Israel Innovation 2.0

Inside Israeli Technology

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News from Israel’s cleantech industry during the week of March 1, 2009 showed that it will continue to grow throughout the recession and that substantial progress is starting to be made, such as with Aora receiving a license for its solar thermal plant on Kibbutz Samar. In contrast, IT companies Comverse and SAP Israel announced layoffs this past week, however, several companies, including ComAbility and Kenshoo, raised funds and new partnerships were announced. For more details on these and the rest of the 14 Israel-related headlines from the week of March 1, 2009, check below.

Cleantech

1. Cleantech faces wave of growth, not layoffs

2. IQwind a Red Herring Top 100 Global Company

3. Aora Gets License for Solar Thermal Plant

Investments and Economy

4. Comverse to fire hundreds – many in Israel

5. Sequoia Capital leads Second round of financing for AICC Member Kenshoo Ltd.

6. Israeli technology company ComAbility secures a further $4m in venture funding 

7. Onset Technology lands $3M venture round

Information Technology

8. SAP, IBM to Showcase Tech for Cloud Mobility 

9. Ness Technologies Uses WorkLight to Secure Social Media

10. A New Advertising Tool That’s Truly Cool

11. Triond: A Writing Opportunity Worth Investigating

12. Actimize, a NICE Company, Positioned in Leaders Quadrant of Magic Quadrant for Web Fraud Detection

Miscellaneous

13. A tourism crisis hits the Middle East

14. Keeping your mind sharp with Israel’s CogniFit

eilatgreenWhen the second annual Eilat-Eilot International Renewable Energy Conference took place recently with over 700 attendees, it was known and expected that some representatives from both the Israeli and US governments would be there to talk about new projects between the two governments and that there would be other officials from state governments and municipalities there to learn more about cleantech and the solutions for municipalities offered by the vendors in the exhibition. What was less expected was to learn about the collaboration efforts to go green being undertaken on the U.S. state and municipality level with Israel’s southern region. 

During the conference I had the opportunity to meet John A. Berenyi, an alternative energy advisor who has been a key figure in initiating these joint projects. In July 2008, through his efforts, South Carolina became the first state to sign a collaboration agreement with the Eilat region. Under the agreement, the two will conduct research together on alternative and renewable energy opportunities and “promote a more sustainable environment and enhance the quality of life for the citizens of both regions.”

On a more local level, Mt. Vernon, NY is interested in becoming the first green municipality in the United States and is willing to be the first lab for using different Israeli technologies, and has become a sister city of Eilat’s to do so. 

Berenyi’s plan is to expand collaboration efforts between state and municipalities and the Eilat region. Tapping state research programs and state VC funds will help make more joint efforts possible as will President Obama’s stimulus plan, which, hidden in little bits, has over $40 billion for alternative energy and sustainable projects that can be good for mature Israeli companies.

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The week of February 22, 2009, was a fairly quiet one for Israel’s technology and business sectors… but there was still plenty that happened. News about Microsoft’s interests in purchasing 3DV Systems, a motion-sensing company, continued, as did layoff announcements. Tufin Technologies announced the general availability of its SecureChange Workflow software and IT Structures, an on-demand virtual enterprise software evaluation service, demonstrated its technology during VMworld Europe last week. For these stories and more, check out the rest of this week’s 13 Israel-related headlines below. 

Cleantech
1. DOE & Israel Update Energy Cooperation Agreement 

2. Ancient Jordanian wells radioactive, study finds

Investments, Economy and M&A
3. Stormy day for high-tech as layoffs, pay cuts announced 

4. Microsoft Set to Bring 3D Motion Control to Xbox & PC Games

5. Venture capital investments rise in China, India, and Israel 

6. A viable economy

Information Technology
7. Tufin Technologies Announces General Availability of SecureChange(TM) Workflow

8. Red Hat Targets VMware, Microsoft With Virtualization Line (Qumranet)

9. IT Structures Emerges to Take Center Stage at VMworld Europe

Miscellaneous
10. Financial crisis gives universities a chance to reverse brain drain

11. The Mobile Industry Meets Hollywood

12. Israeli ‘Spiderman’ attacks commuters

13. Nanotech activity in Israel jumps 150%

ftslogoVShield Software Corp. announced today that it has begun talks to buy an Israel based B2B software company that develops software packages for the travel industry, including hotel chains and several International airlines.

According to Andrea Zecevic, Chief Product Officer,

“The Israeli company will operate independently as a wholly owned subsidiary in addition to our existing Trust Vault platform. They have some great technology that can serve as a platform for future growth.” 

