Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Go Israel: Out of 8 stories on Techcrunch's homepage, 5 are on Israel: AllofMe, SeeToo, Google Israel, eToro and SuTree

The front page at TechCrunch looks as if it was taken out of VC Cafe today. Out of 8 posts displayed on the home page, 4 are related to Israel. If you scroll back one page, you'll see another one - not bad for a tiny country in the middle east.

Here's a quick recap:

  1. Yossi Vardi invests in Tel Aviv Based startup AllofMe - the Israeli company is developing a timeline generator for digital assets. It puts your emails photos, documents and videos on a time scale, thus allowing you to keep track of your media while giving it a new perspective. Next time some one asks you "what did you do on your birthday?" AllofMe should help you answer the question. Addy Feuerstein is the Founder - the company was founded in May of 2007 and has 8 employees. (via TechCruch, Haaretz, Orli)

  2. Yet another investment by Yossi Vardi - this time it's an Israel/New York City based startup called SeeToo, a web-based application that allows individuals to invite friends and family to watch home videos with them in real time in a chat room. It's a bit similar to Meebo Rooms and soon-to-be-covered by VC Cafe, Ekko TV. TechCrunch is giving away 500 invites - try to get yours here. Yoav Ilan, head of marketing and biz dev gave the demo to TechCrunch. Yoav- Can I also get a demo and some invites? (via TechCrunch)

  3. Google Israel acting Evil - According to Globes Online, Google initially stated that “disclosing the blogger’s identity violated rulings on the balance between freedom of expression and a person’s right to his reputation” - BUT Google finally caved in and provided the IP address of an "anonymous" blogger to an Israeli court voluntarily as part of a defamation case against a politician. Not that I support protecting a criminal, but it's important to note: G wasn't forced to give the data - they volunteered it. (via Globes, Techchrunch)

  4. Roi Carthy posted an interesting review of eToro - a visual Forex (Foreign Exchange) Trading platform that simplifies trading by allowing users to trade money in a game-like setting. The parent company is Israel-based Tradonomi Ltd - It is incorporated in Limasol - most likely for taxing purposes, with offices in Tel Aviv. Trandonomi is led by Ceo and co-founder Jonathan (Yoni) Assia. was founded in 2006 and has 30 employees. Most recently, eToro released an affiliate platform called eToro Partners. (via PR Web, Techcrunch and Linked in).

  5. Bonus: scroll one page back and see an article on Israel's SuTree, an online index and library for free video lessons, tutorials, lectures and how-to's from all over the web. SuTree got a serious facelift and a content collaboration agreement with Israel based 5min.
On a related note, If you haven't done so already, please visit the new 'under construction' home of The Venture Capital Cafe at http://www.vccafe.com and subscribe to my feed. VC Cafe covers early stage companies, innovative technologies, and venture capital news with a spotlight on Israel. There's a bunch of new features and ideas on the way in December, as the VC Cafe celebrates two years!

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Monday, November 19, 2007

VC Cafe is Moving

I'm testing a new blogging platform for venture capital cafe at www.vccafe.com. It is still work in progress, but don't expect to see an image of a construction worker when you visit the site. All the posts were successfully migrated and I'm now in the process of tweaking and customizing everything from logo to layout. Many thanks to all who collaborated with me on this effort.

Feedback, ideas and suggestions are welcome. Drop me a comment or shoot me an email if you had the chance to check the new site out.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Read It On VC Cafe First: Six Israeli Startup News That You Probably Missed This Week

It's earnings season and it's hard to keep up with all that's been going on with Israeli companies this week. Want to catch up with the latest news? Below is a bite-size summary of the latest VC and start up news from the holy land.

  1. eSnips, an Israel-based "social content-sharing site" released 'Social DNA'. Social DNA is a series of quick 'tests' that allow users to find like minded people. The concept is not new as it is implemented by many dating sites and Facebook Apps such as: compare people , similar friends and many online dating sites. eSnips' CEO Yael Elish reported to have approximately 13 million monthly users, out of which 200K are Israelis [Sources: Techcrunch, The Marker]

  2. New VC Fund focused on India-Israel investments. Footrpint’s focus is to invest $2-4 million in lifestyle, retail, financial services, security, education, clean technology and life sciences companies in the India-Israel-India corridor. Footprint is led by Neill Brownstein, co-founder of Bessemer Venture Partners, as well as Linda Brownstein, Josh Bornstein and Shalini Elassery. Footprint already signed an agreement in July 2006 with Infinity—an Israeli-Chinese technology fund with $350 million in its current fund—to invest in Israeli companies and technologies that target Indian markets. [via LiveMint and VC Circle]

