Last week, Gemini Israel Funds made the news as one of several investors who contributed to the new Israeli solar-energy start up that raised $9 million in funding, XJet, Ltd (see my post). For Gemini Israel Funds, the investment marks the second cleantech start up that it has added to its portfolio since August and signifies a new importance the company is putting on the future of cleantech.
Gemini Israel Funds was the first Israeli VC fund to be established from the Israeli government’s Yozma program in 1993 after Israel high-tech and VC pioneer, Ed Mlavsky, agreed to manage the fund. According to Gemini’s website, over the years, Gemini has focused on seed and early fund investments in areas of Communications such as Wireless Technologies, Enterprise Software, Internet, Consumer Electronics and Semiconductors, investing in companies such as RADLive, WeFi, Inc, IXI Mobile Inc, Adap.TV, Triana Inc, and OpTier Inc. Gemini has offices in Israel and Silicon Valley and manages funds totaling $550 million.
Analysis: Sun only beginning to shine on investing in Israel’s cleantech sector
While cleantech still isn’t a top priority for Gemini (it currently only has two cleantech companies in its portfolio), its recent cleantech investments have placed Gemini as a serious leader in cleantech venture capital community in Israel — an area that is picking up steam with the coverage that companies such as XJet, Ltd and Project Better Place have been getting lately and the latest news that Al Gore has become a partner in the VC firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byerswill (KPCB) and will help the company find and invest in start-ups globally (including Israel).
Despite any potential future interest by KPCB, as more Israeli and international VC firms become active in Israel cleantech in the future, Gemini is poised to be little affected given its approach and its founding partner and Chairman, Ed Mlavsky.
According to a company self-description, “Gemini’s key contributions include an ability to make daring investment decisions and the capability to utilize past operational experience in assisting portfolio companies.” The firm’s willingness and ability to make “daring investment decisions,” is a direct influence of Mlavsky.
Since his days at Tyco in the 1960s, Mlavsky has always embraced new technologies and has taken risks with them. While at Tyco (which he co-founded) he initiated the development and commercialization of a “novel photovoltaic technology” that he later oversaw as Executive Vice President of joint-venture Mobil Tyco Solar Energy Corporation. Risks such as that led Tyco to become the $40 billion company that it is today (and Gemini to have $550 million in funds). As such, it can be assumed that his attitude is what has sparked Gemini’s early entrance into cleantech. Additionally, his experience (and solar-energy expertise) fulfills Gemini’s “capability to utilize past operational experience in assisting portfolio companies” in cleantech, which, presumably, also gives the company a bit of a one up in the experience department over other Israeli VC firms entering cleantech.
However, although the cleantech industry is poised for great success, it is still a fledgling area and requires many obstacles to be lifted before any company will become a major global player and give Gemini and other VC firms the returns that they expect. Analysts predict that since this is a new area, big payoffs and mature cleantech startups aren’t likely for several years.
This may take even longer as it is very unlikely that in the near future any cleantech start-up will be able to expand its market-share significantly in major markets such as the United States and China due to a lack of government incentives and payoffs in the former, and lax regulations in the latter. As both governments become increasingly pressured to make these changes, though, and even more opportunities open up, Gemini’s business acumen should ensure that its cleantech companies will meet its expectations and eventually provide it with a nice ROI.
Overview of Gemini
Opportunities in Television
Ed Mlavsky: GOLB