One Israeli company that can fit the description is Formula Travel Solutions, Ltd (FTS). FTS provides advanced software solutions for the travel industry and its products include TOPAX Management, TOPAX platform, AMSYS 2000 and the TOPAX B2B site. According to the Israeli R&D database Matimop

“The TOPAX platform includes the entire commercial, operational, and administrative aspects of Tour Operator activities, providing the necessary planning, costing, pricing, inventory, allotment, document printing, accounting and reporting. It includes hotel and flight reservations, packages, tours, transfers, car rental, and more.”

 

While it is possible that FTS is the mystery company that VShield is after, it is unlikely. FTS is an established company that has been around since 1982. It also has a parent company,  Formula Vision Technologies Ltd. that would makes a sale more complicated.

imperva_logo1Imperva, an application data security company, today announced the SecureSphere Database Gateway for z/OS (DGZ), which offers end-to-end protection and auditing for IBM Mainframe Databases.

According to the announcement,

“SecureSphere DGZ provides comprehensive monitoring, auditing and protection for DB2 databases running on z/OS mainframes. DGZ tracks local and network activity by privileged users, non-privileged users, and applications to prevent data loss, fraud, and automate regulatory compliance reporting.” 

Earlier this month Imperva named Henk Jan Spanjaard vice president of sales for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa and released that its business grew by more than 80% in 2008. According to thewhir.com, as VP Sales, Spanjaard “will direct Imperva’s aggressive growth initiatives in key European markets, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and The Netherlands.” 

In 2008, Imperva added over 300 new customers and “boosted the total number of organizations protected and monitored by SecureSphere to more than 4,500 [in 35 countries].”  Based on a USA Today article last week, Imperva isn’t just rising through the ashes of the current economic downturn, but, because cost-saving tech services are in demand, actually thriving.  

Indicators of this include that the company recently signed a deal with SuccessFactors, hired Spanjaard (presumably in an aggressive manner) and invested in developing new technology. All in all, February has been quite a busy and good month for Imperva. 

Last week the Internet was abuzz with Microsoft’s intentions to buy Israeli motion and depth sensor company, 3DV Systems. Microsoft’s offer of $35 million is below the $38.6 million invested in the company and seems to come out of desperation on the part of Kleiner Perkins. If the deal goes through, Microsoft will integrate the technology into its Xbox gaming system, making the need for any type of controller unnecessary and posing the biggest threat to Nintendo Wii yet. 

A little over a year ago in January 2008, 3DV stole the spotlight at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas with its new release at the time, the ZCam. The camera, which detects motion and depth, was on display for conference attendees to try out and drew a lot of good feedback. After reading about 3DV’s performance and its competitor, another Israeli company, Prime Sense’s presence at CES 2008, I predicted in a post about them that they could take gaming to the next level, including one of them becoming the next big gaming console.

Though that certainly doesn’t look like it will be the case for 3DV as an independent entity, should the deal go through with Microsoft and it is succesfully integrated into the Xbox, it looks like it will take gaming to the next level.  This story will be interesting to watch as it develops and long after.

Disclosure: The following is partially a recap of Twestival Jerusalem ’09, an event that I helped organize.

In a recent post about Green Any Site, I mentioned that Jerusalem took part in a worldwide effort to raise money for Charity: Water in Africa. The event, a Twestival (short for Twitter festival), raised over NIS 2000 in Jerusalem for Charity: Water, which will use this money and the money raised from the over 200 other Twestivals around the world (over $250,000 USD) to build wells that will provide clean water to villages in Africa and India.

As Israel is a leader in water technology and several of the co-organizers’ organizations, including Jewish Climate Initiative, Green Any Site, PresenTense and GreenProphet are connected to cleantech in some way, Twestival Jerusalem took on an additional component of educating attendees on clean technology and water technology from Israel.

Some Israeli water technology companies that stand out when addressing water needs, in Africa and elsewhere, include Desalitech, AqWise and Netafim. Here is what each company is doing:

Desalitech:  Desalitech has created a reverse osmosis water treatment technology that can lower desalinated water prices to a level that will make water affordable to developed and developing areas. It’s desalination technology offers reductions of up to 50% in the installation costs of desalination plants and in desalination energy consumption as well as a reduction in maintanence and operating expenses. It’s surface and ground water reclamation technology is currently bringing clean water to villages in Africa and abroad.

aqwiselogoAqWise: Aqwise is an innovator in developing and implementing wastewater treatment technologies that can be used in municipal, agricultural and industrial wastewater treatement plants. Its AGAR® Process can be used for both organic carbon and nutrient removal. At the heart of the process are little plastic biomass carriers that filter and treat the water in a similar manner to the way rocks filter water.

netafimlogoNetafim: Netafim has been around since 1965 and is one of Israel’s first innovators in the agriculture sector. Aside from greenhouse and bio-energy solutions, it provides irrigation solutions and products that enable customers to get the most from their crops (both in quality and yields) while using as minimal an amount as possible of valuable resources, such as water.

