over $1 billion in 2013. Waze’s 100 employees received about $1.2 million on average, the largest payout to employees in Israeli high tech at the time, and the exit created a pool of new entrepreneurs and angel investors ever since.

Israel’s heady mix of questioning culture, tradition of national military service, higher education, the widespread use of English, appetite for risk and team spirit makes for a fertile place for fast-moving companies to appear.

And while Israel doesn’t have a Silicon Valley, it named its high-tech cluster “Silicon Wadi” (‘wadi’ means dry desert river bed in Arabic and colloquial Hebrew).

Much of Israel’s high-tech industry has emerged from former members of the country’s elite military intelligence units such as the Unit 8200 Intelligence division. From age 13 Israel’s students are exposed to advanced computing studies, and the cultural push to go into tech is strong. Traditional professions attract low salaries compared to software professionals.

Israel’s startups industry began emerging in the late 19080s and early 1990s. A significant event came with acquisitor by AOL of the the ICQ messaging system developed by Mirabilis. The Yozma Programme (Hebrew for “initiative”) from the government, in 1993, was seminal: It offered attractive tax incentives to foreign VCs in Israel and promised to double any investment with funds from the government. This came decades ahead of most western governments.

It wasn’t long before venture capital firms started up and major tech companies like Microsoft, Google and Samsung have R&D centers and accelerators located in the country.

So how are they doing?

At the start of 2020, Israeli startups and technology companies were looking back on a good 2019. Over the last decade, startup funding for Israeli entrepreneurs had increased by 400%. In 2019 there was a 30% increase in startup funding and a 102% increase in M&A activity. The country was experiencing a 6-year upward funding trend. And in 2019 Bay Area investors put $1.4 billion into Israeli companies.

By the end of last year, the annual Israeli Tech Review 2020 showed that Israeli tech firms had raised a record $9.93 billion in 2020, up 27% year on year, in 578 transactions – but M&A deals had plunged.

Israeli startups closed out December 2020 by raising $768 million in funding. In December 2018 that figure was $230 million, in 2019 it was just under $200 million.

Late-stage companies drew in $8.33 billion, from $6.51 billion in 2019, and there were 20 deals over $100 million totaling $3.26 billion, compared to 18 totaling $2.62 billion in 2019.

Top IPOs among startups were Lemonade, an AI-based insurance firm, on the New York Stock Exchange; and life sciences firm Nanox which raised $165 million on the Nasdaq.

The winners in 2020 were cybersecurity, fintech and internet of things, with food tech cooing on strong. But while the country has become famous for its cybersecurity startups, AI now accounts for nearly half of all investments into Israeli startups. That said, every sector is experiencing growth. Investors are also now favoring companies that speak to the Covid-era, such as cybersecurity, ecommerce and remote technologies for work and healthcare.

There are currently over 30 tech companies in Israel that are valued over $1 Billion. And four startups passed the $1 billion valuation just last year: mobile game developer Moon Active; Cato Networks, a cloud-based enterprise security platform; Ride-hailing app developer Gett got $100 million ahead of its rumored IPO; and behavioral biometrics startup BioCatch.

And there was a reminder that Israel can produce truly ‘magical’ tech: Tel Aviv battery storage firm StorDot raised money from Samsung Ventures and Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich for its battery which can fully charge a motor scooter in five minutes.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic put a break on mergers and acquisitions in 2020, as the world economy closed down.

M&A was just $7.8 billion in 93 deals, compared to over $14.2 billion in 143 M&A deals in 2019. RestAR was acquired by American giant Unity; CloudEssence was acquired by a U.S. cyber company; and Kenshoo acquired Signals Analytics.

And in 2020, Israeli companies made 121 funding deals on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and global capital markets, raising a total of $6.55 billion, compared to $1.95 billion raised in capital markets in Israel and abroad in 2019, as IPOs became an attractive exit alternative.

However, early-round investments (Seed + A Rounds) slowed due to pandemic uncertainty, but picked-up again towards the end of the year. As in other countries in ‘Covid 2020’, VC tended to focus on existing portfolio companies.