  3. Electric Cars in Israel? Following Shai Agassi's and Idan Ofer's "Project Better Place", Israel is attracting foreign investments related to electric cars. French car maker Renault SA is studying a possible plan to build a manufacturing plant for electric cars in Israel. [via Businessweek]

  4. JaJah loves Jangl - Israeli VOIP Platform JaJah recently announced a series of new deals. It started with an ad for minutes campaign, enabled by a partnership with Oridian (also Israeli). The geographically targeted ads allow JaJah to monetize while providing a free service to its users. Now, JaJah announced a partnership with Jangl, a VOIP platform that enables users to get a virtual telephone number on the web. Jangl will help JaJah to extend its reach to Jangl's 40M users and Jangl will in turn use JaJah's monetization platform and gain entry to the 122 countries in which JaJah is active. [via Mashable]

  5. Video discovery made simple - Israel based Taboola wants to enable content discovery style 'Stumble Upon' for video sites. EverGreen believes in the idea - it will finance a round of $1.5M to make it happen. Taboola allows users to integrate ads onto a site's video player using java script tags. Israeli 5min.com has been testing the service and it reported a 23% increase in watched videos and 53% increase in session length since it started the test. [via NewTeeVee]

See an example of Taboola (click on related, bottom left):

  • Ukraine planning to create free trade zone with Israel. Among the priorities of Ukraine's development the president identified the development of industry, specifically machine building, space- and aircraft construction, and chemical industry. [via]

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Spread The Word: The Israel Web Tour Returns To California

Back by popular demand - The IsraelWebTour (IWT) has begun taking applications, so before we continue - If you are an Israeli entrepreneur with a startup in any stage, The tour is the ultimate platform for visibility, exposure and fast track access to Silicon Valley’s internet landscape. The deadline for applying companies is December 3rd at 5pm PST- file your application here. To stay updated with the the latest news from the tour, join the facebook group or read the IsraelWebTour Blog.

What is the IsraeliWebTour?
IWT is organized by the California Israel Chamber of Commerce (CICC), led by Shuly Galili, whom I recently met in the NewTeeVee Live conference in San Francisco. In addition to the business opportunities that spurge from the tour, it has an educational element designed to expose Israeli entrepreneurs to the latest go-to market strategies and product feedback from the local experts.

The tour starts as a contest. Operating Israeli start ups and aspiring entrepreneurs submit an application to be chosen to the tour. The fifteen lucky CEOs chosen to participate in the tour by the conference organizers and steering committee, will be flown to the US, to represent their startups in Silicon Valley in exclusive meetings with the Valley's hot startups, VC's and potential partners.

During the week long tour, the startups will meet with execs from Google, Yahoo, EBay, Adobe and more in addition to the private one-on-one meetings with potential investors. Last year, some of the issues covered by industry leaders included:Online Marketing, Raising Funds on Sand Hill Road, Building a Winning Business Model, Web2.0 Development Platforms and so on. The tour's highlight is a Public Showcase, on February 5th, where each startup will have the chance to debut its products to members of the press and potential investors. The Tour will end with a closing night party in San Francisco on Thursday February 7th.

Last Year's Achivements
The IsraelWebTour is a unique opportunity for any startup in an emerging market.
  • Five of the 15 companies who participated in 2006 IsraelWebTour raised venture funds from US and Israeli VCs.
  • Two companies were acquired. Most recently Yedda was sold to AOL.
  • Four companies have launched their US operations within 9 months of last year's tour.


"The Israel Web Tour had a great impact on Fixya’s ability to receive funding, form strategic partnerships with the biggest companies in the industry, and jump-start the process of positioning itself as a leader in its space."
Yaniv Bensadon, CEO, Fixya

"The Israel Web Tour is an excellent, well organized and orchestrated initiative; it exceeded my expectation and provided ample opportunities for networking with top players in the Silicon Valley and exposed us to new business opportunities. This helped us to accelerate our success and contributed to expand our growing affiliate and partnership network. Well done !"
Avichai Nissenbaum, CEO, Yedda

Sponsorship Opportunities - Only $7000:

Opportunities are now available to sponsor the IsraelWebTour 2008. Please contact Shuly Galili, Executive Director, The California Israel Chamber of Commerce. shuly@ca-israelchamber.org, 408-343-0917. Application to the tour can be found here.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Comability Raises $6M To Develop A Back Office Management System

ComAbility Ltd has announced a $6 million round raised by Vertex Venture Capital and PE fund Stata Venture Partners.

