Israel’s top ten technologies that are transforming the Web

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Israel is at the cutting edge of some of the best Internet technologies around. ISRAEL21c takes a look at the brightest new companies that are now revolutionizing the web.

Israel’s success in the technology sector is no secret. Over the years, the country has become a key research and development center for multinational companies such as Motorola and Intel, had a role in revolutionizing the way we use the Web and conduct business on it, and kept our computers and browsers secure.

More than 3,000 start-ups have been launched in Israel and in 2009 $1.12 billion in capital was raised by 447 Israeli high-tech companies.

The quantity and successes of Israel’s startups have earned the country the nickname startup nation. While most of the attention is focused on its contributions to cleantech, biotech and green tech (Israel created drip-irrigation), perhaps no sector has had more of an impact than its Web sector.

Most well known for developing instant messaging, which AOL bought and turned into AIM, and for the shopping comparison site which eBay purchased, the web sector has gained new traction in recent years. In 2009 alone, the sector received 22 percent of VC funding and saw three companies sweep the TechCrunch50 awards. In May 2010, Israel’s Soluto, an anti-frustration software that boosts PC efficiency, won TechCrunch Disrupt.

In the book Startup Nation, authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer attribute Israel’s success to the diversity and education of Israeli immigrants, the “chutzpah” of Israelis, and the mandatory military experience after high school, among other factors.

Yaron Samid, an entrepreneur and founder of TechAviv Angels, a group that connects successful Israeli entrepreneurs and investors in the Internet and mobile sectors, thinks the military experience and the culture it creates are the biggest contributing factors to the country’s success in this sector: “In the army, these young soldiers are being told what they can and can’t do. When they get out of it, they realize they are now in control and can determine their own destiny.

“The army has instilled upon an entire generation a spirit that is conducive for building a Web startup. You have very smart guys coming out of it who want freedom and don’t want to join a big tech company. They have found it in developing Web applications with little cost,” Samid asserts.

Low costs and numerous successes have attracted investors such as Jeff Pulver. A former pioneer in Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and current Internet angel investor, Pulver maintains strong ties to the sector in Israel and frequently visits the country to meet with local web startups because “what sector of the Internet space hasn’t been touched by Israeli innovation?”

This situation is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. According to Daniel Cohen, partner at Gemini Israel Ventures, while historically Israel’s biggest contributions have been and instant messaging technology, “In the future, Israel will dominate certain niches, such as gaming and advertising, and as the market focus shifts away from the US, Israel can produce a big mainstream winner in Europe or Asia.”

ISRAEL21c brings you the top 10 Israeli companies contributing to the Internet today.
For the list please click here

Tom Ridge: Israel’s renewable energy know-how among world’s best

Thursday, August 12th, 2010


As reported in IVC: “In order to ensure that sustainable and safe technologies are developed in Israel, it’s necessary to maintain a suitable balance between the state and the market.”

In an interview with “Globes”, former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge says, “The socioeconomic and environmental needs of the 21st century require innovation and energy independence, which can be found in renewable energy. This is one of the important transitions that we can undertake from the industrial era to the green era.”
The winner from among the two consortia bidding for the government renewable energy incubator tender is due to be picked within a few months. The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor will provide the Negev incubator NIS 57 million over five years, which the tender winner will match, giving the incubator a total budget of NIS 114 million.

The incubator is an important project, as a glance at the participants in the tender demonstrates. The first consortium, called Sderot 21, comprises Baran Group (TASE: BRAN; Pink Sheets:BRANF), Bar Ilan University, entrepreneur Shai Beilis, Sderot Economic Corporation, Notre Dame University, and several foreign entities, including Tom Ridge’s Ridge Global and Pace Global Energy Services.

The second consortium, called “The Arava Renewable Energy Technology Center”, comprises Ormat Industries Ltd., Elbit Systems Ltd., Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Direct Insurance – Financial Investments Ltd., ProSeed Venture Capital Fund, Britain’s Consensus Business Group , the Eilat-Eilot International Renewable Energy Initiative, the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, Shibolet & Co. Advocates & Notaries, and other parties.

“I have no doubt that the countries that support renewable energy technology R&D will become less dependent on polluting fossil fuels,” said Ridge Global CEO Tom Ridge in explaining the rationale behind the promotion of R&D centers such as the one planned for the Negev.

Ridge has extensive experience in establishing technology centers. He was a co-founder of technology incubators in the US and set up the first technology incubators association in the US back in the early 1980s. He is a close friend of former US President George W. Bush, and help Bush on his election campaigns. Bush later appointed Ridge as the first Secretary of Homeland Security in the aftermath of September 11. Ridge also took part in setting up ventures and joint research centers for the private and government markets, and research institutes where environment and technology interfaces.