Covid brought unexpected upsides: Israeli startups, usually facing longs flight to Europe or the US to raise larger rounds of funding, suddenly found that Zoom was bringing investors to them.

Israeli startups adapted extremely well in the Covid era and that doesn’t look like changing. Startup Snapshot found that 55% startups profiled had changed (or considered changing) their product due to Covid-19. Meanwhile, remote-working – which comes naturally to Israeli entrepreneurs – is ‘flattening’ the world, giving a great advantage to normally distant startup ecosystems like Israel’s.

Via Transportation raised $400 million in Q1. Next Insurance raised $250 million in Q3. Seven exit transactions with over the $500 million mark happened in Q1–Q3/2020, compared to 10 for all of 2019. These included Checkmarx for $1.1 billion and Moovit, also for a billion.

There are three main hubs for the Israeli tech scene, in order of size: Tel Aviv, Herzliya and Jerusalem.

Jerusalem’s economy and therefore startup scene suffered after the second Intifada (the Palestinian uprising that began in late September 2000 and ended around 2005). But today the city is far more stable, and is therefore attracting an increasing number of startups. And let’s not forget visual recognition company Mobileye, now worth $9.11 billion (£7 billion), came from Jerusalem.

Israel’s government is very supportive of it’s high-tech economy. When it noticed seed-stage startups were flagging, the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) announced the launch of a new funding program to help seed-stage and early-stage startups, earmarking NIS 80 million ($25 million) for the project.

This will offer participating companies grants worth 40 percent of an investment round up to $1.1 million and 50 percent of a total investment round for startups in the country or whose founders come from under-represented communities – Arab-Israeli, ultra-Orthodox, and women – in the high-tech industry.

Investments in Israeli seed-stage startups decreased both absolutely and as a percentage of total investments in Israeli startups (to 6% from 11%). However, the decline may also be a function of large tech firms setting up incubation hubs to cut up and absorb talent.

Another notable aspect of Israel’s startups scene is its, sometimes halting, attempt to engage with its Arab Israeli population. Arab Israelis account for 20% of Israel’s population but are hugely underrepresented in the tech sector. The Hybrid Programme is designed to address this disparity.

It, and others like it, this are a reminder that Israel is geographically in the Middle East. Since the recent normalization pact between Israel and the UAE, relations with Arab states have begun to thaw. Indeed, Over 50,000 Israelis have visited the United Arab Emirates since the agreement.

In late November, Dubai-based DIFC FinTech Hive—the biggest financial innovation hub in the Middle East—signed a milestone agreement with Israel’s Fintech-Aviv. Both entities will now work together to facilitate the cross-border exchange of knowledge and business between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Perhaps it’s a sign that Israel is becoming more at ease with its place in the region? Certainly, both Israel’s tech scene and the Arab world’s is set to benefit from these more cordial relations.

Our Israel survey is here.

#app-developer, #artificial-intelligence, #biocatch, #business-incubators, #checkmarx, #computing, #dubai, #e-commerce, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #finance, #food-tech, #google, #healthcare, #insurance, #ipo, #israel, #jerusalem, #kenshoo, #lemonade, #microsoft, #middle-east, #mobile-game-developer, #mobileye, #money, #nanox, #ourcrowd, #private-equity, #roman-abramovich, #samsung-ventures, #startup-company, #tc, #technology, #tel-aviv, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states, #unity, #venture-capital, #venture-capital-firms, #waze

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ORIX invests $60M in Israeli crowdfunding platform OurCrowd

Japan-based financial services group ORIX Corporation today announced that it has made a $60 million strategic investment into the Israeli crowdsourcing platform OurCrowd. In return, the crowdfunding platform will provide the firm with access to its startup network. OurCrowd also says that the two groups will collaborate to create financial products and investment opportunities for the Japanese and global market, including access to its venture funds and specific companies in the OurCrowd portfolio.

ORIX is a global leader in diversified business and financial services who will strengthen OurCrowd in many ways,” OurCrowd CEO Jon Medved said in today’s announcement. “We are enthusiastic about the potential to further transform the venture capital asset class together and provide a strong bridge for our innovative companies to the important Asian markets.”