What is Comability?
Comability developed a subscriber management system for Next Generation Networks (NGN). According to its website, ComAbility's software platform bridges the gap created by the rapid growth of Broadband and Wireless Data Communication Services, due to the increased demand for personalized services, versus the service providers' Operation Support Systems (OSS) infrastructure. Now in plain English, Comability provides the backbone for Broadband Internet, cellular and WiFi providers in a cheaper and more flexible way than other players in the market.

Financing Rounds
The current round was Comability's first, even though it has been around since 2004. Unlike other early stage start ups, Comability has a working product, initial revenue and something that most start ups dream of - it is even profitable.

Existing clients include DSL, cellular and WiFi providers in Israel and abroad. Comability plans to utilize the financing round to grow internationally and develop an additional line of products.

Comability is managed by former VC Alon Fishman and co-founder and CTO Doron Givoni.
With a headcount of 15, Comability is based in Herzliya Israel.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Yedda Means Knowledge (in Hebrew), And Knowledge Means Cash (for Yedda)

AOL completed another acquisition of an Israeli start up. It started in 1998, when ICQ was sold for $406M, continued a week ago with the Quigo M&A for $340M, and it is now the turn of Israel-based Yedda, a semantic Q&A platform that was sold for an undisclosed amount (estimates say it's in the double digit millions). According to the deal terms, Yedda will be a wholly owned subsidiary of AOL and It’s R&D office will remain in Israel.

With only 20 employees and an a seed investment of $2.5M (raised on March 2007, from Genesis Partners and angel investors), Yedda managed to succeed where Google failed. Yedda developed a semantic Q&A service that uses patent pending technology. The engine automatically matches user questions to other related questions and topics, while finding the best available users to answer the questions based on their profile data and previous activity. As a result, users can establish their status as 'experts' on a given topic.

According to the release from AOL, the acquisition was primarily focused on Yedda's patent pending technology and not its user base: Comscore shows a big jump in usage since the summer, from 215,000 unique users in June to nearly 800,000 last month. It's worth to mention that 90% of the traffic goes to Yedda through biz dev deals to power Q&A services on other sites. Their largest partners are ePals and TheJobNetwork (via).

Yedda-powered features and widgets are set to begin appearing on AOL's sites over the next few months - it will be interesting to see how AOL leverages this deal.Some of the existing widgets include the frequently asked question, Ask a question and My profile. See example:

Questions on Yedda range from practical to not-safe for work type of questions. For example: I'm searching for copy of 1968 Italian film, Colpo di Sole (1968). How should I look? or Who found Melinda England's racy MySpace pictures? How did this story make it to the headlines?

Yedda was founded in October of 2005 by CEO
Avichay Nissenbaum and CTO Yaniv Golan, who I met earlier this year in the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Daylight Savings: XJet first round, Octavian second round, Petrobras Shopping, Jordan Valley Semiconductors and Q3 Summary

Catching up with some of the recent deals in the industry. Below is a short recap of what's been getting money these days:

  1. Octavian Inc, a leading provider of Separately Managed Account (SMA) solutions in the Wealth and Investment Management (WIM) industry, announced the completion of a $10 million, second round of investment led by Vertex Venture Capital, together with Carmel Ventures and Gemini Israel Funds, Octavian's existing investors. [via]

  2. Solar energy start-up XJet raises $9m. In stealth mode, XJet aims to redefine solar cells cost efficiency by using next generation deposition technologies. Following Shai Agassi's "Project Better Place", this investment strengthens Israel's position as a world leader in the export of renewable technology. [via]

  3. Staying on energy, Globes reports that Brazilian energy giant Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras), the fifth largest oil refiner in the world, is examining Israeli cleantech for possible investment at the International Water Technologies and Environmental Control Exhibition and Conference - Watec 2007 in Tel Aviv.The sources added that the company will invest $112 billion in technology companies worldwide under its five-year plan. The bulk of this investment will go to renewable energy technologies, including $15 billion for biofuel. [via]

  4. Intel invests $11M in Jordan Valley Semiconductors. The 12-year-old Jordan Valley develops tools for semiconductor metrology based on x-ray technology, with offices in Israel, U.S., Europe, and Asia. Intel's investment follows a funding spree of $31M since May, including Israel-based application management software company Aternity and Israel-based portable computing environment company Ceedo and Israeli-founded IP Phone provider, JaJah. [via]