Ridge said, “Countries that will know how to produce the most from the power of partnership between the state and the private sector, reduce the costs of renewable energy, create jobs with added value, and become export leaders. Renewable energy isn’t another discovery and research field, it must be an applied science that will lead to energy solutions to guarantee our lives in the near and distant future.

“Globes”: What is the connection between you and the consortium that is promoting an initiative in a small country like Israel?

Ridge: “When we were approached about Sderot 21, we were invited together with Pace Global, and we rapidly decided that the venture is a unique opportunity. The ability of a consortium comprised mainly of industry and academe makes it possible to establish in Israel a cluster of innovative technologies industries. This could be an entity with significant economic influence on the region, in addition to the business potential it reflects outside of Israel, since foreign parties are involved.”

Ridge’s comments could be a point for reflection, given the new law for the encouragement of capital investment now being written, which offers fewer incentives for foreign investors.

What do you think about Israel’s potential in the global cleantech market?

“20 years ago, when I was a member of the US House of Representatives, I made my first visit to Israel, and I was charmed by your growth in development and application of solar technologies. It seemed to be a step with vision, and it’s incredible that it was done by the country to create an infrastructure to enable the private market to concentrate on renewable energy. The know-how accumulated since then in the renewable energy industry is one of the best I know of in the world.

“In order to ensure that sustainable and safe technologies are developed in Israel, it’s necessary to maintain a suitable balance between the state and the market. The concept of state investment in infrastructures, support to encourage investment by private parties in technologies and business opportunities can achieve the right balance.”

Since Israeli renewable energy legislation is being prepared, do you have any advice for the Israeli regulators on what to do?

“Israel should develop the best model for it, so I won’t give my opinion on this or that structure. I only hope that the model that Israel chooses will maximize participation, expedite the penetration of new renewable energy technologies into the market, and create a more competitive and accessible environment.

“This is an industry in which Israel can take the lead as inventors and as thought leaders in fields that are important not just to the country itself, but to all countries aiming for a greener and economically stronger world.”

Haifa’s hiCenter to raise NIS 40m

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

As reported in IVC: The incubator has eight companies in which NIS 16 million have been invested.

hiCenter, the Haifa Hi-Tech Acceleration Center is planning a new NIS 40 million financing round. Its original budget was NIS 40 million.
hiCenter CEO Yael Mittelman said, “We want to raise more capital in order to invest in more companies, as well as to continue support for our portfolio companies.”

hiCenter operates under the auspices of the Office of the Chief Scientist as an incubator for companies in the commercialization stage rather than the R&D stage, and is not part of the Chief Scientist’s incubator program. hiCenter focuses on software, electronics, medical devices, and cleantech. It was founded in 2008 as a subsidiary of the Haifa Economic Corporation, which manages it.

Mittelman wants to amend hiCenter‘s business model when it closes the new financing round. “We’re improving the business model. Once we saw that the incubator was working well, both in recruiting ventures and in their success, we gained further support from the Haifa Economic Corporation.”

Incubators don’t usually make follow-on investments in companies.

“True, but we’re a different kind of incubator. Our objective is to increase employment in Haifa. We don’t want to be diluted. We have an economic and social interest. If we support companies that continue to grow, the number of direct and indirect jobs will increase.”

How much will you invest in companies’ second rounds?

“Companies that meet the test and show progress and sales can obtain a budget of about $1 million. It depends on the company value and the significance of its development.”

hiCenter has a diversified portfolio. It has three software and communications companies: Quammy Ltd., InfoCall Ltd., and Lexifone Ltd.; Spacemute, which is developing technology for silencing noise for a variety of products, such as air conditioners and planes; Physionip, which developing a “smart” bottle nipple for infants; Bright Led Ltd. which is developing MCL technology for assembling dense circuits with the capability of distributing very high power; internet games developer Dassa Games Ltd.; and a company developing clean technology for deep sea fish farming.

Fischer: Cleantech can be growth engine for Israel

Friday, July 9th, 2010

As reported by IVC “Government incentives are important, but private sector financing should lead the industry’s development.”

Israel has relative advantages in cleantech sectors, including innovation, entrepreneurship, human capital, and R&D, which can help Israeli companies succeed and advance in the industry, said Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer at the 14th CleanTech 2010 Expo in Tel Aviv today.
Fischer added that Israel has extensive experience in financing innovation through venture capital, and start-ups. Government incentives are important, but private sector financing should lead the industry’s development.

Cleantech development in Israel has many economic advantages. It can serve as a growth engine, and help diversify exports and export targets, which will reduce the economy’s vulnerability to crises. Cleantech can also promote Israel’s environment, reduce the country’s dependence on imported fuels, and help Israel’s integration into the OECD.

Fischer favorably cited the Chinese government’s long-term planning in cleantech, which is turning the country into a leader in investment and manufacturing of renewable energy.