I recently helped co-organize Jerusalem Twestival ’09 which raised money for Charity: Water, an organization that provides villages in Africa with clean water. The Jerusalem event was one of over 180 “twestivals” on the same day worldwide and featured booths with different clean technology and water technology companies and organizations along with musical performances.

One of the organizations at the festival was Green Any Site (GAS). Green Any Site takes advantage of affiliate sales programs, such as the one offered by Amazon.com, by offering a “Green This” bookmarklet that people can add to their browser and click on before adding an item to their shopping cart. After following the directions they can then continue to go about the regular purchasing process. At the end of the month Amazon.com and/or other similar sites send a percentage of each sale made to Green Any Site which then donates all of the proceeds to a charity or charities decided upon by bookmarklet users.

During the festival, Tal Ater, the founder and creator of GAS, showed me how it works. Here is the video:

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During the week of February 15, 2009, Greylock Israel was revealed to be the most active Israeli venture capital fund in 2008. The Internet was abuzz with both Hulu’s plan to discontinue distributing its content via Boxee and Microsoft’s intention to further its Xbox technology by buying 3DV, a motion and depth sensor company that has technology that can turn a 2D gaming experience into a more interactive 3D one without having to use a controller. In the cleantech sector, news broke that Arison Holdings Ltd. subsidiary Housing and Construction Holding Co. Ltd. plans to build the largest private solar thermal power plant in the Negev. For these stories and more, check below for the 13 Israel-related headlines from the week of February 15, 2009. 

Cleantech
1. Lab-on-a-Chip the Latest Weapon Against Pollution

2. Arison plans private solar thermal power plant in Negev

Investments and M&A
3. 3DV buy could give Xbox a stronger punch

4. Greylock Israel the most active Israeli venture capital fund of 2008

Information Technology
5. LG Electronics Selects Intrinsyc to Provide Software for Navigation and Location-Based Services 

6. NSC Announces Multimedia Search Server for Enterprise Applications

7. Mellanox Builds Bridges for Data Center Connectivity

Telecom/Mobile
8. iSkoot Kalaida(TM) Platform Brings New Capability to Consumer Handsets

9. WeFi Joins Forces With free-hotspot.com To Expand Global Wi-Fi Network

Miscellaneous
10. Inshore in Nazareth 

11. Hulu Withdraws its Content from TV.com, Boxee

12. C-nario, TruMedia integrate audience measurement with digital signage software

13. Rapid Manufacturing Goes Hollywood

techaviv_logoSince I attended TechAviv two weeks ago, in which nearly half the startups there were early stage and pre-seed, I have been thinking a lot about the discussions on getting funded that took place there and earlier that day at Eze Vidra’s VC Cafe breakfast and in general.

It has been clear for several months now that VCs are being more conservative in choosing companies to fund and that those that do get funding, are generally receiving less than they would have in good times. Additionally, somewhere along the way in the past few years, VCs have become more concerned with the capital aspect of what they do which has led them to invest in fewer “ventures.” They are taking less risks, such as by not investing in ideas, and are looking more for “ventures” that have already proven themselves a little – in many cases, by already becoming profitable or developing the technology. Whether this is good or bad, it’s just the way it is.

Since an angel investor panel, which included Yossi Vardi, at TechCrunch50 in September 2008 discussed what the decrease in VC funding would mean for them, I have constantly heralded angel investments as an alternative to VC funding and one that would still thrive… then the stock market and economy crashed. While that was already a few months ago, The New York Times had an article earlier this month titled, Angels Flee From Tech Start-Ups, about how bad it has really been and is for them. 

So, hypothetically removing VCs and Angels from the startup funding equation, what other sources of funding are there in Israel? For more established startups, close to nothing. 

For small startups and individuals though, here is a list of nine alternative funding programs:

  1. Israel Internet Society Research Grants
  2. US-Israel Binational Industrial R&D Foundation (BIRD)
  3. US-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF)
  4. Intel-Annual Research Grants Program
  5. Technion Research and Development Foundation
  6. Israel Science Foundation
  7. Incubators (Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor Office of the Chief Scientist)
  8. Call for proposals (Israel Ministry of Science, Culture and Sport)
  9. Yozma Group