  5. VC Investments in Israel in Q3 up 9% compared to equivalent period last year. In the third quarter of 2007, 108 Israeli high-tech companies raised $414 million from venture investors both local and foreign. The average company financing round was $3.83 million in Q3, compared with $4.38 million in the third quarter of 2006. [via]

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Quigo Brings Home the Bacon, 5min for $5M, TransChip Makes an Exit, Refresh 07

The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.
Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)

  1. AOL buys Quigo for $340M. Yaron Galai and Oded Itzhak (featured on VC Cafe in the past) are probably happy to be part of AOL's web advertising network. The deal adds about 100 employees to Time Warner's AOL, and follows a series of acquisitions in the ad space including: ad network Advertising.com; Tacoda, which targets users based on their habits; wireless ad network Third Screen Media; video ads company Lightningcast; and ADTECH, a global ad-serving company. Is more Israeli M&A to follow? [via AP]

  2. Life VideoPedia 5min, a 'how to' video sharing site, (previously covered here) raised a $5M round from Spark Capital. This round follows a pretty major dilution for the founders, following 5min's initial angel round of $300K. Get a taste of the competition at Graspr.com. [via Techcrunch]

  3. Samsung Electronics made their first acquisition in ten years - Samsung paid $70M for none other than TransChip Israel Ltd (Tanschip's old URL links to Samsung). Samsung spokeswoman Lee Eun-hee said TransChip would be renamed Samsung Semiconductor Israel R&D Center Ltd. and will become the Korean company’s 17th research and development centers around the world. [via IsraelPlug]

  4. Refresh07 - IDC research has teamed up with Gemini Israel and Genesis Partners to throw the Refresh07, the 'new media' conference. It is taking place in Tel Aviv, Israel on November 21st. The conference will deal with the evolving business models online, their impact on distribution channels and traditional media and content value/ monetization. See the conference page and the Refresh07 Facebook group. [via Israel VC on SandHill Road]

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Israeli PE Fund EMB Looking to Invest in Mobile Content

Eilon Agam, former VP of content at Israeli telecom giant Pele-Phone, gathered a group of private investors to start a new PE fund, EMB Capital Ltd.

EMB is planning to be a private equity fund that focuses on internet and cellular content services. The fund will invest primarily in new content companies and ventures, as well as existing companies seeking to expand their activity in Israel and overseas.

Globes interviewed Agam, who said that the new fund will not operate as a venture capital fund but as an investment fund with a more flexible structure - To me it sounds strikingly similar to Afterdox, the angel investment group formed by Amdocs executives (covered on VC Cafe before).

EMB didn't raise any capital yet. It is focused on finding the right target investments and allocating the funds accordingly. Investment are capped at $1 million each, Agam predicts three or four investments a year.

EMB does not plan to exceed the $1M investment, which will pose a real challenge founding more matured companies. To answer Globes' question, Agam replied:

"When the companies need more capital we'll find an investor group that can invest larger sums in them."

EMB Capital has begun reviewing a number of potential investment projects, including Internet and cellular content ventures, as well as mobile virtual network operators and WiMAX technologies. "Israel is without doubt an ideal melting pot for the development of new content services. We'll take the companies overseas afterwards." Agam added.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Science Fiction? ClassifEye's Biometric Authentication for Cell Phones

If you're familiar with the latest James Bond movies, this product will sound as if it came out of the MI6 laboratories.

As the mobile phone converges with our email, address book, password manager, photo album and countless more services, it is becoming a lucrative identity theft target. Various companies developed fingerprint and voice authentication technologies to solve it, but biometric solutions were typically expensive and hard to implement, as they often require expensive hardware such as fingerprint sensors, USB keys and code generators to operate.

Not anymore. With an aim on security, Israel based ClassifEye developed new fingerprint authentication technology that can be installed on any mobile phone with a camera, eliminating the need for additional hardware and therefore reducing costs and accelerating distribution.

How does it work?

In essence, ClassifEye developed a software-only solution - no biometric sensors and no extra hardware. Basically, the user installs a simple download and goes through a short setup process. During the setup, ClassifEye leverages existing technology by taking a picture of the user's fingerprint using the phone's camera. The software then authenticates the user's fingerprint and authorizes immediate access. The authentication takes about a minute to complete. If you want to learn more, see the patents filed by the CEO.

Who is the target market for this?