While ORIX already operates in 37 countries, including the U.S., this is the company’s first investment in Israel. It comes at a time where Japanese investments in Israel are already surging. And earlier this year, Israel’s flag carrier El Al was about to launch direct flights to Tokyo, for example, and while the pandemic canceled those plans, it’s a clear sign of the expanding business relations between the two countries.

“We are excited about investing in OurCrowd, Israel’s most active venture investor and one of the world’s most innovative venture capital platforms,” ORIX UK CEO Kiyoshi Habiro said. “We intend to be active partners with OurCrowd and help them accelerate their already impressive growth, while bringing the best of Israeli tech to Japan’s large industrial and financial sectors.”

So far, OurCrowd has made investments in 220 companies across its 22 funds. Some of its most successful exits include Beyond Meat and Lemonade, JUMP Bike, Briefcam and Argus. ORIX, too, has quite a diverse portfolio, with investments that range from real estate to banking and energy services.

#banking, #beyond-meat, #crowdfunding, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #financial-services, #investment, #israel, #japan, #jon-medved, #ourcrowd, #private-equity, #real-estate, #united-states

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Ride Vision raises $7M for its AI-based motorcycle safety system

Ride Vision, an Israeli startup that is building an AI-driven safety system to prevent motorcycle collisions, today announced that it has raised a $7 million Series A round led by crowdsourcing platform OurCrowd. YL Ventures, which typically specializes in cybersecurity startups but also led the company’s $2.5 million seed round in 2018, Mobilion VC and motorcycle mirror manufacturer Metagal also participated in this round. The company has now raised a total of $10 million.

In addition to this new funding round, Ride Vision also today announced a new partnership with automotive parts manufacturer Continental .

“As motorcycle enthusiasts, we at Ride Vision are excited at the prospect of our international launch and our partnership with Continental,” Uri Lavi, CEO and co-founder of Ride Vision, said in today’s announcement. “This moment is a major milestone, as we stride toward our dream of empowering bikers to feel truly safe while they enjoy the ride.”

The general idea here is pretty straightforward and comparable with the blind-spot monitoring system in your car. Using computer vision, Ride Vision’s system, the Ride Vision 1, analyzes the traffic around a rider in real time. It provides forward collision alerts and monitors your blind spot, but it can also tell you when you’re following another rider or car too closely. It can also simply record your ride and, coming soon, it’ll be able to make emergency calls on your behalf when things go awry.

As the company argues, the number of motorcycles (and other motorized two-wheeled vehicles) has only increased during the pandemic, as people started avoiding public transport and looked for relatively affordable alternatives. In Europe, sales of two-wheeled vehicles increased by 30% during the pandemic.

The hardware on the motorcycle itself is pretty straightforward. It includes two wide-angle cameras (one each at the front and rear), as well as alert indicators on the mirrors, as well as the main computing unit. Ride Vision has patents on its human-machine warning interface and vision algorithms.

It’s worth noting that there are some blind-spot monitoring solutions for motorcycles on the market already, including those from Innovv and Senzar. Honda also has patents on similar technologies. These do not provide the kind of 360-degree view that Ride Vision is aiming for.

Ride Vision says its products will be available in Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, France, Greece, Israel and the U.K. in early 2021, with the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Australia, Japan, India, China and others following later.

#artificial-intelligence, #australia, #austria, #brazil, #canada, #china, #continental, #europe, #france, #germany, #greece, #honda, #india, #israel, #italy, #japan, #motorcycle, #ourcrowd, #recent-funding, #ride-vision, #spain, #startups, #tc, #transportation, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #yl-ventures

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Juganu begins selling its tunable lighting system for pathogen disinfection and deactivation in the US

Juganu, the venture-backed Israeli company that makes lighting systems capable of emitting light at specified wavelengths, is now selling a product that it claims can disinfect surfaces and deactivate pathogens in an attempt to provide buildings with new safety technologies that can prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The company claims that its J.Protect product was clinically validated through a study conducted by Dr. Meital Gal-Tanamy at the Bar-Ilan University Faculty of Medicine (although Dr. Gal-Tanamy’s research typically focuses on the Hepatitis C virus, which has a different transmission vector than airborne viruses like Sars-Cov-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19).

