Reps from more than 40 emerging firms introduced their ideas at a US/Israel Venture Summit, looking to attract funds and make deals.
By Avigayil Kadesh
Top management from more than 40 promising Israeli technology, life sciences and clean-tech companies presented their ideas to US funders at the US/Israel Venture Summit on March 29-30 in Manhattan’s financial district. "We are big believers that the kind of entrepreneurial and technical talent that continues to come out of Israel is really first class," says Daniel Schultz, managing director of DFJ Gotham Ventures, a leading New York venture capital firm. DFJ Gotham was a sponsor of the summit, which was organized by youngStartup Ventures.
"The startup corridor between Israel and New York has been experiencing tremendous entrepreneurial activity both for companies originating in Israel and for Israelis already working here for other companies," says Schultz, explaining that many US-based startups are backed by a technical team in Israel, lending "a double momentum to the Israel opportunity today." His firm and its partner fund in Israel, DFJ Tamir Fishman, will follow up with about half a dozen of the presenters from the technology field.
Another sponsor, Norwest Venture Partners, pinpointed five Israeli startups with which to pursue further discussion. "This was more than I expected," says NVP partner Dror Nahumi, explaining that many of the participants were in med-tech, a field his fund does not support in Israel. Nahumi helped coach some of the emerging company CEOs for their seven-minute presentations, giving him a preview of which ones might be of interest to NVP, which has offices in California, India and Herzliya, Israel.
The summit also featured panel sessions with investors and plenty of time for networking opportunities, says youngStartup Ventures CEO Joe Benjamin.
This was the fifth youngStartup event focusing specifically on Israeli startups, designed for venture capitalists, corporate and private investors, investment bankers, angel investors, tech transfer executives and incubator managers to have a chance to mingle with Israeli entrepreneurs.
"I was a co-chair of the program because we believe the cause of connecting Israeli high-tech and US-based high-tech is important," says Izhar Shay of Canaan Partners, another sponsor. "And on the other side, it’s an excellent opportunity for us to get a glimpse of the exciting Israeli high-tech market."
Shay reports that feedback has been very positive. "We heard from many on the investment side that some interesting business opportunities were created." His firm is a global investor with offices in Herzliya as well as the United States and India, managing $3 billion with a focus on high-tech and healthcare startups.
Benjamin says that "Israel is a powerhouse for innovation" and that most Israeli entrepreneurs recognize the need to establish US offices. "Most investors are open to investing in companies that are further away, where they will be dealing with people on a virtual level, but some would prefer to have a presence closer by," he says.
The mission of youngStartup Ventures is to source deals for early-stage and emerging companies and assist them in procuring funding. While many of the company’s summits feature international funders, the US/Israel Venture Summit was exclusively for US-based VCs, he adds. "Our specific goal was to attract VCs that have not yet invested in Israeli companies, in addition to others that already have."
Presenter Danny Weissberg, CEO and co-founder of YubiTech, said his early-stage startup, housed in the Granot industrial area near Hadera, is developing a unique technology that would allow users to create new mobile enterprise apps via drag and drop.
Initial funds came from the Israeli Chief Scientist, a high-tech incubator and private investors, "but we require a few million dollars to get stability and grow internationally now that we are mature enough to get to round A financing," Weissberg explains.
He confides that he practiced his summit presentation "at least a hundred times" since he is not used to speaking in English – especially in front of a crowd. But his hard work seems to have paid off. "Joe told me we were the second most popular presentation [in our category], and I have several angel investors and VCs talking with me. And my current investors are much more confident of the company’s success and are willing to invest additional funds. I couldn’t wish for more."