Not everyone needs biometric protection, so ClassifEye caters to a few niche segments.
  1. Phone carriers - their pitch: as voip becomes more mature, operators need to increase the average revenue per user (arpu). ClassifEye would be an additional revenue stream to mobile operators.
  2. Financial institutions - think about it, instead of getting asked by an operator the long list of authentication questions (what's your social security, address, pin, etc) - credit card companies would just know that it's you.
  3. Mobile Commerce Vendors - ClassifEye's pitch:
    The most prominent mobile commerce initiative to date has been the m-Wallet initiative. Using the Sony Felica (RFID) chip, NTT Docomo pioneered the m-Wallet initiative in the Far East and numerous successful pilots have now been run in Europe and the U.S. Implementation of such initiatives as the m-Wallet and others requires the full trust of consumers. ClassifEye offers greater trust to consumers, which will encourage them to load to their phones with larger amounts of money via ATM’s and make frequent macro-transactions.
Also on their radar: Healthcare, Government and Homeland Security agencies.

Barriers of Entry

The meteoric progress in mobile technology makes it easier for ClassifEye to penetrate the market.
In Japan, for example, mobile phone technology has developed to the extent that people often use them to make small payments, instead of credit cards. This makes the need for security even greater.

According to ClassifEye's CEO, a year ago there were only a couple of phones that met the requirements for their product - now there are approximately 39 models that do.
Some of the mobile devices containing fingerprint scanning for authentication include: CECT S10, Qiao Xing Mobile (CECT), Atrua ATW300, Toshiba Satellite RG4-E02 Pocket PC (FCC), ViewSonic's V38r-01, V38r-02 & V38r-02A, Advance Tech, Hitachi W51H, Fujitsu F1100 and many more.

The leading competitor is fingerprint authentication provider Authentec - a company that is "stamping out lots of growth" (motley fool).


ClassifEye was co-founded in December 2003 by CEO Rami Cohen, who previously founded Verifox, a developer of credential interoperability technology for the financial industry and CTO Asher Peretz, who previously founded PictureVision Inc that was subsequently sold to Kodak in 2000.

ClassifEye raised $1.2M from
Nobska Ventures, a Baltimore, MD based venture capital firm. Based in Jerusalem, the company has a head count of 12. Want to contact ClassifEye? Leave a comment below.


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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Roundup: Google's platform, EasyStart, Ideas08 and more

A few quick bytes of recent news that didn't get their own post on VC Cafe:
  1. Open Social, Maka-Maka and Google's Attempt to Bite From the Facebook Pie
    Marc Anderssen of Ning and blog.pmarca (highly recommended read) posted a great summary of the recent API announcement. Ning is participating in the open API initiative, along with hi5, linkedin, plaxo, salesforce, friendster and more. Others companies are taking the same route by opening their platform in a similar fashion, including MySpace, the 800 pound gorilla and the web-based instant messaging platform Meebo.com. The New York Times has the details.

    UPDATE: Ning Added a Screen Cast and screenshots of Open Social in action:

    Open Social Screen Cast

    Find more screencasts like this on Ning Network Creators

  2. eXelate Raises $4M for Delayed-Ad Exchange
    Carmel Ventures financed the round. The Israeli based ad platform eXelate offers a marketplace called the “eXelate Targeting eXchange” which is focused on what they are calling “Delayed-Ads.” eXelate was founded in 2006 by CEO Meir Zohar and CTO Elad Efraim, who were both previously with online ad network Oridian. Roi Carthy and a:c will tell you all about it.

  3. Jamster and innerActive to Trial Mobile In-Game Advertising Service in the UK
    I sometimes get Press Releases forwarded through the blog - this was the most recent one: Jamster, one of the world's leading providers of digital entertainment, able to reach one in six consumers around the globe, and Israel based innerActive Smart Media, a leading provider of innovative ad-funded entertainment channel, have announced today a trial of a new Mobile In-Game Advertising service in the UK. Want to read more? There are plenty of sources...

  4. Easy start will give you 100K to fund your idea - interest free
    The Dan David Foundation, annually awards 3 prizes of US$ 1 million each for achievements having an outstanding scientific, technological, cultural or social impact on our world. In a recent initiative, The Marker and Dan David announced EasyStart - a new - an interest free angel loan of 100K$ for early stage start ups. In return, EasyStart takes 25% of the venture, and will receive 18 monthly installments. In addition, The Marker magazine will provide exposure to the projects, including interviews with the founders. The risk is on them - if the start up fails, the entrepreneur files for chapter 11 and is not required to return a dime. If it works, a year from inception the start up will be entitled for additional grants of up to $120K. To apply, follow this link (Hebrew)

  5. The Israel National Entrepreneurship Competition - Biztec 08
    BizTEC's mission is to be "A League" entrepreneurship competition, providing a framework within Israel that encourages entrepreneurs to act on their innovation and ultimately produce Israel's next generation of successful ventures.