Juganu said that the new product has been registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency in 46 states and is currently working with Comcast, Qualcomm, and NCR Corp. to bring its lighting disinfectant and deactivation technology to markets around the country.

The lighting technology uses two kinds of ultraviolet light — A and C — to render viruses inert and kill bacteria on surfaces, according to the company’s claims.

When people are present in a room, the company’s system uses UVA light which can render viruses inert after eight hours of exposure. If the room is empty, the lighting system will use UVC light, which is more potent as disinfectant and more harmful to people, to disinfect a room in under an hour.

The company tested its technology on surfaces, but did not conduct any tests involving their lighting system’s effects on aerosolized viral particles, which have been determined to be the main cause of infections from the novel coronavirus.

“We got an exemption from the FDA and are approved for distribution by the EPA in 48 states,” said Juganu chief executive, Eran Ben-Shmuel in an interview.

The company has already pre-sold the lighting technology in Israel and in India, according to Ben-Shmuel, and is now taking orders for installations in the US.

Juganu, which has raised $53 million to date from investors including Comcast Ventures, Viola Growth, Amdocs, and OurCrowd has offices in Israel, Brazil, Mexico, and the US, has already sold lighting systems to municipalities and businesses around the country.

The new hardware opens up a new line of business in the booming market for technologies targeting the reopening of businesses in the nations that have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Smart lighting will be one of the biggest areas of opportunity for physical spaces. We are evolving from lights simply illuminating spaces to disinfecting and securing them, as well as promoting well-being by recreating natural light shifts based on sunrise and sunset,” said Ben-Shmuel, in a statement. 

 

#articles, #brazil, #comcast-ventures, #disinfectant, #fda, #health, #home-automation, #hygiene, #india, #israel, #lighting, #mexico, #ourcrowd, #protect, #qualcomm, #smart-lighting, #tc, #united-states

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Dataloop raises $11M Series A round for its AI data management platform

Dataloop, a Tel Aviv-based startup that specializes in helping businesses manage the entire data lifecycle for their AI projects, including helping them annotate their datasets, today announced that it has now raised a total of $16 million. This includes a $5 seed round that was previously unreported, as well as an $11 million Series A round that recently closed.

The Series A round was led by Amiti Ventures with participation from F2 Venture Capital, crowdfunding platform OurCrowd, NextLeap Ventures and SeedIL Ventures.

“Many organizations continue to struggle with moving their AI and ML projects into production as a result of data labeling limitations and a lack of real time validation that can only be achieved with human input into the system,” said Dataloop CEO Eran Shlomo. “With this investment, we are committed, along with our partners, to overcoming these roadblocks and providing next generation data management tools that will transform the AI industry and meet the rising demand for innovation in global markets.”

Image Credits: Dataloop

For the most part, Dataloop specializes in helping businesses manage and annotate their visual data. It’s agnostic to the vertical its customers are in, but we’re talking about anything from robotics and drones to retail and autonomous driving.

The platform itself centers around the ‘humans in the loop’ model that complements the automated systems with the ability for humans to train and correct the model as needed. It combines the hosted annotation platform with a Python SDK and REST API for developers, as well as a serverless Functions-as-a-Service environment that runs on top of a Kubernetes cluster for automating dataflows.

Image Credits: Dataloop

The company was founded in 2017. It’ll use the new funding to grow its presence in the U.S. and European markets, something that’s pretty standard for Israeli startups, and build out its engineering team as well.

#artificial-intelligence, #ceo, #enterprise, #free-software, #ml, #ourcrowd, #python, #serverless-computing, #tc, #tel-aviv, #united-states

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Sight Diagnostics raises $71M Series D for its blood analyzer

Sight Diagnostics, the Israel-based health-tech company behind the FDA-cleared OLO blood analyzer, today announced that it has raised a $71 million Series D round with participation from Koch Disruptive Technologies, Longliv Ventures (which led its Series C round)and crowd-funding platform OurCrowd. With this, the company has now raised a total of $124 million, though the company declined to share its current valuation.