Commenting on the economy, Fischer said that developments in Europe would not have a material effect on global economic growth, and that the Bank of Israel’s 2010 growth forecast of 3.7% and 2011 growth forecast of 4% remained valid. The shekel’s appreciation against the euro will likely affect exports to Europe, but this is offset by the shekel’s recent weakness against the dollar.

Fischer said that Israel’s accession to the OECD would have important consequences, especially its effect on the exposure of Israeli decision-makers to the vast information available in the OECD.

Quality control for alternative energy success

Friday, June 25th, 2010

As reported in IVC: Israel’s BrightView Systems aims to encourage solar energy use by optimizing efficiency, improving quality and ensuring the reliability of solar panels.

For hybrid cars, wind power, and solar energy technology, there’s more than just creative innovation involved in producing the batteries, generators and panels needed to drive the technologies forward. Reasonably-priced quality control processes are necessary so that the elements of new renewable energy technologies can be mass-produced according to the highest standards.

These same standards are required for the manufacture of photovoltaic (PV) thin film solar panels, BrightView System‘s CEO Benny Shoham tells ISRAEL21c. Thin film is the specific area of PV production that is BrightView’s focus. Different from the standard PV wafers seen in most solar panels, thin film is not a bunch of wafers bundled together, but solar cells etched onto the panels. The aim is to eventually make this approach much cheaper than wafers, thanks to the abundance of glass.

Shoham and three partners founded BrightView in 2007 in the city of Petah Tikva in central Israel. Just as a production line in a car factory runs with state-of-the-art management software, robotics, and quality and production tests to ensure the line is working properly and cars are being produced with minimal defects, BrightView has developed a system for photo voltaic panels. Using optics and software, the system gives solar energy panel production factories the ability to analyze and understand what’s happening on the line.

With a $6 million investment from Israel Cleantech Ventures and Hasso Plattner Ventures, BrightView already has clients and major deals in the works with Fortune 500 companies eager to develop solar energy businesses.

Clients number Signet Solar, from the US, T-Solar, a large Spanish company and Sharp. “There are many deals I can’t reveal,” Shoham tells ISRAEL21c, not long after returning from a tour organized by the California-Israel Chamber of Commerce to California, where BrightView execs are staking out new business opportunities in the emerging thin film market. The company is seeking a further $10 million investment.

An X-ray machine for solar panels

Likening the BrightView System to an X-ray machine used by doctors, Shoham explains that it enables PV panel production facilities to see inside the panels, to check on quality and see how to optimize efficiency. Less than perfect panels can’t really be fixed, or recycled, he says, and “People need to wake up in the morning and have energy.”

With their system installed on production lines, BrightView’s WAM technology (for Wide Area Metrology), at a conservative estimate, can boost production rates by 10 percent, Shoham says. However, the problem in producing thin film solar panels is that they need to be absolutely reliable, with no flaws from the factory. The energy business relies on steady and constant power. Panels that don’t work well can’t be serviced easily, or fixed, and the company hopes that that’s what will make its solution, with a return on investment within about six months, an essential tool for any thin film factory.

“First we can help R&D teams develop the right processes and scale, to see if any fundamental problems will hit early on. Then when they start production and ramp up the line, we can help work out how to make the flow smooth and efficient,” Shoham relates. When installed on the line, WAM will provide high-resolution maps or schematics that show line managers how to optimize production in an efficient manner.

The technology, developed, run and managed by a staff of 25 people in Israel, was designed for one thin film solar system, but it can tackle all three major technologies in the field, according to Shoham.

The first system, called CdTe, is a crystalline compound formed from cadmium and tellurium. It is used as an infrared optical window and a solar cell material. Developed by the US NASDAQ traded company First Solar, it has proven success in the film arena. “It’s more profitable than anybody else in the business, and shows thin film will probably be the key player,” says Shoham, who doesn’t divulge any business relationship with the company.

The second system is based on the emerging technology called CIGS (a semiconductor material composed of copper, indium, gallium and selenium) that has been adopted by many companies such as Solyndra in the US, that recently hosted a visit from Obama; and the third is the widely-used, silicon-based solution.

BrightView’s ideal customers would be giants like LG, GE, DuPont, and Bosch – all of which are looking to adopt thin film PV technologies into their business arms. There has also been a big market shift to China and Japan, Shoham adds.

Steady and reliable power years into the future

The system based on PV panels is “simple, safe and it’s a unit that can work for 25, 30 and 50 years. It’s extremely reliable and basically, it’s as simple as that. The promise with solar energy is that you can generate energy when you need it,” Shoham continues.

Just as in the semiconductor business 30 years ago, today in the PV universe production numbers and price points have to be changed so that it can be a viable solution for homeowners, says Shoham, who has 20 years experience in the semiconductor business. For that to happen, clean energy rates need to be priced competitively compared to fossil fuels and coal.