    This year BizTEC has added a preliminary stage to the competition. After registration to the BizTEC website, teams will be able to submit a 1 page paper describing the IDEA concept of the venture. Teams are required to show an understanding of the business aspects for a new creative technological IDEA. The upcoming competition starts on November 4th in Israel. Register or submit your idea.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The New Million Dollar Page (wannabe) and How I Saved an Alien

It's silly, but what if this crazy idea worked? Save an Alien, an Israeli Facebook app hopes to create the "million dollar page" effect through an extra terrestrial plot. If 10M people adopt an alien each, the cute aliens will be saved from imminent death and this Israeli start up will have 10M subscribers- not bad if you plan to do some targeted marketing. At the time of writing this post, the app had 2,314 daily active users. I predict that this number will grow fast in the coming weeks. As a comparison, according to appsaholic, the leading apps reach up to 1.689,000 daily active users.

So how does Save an Alien work?
The story is simple. Save An Alien is a campaign aimed at saving 10 million unique aliens from certain death by a meteor that's bound to hit on May 1st 2008 (183 days from today and counting).

The solution
10 million humans need to each adopt one alien. All the aliens need to be adopted to be saved

What's so special about these aliens?
Each alien is unique, and after adoption it will be yours. They kind of look like a Tamagotchi. Except that you don't need to feed or play with the alien (its not a pet).
You can walk around planet alien through a flash-like interface, to select the alien that you want to rescue. You can also 'replace' your alien later on.
What can you do with your alien?
Once you adopt an alien you can use its pictures as a desktop wallpaper, cell phone background, IM icon (ICQ, Messanger, Skype) and even print its picture and put it on your desk. If you really like your alien you can buy a custom t-shirt with him on it. As for other revenue generators, the FAQ says it best:

In the future we will add more ways for you to show the alien that you love it, for now we are focused on saving the aliens on the planet.

There's also a social aspect
see your friend's aliens and invite others to take part of the rescue mission. You get points for saving other aliens by inviting people and by filling up your profile and verifying your email.

Did you save an alien already?

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Don't Stop Believing - Imagine Communications Scores $15M for Broadband TV

The Broadband TV niche in Israel is on fire. Following RayV's $8M round earlier this month, Israel-based Imagine Communications announced a second round and a hot upcoming deal.

Imagine develops Personalized TV technologies for video on demand (VOD) and Internet Protocol TV (IPTV). Imagine claims that its next-generation multiplexing technology, the QOD Gateway System, provides operators with:
  • 50%-100% more streams on existing network infrastructure
  • Greatly enhanced video quality
  • Future PersonalizedTV applications such as targeted ads and personalized audio
The platform uses a variable bit rate (VBR) platform. By employing VBR, a technique that changes bit rates on the fly, Imagine believes it can cram 15 standard-definition streams into one QAM channel, versus 10 streams using fixed, constant bit rate (CBR) technology. The efficiency also applies to high-definition television.

Founded in October 2004, Imagine Comm was previously known as QoD (Quality on Demand), the name of its initial product. Imagine previously raised $9.2M from Carmel Ventures II and Columbia Capital back in 2006. In its current round, Imagine Comm is raising $15M from previous backers and according to rumors also from US based Court Square Ventures (CSV). In addition to the financing round, Imagine Communications is also rumored to be on the verge of signing a significant long term partnership with a European communications mogul.

The founders of imagine are both veterans of BigBand Networks, one of Israel's biggest IPOs ever. CTO and Co-founder Ron Gutman, former director of customer solutions at BigBand and SVP of Product Doron Segev, former lead of product and engineering for video apps at Big Band.
In June this year, BigBand filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Imagine Comm, claiming that Imagine's co-founders are infringing three of BigBand's patents on video processing and bandwidth management.

The company is based in Cardiff by the sea, CA and has offices in Israel as well. It currently has a head team of 35.

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Shai Agassi Reinvents the Gas Pump for All-Electirc Cars @ Better Place

After almost becoming the CEO of SAP global, Shai Agassi now aims to reinvent 'the pump' - for battery powered all-electric cars.