With a founding team that used to work at Mobileye, among other companies, Sight made an early bet on using machine vision to analyze blood samples and provide a full blood count comparable to existing lab tests within minutes. The company received FDA clearance late last year, something that surely helped clear the way for this additional round of funding.

Image Credits: Sight Diagnostics

“Historically, blood tests were done by humans observing blood under a microscope. That was the case for maybe 200 years,” Sight CEO and co-founder Yossi Pollak told me. “About 60 years ago, a new technology called FCM — or flow cytometry — started to be used on large volume of blood from venous samples to do it automatically. In a sense, we are going back to the first approach, we just replaced the human eye behind the microscope with machine vision.”

Pollak noted that the tests generate about 60 gigabytes of information (a lot of that is the images, of course) and that he believes that the complete blood count is only a first step. One of the diseases it is looking to diagnose is COVID-19. To do so, the company has placed devices in hospitals around the world to see if it can gather the data to detect anomalies that may indicate the severity of some of the aspects of the disease.

“We just kind of scratched the surface of the ability of AI to help with with a wish with blood diagnostics,” said Pollak. “Specifically now, there’s so much value around COVID in decentralizing diagnostics and blood tests. Think keeping people — COVID-negative or -positive —  outside of hospitals to reduce the busyness of hospitals and reduce the risk for contamination for cancer patients and a lot of other populations that require constant complete blood counts. I think there’s a lot of potential and a lot of a value that we can bring specifically now to different markets and we are definitely looking into additional applications beyond [complate blood count] and also perfecting our product.”

So far, Sight Diagnostics has applied for 20 patents and eight have been issued so far. And while machine learning is obviously at the core of what the company does — with the models running on the OLO machine and not in the cloud — Pollak also stressed that the team has made breakthroughs around the sample preparation to allow it to automatically prepare the sample for analysis.

Image Credits: Sight Diagnostics

Pollok stressed that the company focused on the U.S. market with this funding round, which makes sense, given that it was still looking for its FDA clearance. He also noted that this marks Koch Disrupt Technologies’ third investment in Israel, with the other two also being healthcare startups.

“KDT’s investment in Sight is a testament to the company’s disruptive technology that we believe will fundamentally change the way blood diagnostic work is done,’ said Chase Koch, President of Koch Disruptive Technologies . “We’re proud to partner with the Sight team, which has done incredible work innovating this technology to transform modern healthcare and provide greater efficiency and safety for patients, healthcare workers, and hospitals worldwide.”

The company now has about 100 employees, mostly in R&D, with offices in London and New York.

#artificial-intelligence, #cancer, #disease, #fda, #food-and-drug-administration, #health, #healthcare, #israel, #koch-disruptive-technologies, #london, #machine-learning, #machine-vision, #medicine, #mobileye, #new-york, #ourcrowd, #partner, #president, #sight-diagnostics, #tc, #united-states

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OurCrowd launches $100M Pandemic Innovation Fund

OurCrowd, the Israeli crowdfunding venture investment platform, today announced the launch of its Pandemic Innovation Fund, with plans to raise a total of $100 million. The money will be invested in “urgent technological solutions for the medical, business, educational and social needs triggered by global pandemics and other health emergencies.”

The fund will invest in startups that look at developing vaccines and tests, as well as therapeutics, remote monitoring, digital health and personal protection. In addition, it’ll also look at startups that focus on continuity and disruption management that focus on remote working, distance learning, robotic process automation, home exercise and cybersecurity. That gives the fund a pretty broad mandate, but it’ll also allow the partners to spread the investments across a variety of industries.

“The rapid spread of the coronavirus has validated our vision of a connected digital world poised to solve any crisis through global communication and rapid response,” said OurCrowd CEO Jon Medved. “To ensure that we get the world back on track, there is now an urgent need for innovation. Technology can help us overcome many of the problems resulting from the crisis. It’s time for tech to move fast and fix things.”

OurCrowd has already invested in a number of companies that would have been a good fit for the new fund if they came along today, including MigVax, which recently raised $12 million for its coronavirus vaccine efforts, as well as Sight Diagnostics, SaNOtize, TytoCare and others.

The principals for the new fund are healthcare exec Dr. Morris Laster, OurCrowd venture partner and chairman of its medical advisory board Dr. Morry Blumenfeld and OurCrowd venture partner David Sokolic.

“Together we must tackle the current pandemic as well as plan for future ones, because this story is just beginning. Entrepreneurs are uniquely skilled to provide fast and effective solutions to some of our greatest challenges. Our new fund will create the bridge between the innovations we need and the far-sighted investors able to provide the resources required to improve our world,” said Laster.

#articles, #ceo, #distance-learning, #economy, #jon-medved, #ourcrowd, #pandemic, #sight-diagnostics, #startup-company, #venture-capital

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Hub Security raises $5M Series A for its cryptography platform

Hub Security, a Tel Aviv-based startup that developed a software and hardware platform for cryptographic operations, today announced that it has raised a $5 million Series A round led by AXA Ventures. Crowdfunding platform OurCrowd also participated in this round. Like most companies at the Series A stage, the company plans to use the investment to expand its team and technology offerings.

On the hardware side, Hub Security is building both a relatively standard Hardware Security Module (HSM), using FPGAs to accelerate various processes and to create a physical separation between the part of the machine that holds the secrets and the outside world.

But it’s also building a mini-HSM, which is basically a small hardware wallet with a built-in firewall, EMI shield and tamper-resistant case. On the software side, the company offers tools for managing the signing and authorization workflows, as well as a machine learning-based tool that has been designed to anticipate cyberattacks on the system.

Like most Israeli cybersecurity companies, most of Hub Security’s founding team got its start in the Israeli Defense Forces’ Unit 8200. The team founded the company in 2017, but co-founder Andrey Iaremenko had started working on the problem a few years earlier. “He was trying to figure out a way to deal with secrets in motion for anything that’s not military, anything that doesn’t require a lot of resources and can be relatively cheap and can be commoditized easily,” Eyal Moshe, Hub Security’s CEO, told me.

In the early days, the company focused a lot of its marketing on the blockchain market, but as Moshe told me, it has evolved its messaging quite a bit since then. “The vision didn’t change. What changed was the focus and how we pitch it, but the vision didn’t change much. What I think is changing recently is some understanding of how we can market it alongside how we can add value to cloud customers without interfering too much with their setup,” said Moshe.

Unsurprisingly, Hub Security’s focus today is on working with fintech and cloud companies. It already has a strategic partnership with Seagate Technology’s Tel Aviv-based Lyve Labs, which focuses on partnering with local companies that work on building new solutions for managing exabytes of data.

“I was actively looking for a ‘software-defined HSM’ platform company in Israel for the past twelve months and I was very pleased when I met Hub Security and learned about their unique offering. We agreed very quickly to partner and invest,” said Moshe Raines, partner at OurCrowd and Labs/02 managing partner. That investment came together just around the time Israel went into its strict COVID-19 lockdown

#ceo, #co-founder, #economy, #firewall, #israel, #machine-learning, #managing-partner, #ourcrowd, #recent-funding, #seagate-technology, #startups, #tc, #technology, #tel-aviv

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MigVax raises $12M for its COVID-19 vaccine efforts

Worldwide, there are numerous efforts underway to create a vaccine for COVID-19. Without one, we are likely to see some form of social distancing in place for the foreseeable future. And experts like Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, think it’ll take at least a year before we’ll have a vaccine that can be approved for public use. MigVax, an Israeli startup that’s affiliated with the Migal Galilee Research Institute, thinks it can speed up this process by quite a bit, in part, because it had already worked on building a framework for the Infectious Bronchitis Virus, a coronavirus that infects chickens, and that has proven to be safe in animals.