With a $200M investment in his pocket, Shai Agassi is planning to build a network of battery-charging stations in the US, Europe and emerging markets with his new venture called 'Project Better Place', which already has a head count of ten. The seed round was raised from two funds and a group of private investors. The Israel Corporation, a large Israeli transportation and technology holding company, invested $100 million earlier this year. The rest was invested by Vantage Point Venture Partners, and heavy weight investors Edgar Bronfman Sr., the liquor magnate (Chivas Regal, Crown Royal), and James D. Wolfensohn, former head of the World Bank.

The new system will sell electric fuel on a subscription basis and will subsidize vehicle costs through leases and credits. In a recent interview, Shai said that tests of prototype vehicles would start in early 2008 and the company would begin commercial sales and service in 2010.

Unlike Tesla Motors and other electric-car ventures that focus on the battery itself (performance, life cycle and cost), Shai's venture plans to extend the existing electric-power grids with a wide network of recharging stations in urban areas, that will be supplemented with a smaller number of automated battery-replacement stations.

Shai Agassi, 39, joined SAP in 2001, when it acquired his Israel based company, TopTier software .
Check out the New York Times and WSJ for the rest of the story. To learn more about the project, see the Fact Sheet (Pdf).

Also, see Shai's presentation (requires plugin) by clicking on the image below:

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Goldman Sachs Invested $100M in Israeli Mobileye

Mobileye, a Top100 Innovator according to Red Herring magazine, develops vision systems to prevent imminent accidents by providing drivers with tools such as distance keeping between vehicles, dynamic cruise control and timely warnings in dangerous situations.

Mobileye's main product is
its EyeQ vision system chip. The chip monitors the location of other vehicles on the road so that the driver can avoid accidents if other drivers swerve from their lanes or get too close.

GS made the investment based on a $600M valuation.
Mobileye has raised about $65 million so far, and its revenues are estimated at $10 million a year. Mobileye was co-founded by Professor Amnon Shashua (Chairman), expert in 3D vision and pattern recognition, and CEO Ziv Aviram. Founded in 1999, the company has a head count of approximately 185 and has its R&D based in Jerusalem as well as sales and marketing offices in the US Cyprus and Japan.

[via Haaretz]

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TGIF - Friday Wrap Up and Weekly News

This week was full of tech news that deserve some VC Cafe attention. Here's a short recap on the headlines that didn't get their own post:

Payoneer raises $3M from Greylock partners

Payoneer markets manages and services prepaid MasterCard cards together with the Royal Bank of Scotland and the First Bank of Delaware. Anyone 13 years or older can get a card, by filling out a form online. The fully-functioning debit MasterCards offer web-based businesses issuing co-branded cards, earning different fees ranging from card activations to process fees on money charges. Clients already include Mahsable, odesk and most recently istockphoto.

Greylock Partners Israel invested $3M out of a $4M round. Payoneer was founded in 2005 and has a head count of 25 with offices in New York and Tel-Aviv. Their competitors include WebCertificate, NetSpend and BuyRight.

[via Techcrunch (thanks Roi)]

MySpace Plans to open Israeli branch, looking to hire content manager

The Marker Israel reports that MySpace.com is looking to open offices in Israel. MySpace published a job ad on linked in, looking for a content manager in Israel.
The following position is available at MySpace Israel. The position is demanding and fast paced, requiring an individual who thrives in a start up environment. This position is based in Israel.
[via The Marker and Startup Israel]

Technion Seed - four VC funds partner with Israeli university

The Tehcnion incubator (TEIC) understood that in order to grow successful companies, it will need more funding. The university aims to solve the problem through the creation of a type of incubator - jointly owned by Technion Israel Institute of Technology and four venture capital funds: Vertex Venture Capital, Vitalife Life Sciences Venture, ProSeed Venture Capital Fund and US fund Battery Ventures. Companies accepted to be part of the incubator will recieve funding straight from the VC funds. The Technion Seed Lab is led by Moshe Catzenelson, former CEO of LabOne Innovations Inc..

[via Globes ]

Facebook Israel Network surpases 100K users

Back at the end of June there were about 18,000 people on the Israel Network on Facebook. Following the Von Conference in Israel on October 14th, it grew to 74,000. Since then It has been growing exponentially with now over 100K users. A growth of 33% was recorded in about 9 days. Given that Facebook is an English language platform, as Shel Israel wrote, “that is truly amazing.”
[via Shel Israel, Jeff Pulver]

Terrorists use Google Earth to Find Targets in Israel

Members of Palestine’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a group aligned with the Fatah political party, has admitted to using Google Earth for mapping targets for rocket strikes.
[via Mahsable]

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Grass Can Be Greener - Update on Clean Tech

Earlier this month, Green Tech Media posted a great update byMeir Ukeles of Israel Cleantech Ventures on the growing popularity of Israeli Green Tech companies.

I summarized the main points from this report, but I recommend reading the full article.

    1. Background: Fueled by acute constraints in natural resources, Israel has spawned a number of successful water technology and alternative energy companies, including recognized names in drip irrigation (Netafim), desalination (IDE), geothermal energy (Ormat), fuel cells (Medis), and solar thermal energy (Solel/Luz).
    2. Israel’s academic institutions in these areas have led to world class cleantech capabilities and more than 350 active cleantech companies in Israel today.
    3. The Human Asset: The roots of this growing community of cleantech entrepreneurs can be traced to:
      • established or “legacy” industrial companies active in energy, water, chemicals etc.,
      • academic institutions with long histories as research leaders in energy and water sciences
      • “crossover” initiatives or entrepreneurs moving into cleantech from traditional areas of Israeli technology leadership such as power electronics, semiconductors, and even biotech and agritech.
      • founders or key members of some of the most recognized names in Israel’s high tech world (Checkpoint, Comverse, Chromatis, Scitex, and many others) now involved in launching cleantech companies.
      • Israeli cleantech companies must overcome the same challenges faced by counterparts in other countries, including the challenge of penetrating often risk-averse customers in the energy and water markets, managing cash burn rates against long sales and adoption cycles, etc. However, Israeli companies do operate under some unique constraints, starting with their distance from and historical lack of familiarity with many of the key customers and channel partners for their products and technologies.
      • Israel’s most important resource is its entrepreneurs – a seemingly inexhaustible supply of talented business people and technologists who excel at looking beyond traditional ways of solving market problems and inefficiencies.
That, coupled with the truly colossal demand for technologies to address the world’s insatiable need for clean, accessible energy, water and air, is what is already putting Israel on the map as a global cleantech player.

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SmartShopper Makes an Exit, Strengthens Zango

Yet another Israeli exit this week. SmartShopper, a browser based comparison shopping engine was acquired by WA based Zango.com for an estimated sum of ~$9M according to alarm:clock and Techcrunch.

A problematic buyer*
Zango has raised $40M from Spectrum Equity in 2004. It is notoriously known in the spyware business for its distribution of free games to MySpace users, that result in the installation of a spyware toolbar that requires user consent before the adware is installed. The toolbar belongs to Hotbar Inc., who is the was once the owner of Smart Shopper.

Zango states in its website that "Zango does not collect or share any information about you with anyone", but the company is entangled in several court challenges from privacy groups on its marketing tactics and policies. Services like McAfee Site Advisor
confirm the suspicion in their reports. User reviews show Zango as enabler of spam, spyware and even phishing attempts. It was even banned by the state of Alaska:
EULA Qoute:Special Notice for Residents of the State of Alaska, USA:

The Zango Software may be prohibited by Alaska law. Therefore, by installing or Using the Zango Software, you represent and warrant that your computer is not located in the state of Alaska. To the extent that our systems are able to recognize that your computer is located in the state of Alaska, we will not enable you to install the Zango Software.
*See disclaimer in update II below
SmartShopper deserves props
SmartShopper developed a neat technology that enables comparison of multiple shopping and travel sites in real time through a browser install. When you go shop online, SmartShopper identifies the exact product or service you are looking for, and intelligently appears in a separate browser pane with relevant alternative offers (If you want to try the service, watch the Smartshopper demo and click here to download). It claims to have over 10M users.

SmartShopper was lead by Oren Dobronsky, who spun it off from Hotbar in 2005. The company is based in New York and Tel Aviv with a head count of 10.
UPDATE I: alarm:clock gives the skinny on SmartShopper's buyout. In short, Zango payed $55M for Hotbar last June. Oren Dobronsky, who owned 10% of Hotbar Inc., bought out 100% of Smart Shopper from Zango for $250K and became the sole owner.

UPDATE II*: I received an email from Zango's PR manager today. So first, a quick disclaimer: I didn't download or install the products above and this post's information is based on publicly available sources on the web. Zango admits to have had problems with some distribution partners in the past, with emphasis on the past. They currently put great care into making sure that their products and distribution partners adhere to the Best Practices designed to protect consumers and business partners.

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