I think everybody is currently skeptical when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, and in Israel alone there are multiple efforts underway, but crowdfunding platform OurCrowd is putting $12 million into MigVax to help the team accelerate its efforts to develop an oral vaccine.

“The experiments we have carried out so far show that because the vaccine does not include the virus itself, it will be safe to use in immune-suppressed recipients, and has fewer chances of side effects,” said David Zigdon, CEO of the Migal Galilee Research Institute. “It uses a protein vector that can form and secrete a chimeric soluble protein which carries the viral antigen into tissue and causes the production of antibodies against the virus by the immune system. We are now working to adjust our generic vaccine system to COVID-19. Using a fermentation process, MigVax aims to have the material ready for clinical trials within a few months.”

MigVax argues that its approach would offer significant advantages in manufacturing and cost because it uses bacterial fermentation to produce the vaccine, a process that’s generally well understood and commonly used today. “We are already in talks with major strategic partners able to manufacture at high volume and distribute globally,” the company tells us.

“We are humbled by the opportunity to invest in this company, which means so much to so many people,” said OurCrowd CEO Jon Medved today. “The race for a COVID-19 vaccine is about saving countless lives, and we are grateful to be able to support this important effort.”

When I last talked to Medved earlier this year, shortly before COVID-19 was officially deemed a pandemic, he was already thinking about how his existing portfolio companies could play a role in fighting the disease. No doubt, though, whoever manages to first develop a safe vaccine also stands to gain financially, and that’s not something most VC firms would turn down, so it’s no surprise that we now see funding for startups in this space, too.

#coronavirus, #covid-19, #director, #health, #migvax, #ourcrowd, #recent-funding, #scientists, #startups, #tc, #vaccines

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Biometrics security technology developer BioCatch raises $145M

BioCatch, a developer of biometrics security technology, said it has raised $145 million in its latest round of funding.

The company’s technology tracks user behavior on websites to determine if a customer is real or a fraudster, according to a statement. Its technology is now used by more than 40 of the largest global financial institutions, the company said.

That top tier client list is likely one reason why the company was able to attract the Bain Capital Tech Opportunities investment team as the lead for its latest round. The growth investing business of the multi-billion dollar private equity firm Bain Capital joined previous investors American Express Ventures, Maverick Ventures, and the Israeli crowd-funding investor, OurCrowd in backing the company.

BIoCatch will use its newfound hoard of cash on research and development and sales and marketing to enter new verticals beyond the financial services world.

The investment will accelerate BioCatch’s rapid growth, broaden its product offerings and further support its expanding client base into new verticals.

“BioCatch’s growth in annual recurring revenue and client base speaks directly to the growing demand for our service and the increasing number of use cases we are able to support,” said Howard Edelstein, the company’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “The current environment has spawned a large increase in bad actors seeking to take advantage of distracted individuals working from home or dispersed companies whose technologists are scattered in remote locations. In such times, technologies like behavioral biometrics become more important than ever.”

Since launching to service the financial services sector, the company has already expanded its footprint in fraud detection and prevention to other verticals — including eCommerce. BioCatch intends to introduce new software for public sector offerings in 2020, the company said.

The company claims its tech can identify the creation of fake accounts or stolen identities at onboarding, recognize account takeovers, and flag social engineering scams using voice recordings.

For Bain, the investment in BioCatch extends the firm’s long history of fintech and cybersecurity deals including investments in Blue Coat, acquired by NortonLifeLock; InAuth, acquired by American Express; and WorldPay, which was snatched up by FIS .

“BioCatch has quickly established itself as a pioneer in the digital identity space by developing next-generation behavioral biometrics technology that integrates fraud detection and authentication capabilities to protect end-users and their most sensitive transactions. Their technology is highly applicable to other verticals beyond financial services that have the same need to balance fraud and the user experience,” said Dewey Awad, a Managing Director at Bain Capital Tech Opportunities.

#bain-capital, #biocatch, #blue-coat, #chief-executive-officer, #companies, #e-commerce, #financial-services, #fis, #maverick-ventures, #mitt-romney, #ourcrowd, #tc, #worldpay

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