“It took PCs 20 years to reach that point,” says Shoham. But unlike the CEOs of companies, the energy market today is pushed by countries and their presidents, by the likes of Obama, China, Israel and Germany. “Because this is how energy is being handled,” Shoham explains.

“These productions have to scale up, in sheer amounts of the number of factories that you’ll have to see to make PV panels. That’s where we fit in. We want to help make sure these products can work 20, 30 and 40 years down the road – to sustain winters with a foot of snow on the panels, which can boil in the summer, or work under low light conditions in cloudy European weather,” he says. And that’s where BrightView plans to make itself indispensible.

“Our story in essence is that we are at the beginning of a major industry build-up around solar PV which are cells, or panels, which look like the hot water collectors you see [on the roofs of buildings] in Israel. But instead of heating water, these panels capture light energy and transform it into energy.

“What you would see in this young industry over time is that one would have to cover a lot of space with panels, and there has been some controversy about the space needed. Today for humanity, if we could just cover all the roofs around the world, we’d probably have enough energy to run this world. A PV panel can do that,” Shoham concludes.


Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

An easy ‘add-on’ solution from Israel could save some of the $15 billion forfeited each year due to global water loss caused by drips and leaks.

You’d think that a country like the US, that can send ultra sophisticated rockets into space, would have no problem with a low-tech issue like plugging leaks in city waterways. And yet, despite water delivery oversight by municipal departments and mega-companies, the solutions are low-tech as well. As a result, in some cities leaks and dripping pipes can account for 50 percent of all water loss. According to the World Bank, drips and leaks around the world amount to about $15 billion annually.

With enormous amounts of energy needed to purify water, allowing all those drops to drip away is akin to flushing cold hard cash down the toilet. Now a market-ready, easy to add-on software solution developed by an Israeli IT entrepreneur can help a city’s waterworks identify and home in on leaks so they can be plugged.

Ranging in price from $10,000 a month for a small city to $150,000 for cities like LA or New York, company CEO Amir Peleg says the software developed by his Israeli company TaKaDu is radically effective. After all, a hairpin water leak today can become a geyser tomorrow.

Applying high-tech IT to ageing infrastructure

Based on smart math models and algorithms, the TaKaDu software can process both online and historical data, and requires no special technology on the client’s side. TaKaDu takes the data fed to it from a waterworks facility and uses it to detect leaks and help the facility to prioritize repairs.

“We can tell them when, where and how big the leak is,” Peleg tells ISRAEL21c. The TaKaDu system is already hooked up to Australian, European and UK water data and the company has partnerships with IBM and Schneider Electric of France.

The software developed at the 21-person strong company examines parameters such as the flow, pressure, quality and turbidity of water and more. It’s offered as a stand-alone solution that requires no high-tech meter, pump or metrics system to connect with.

Peleg, who sold his latest IT company, YaData, to Microsoft in 2008, explains the transition from the high tech industry to water: “Water infrastructures and networks are similar to, but more complex than IT networks and telecom. Water networks are way more complex: They’ve developed in an evolutionary way in the last 100 to 200 years. It’s aging infrastructure that is leaking. We are bringing a paradigm existing in the telecom industry and in IT to the water world.”

One other Israeli company, Meidan, launched a water software technology to measure and monitor leaks, and showcased it at a clean tech conference in 2008, but to date, TaKaDu looks like the only serious player in this market from Israel.

At the moment Peleg can’t divulge the TaKaDu system’s exact status with respect to trials and operation, but he will say that the company has seen traction and interest from all over the world for trials and evaluation.

A go-to-market strategy based on partnerships

Peleg, who previously founded YaData, Cash-U/Unipier and EVS, tells ISRAEL21c: “It was a pure IT solution that I sold to Microsoft. After that I was free as a bird and I could do whatever I want. There were so many problems in Israel: Problems due to the scarcity of water, and also a movement of VCs into cleantech. Slowly I looked into this space until I found where the problem is – in water management, with the transformation of data into knowledge.”

Since Israel’s Gemini Funds and Giza Ventures have invested $3.5 million in TaKaDu, the company, located in a suburb of Tel Aviv, is not seeking investments. And remarkably, after being in the business for only two years, TaKaDu has already seen sales and is now in the process of forming partnerships.

“We are not selling technologies,” Peleg explains. “We are providing a solution to water networks – software as a service – which is everything over the web, over the cloud. Our go-to-market strategy is via partners. Latin America and Australia are already selling our solution.”

In April, Peleg participated in a California-Israel Chamber of Commerce mission along with nine other Israeli clean tech companies, during which he met possible strategic partners from California’s energy and water sector.

He says that pricing will depend on the size of a network. There’s no one-time fee, just a monthly fee, and cities can see results instantly. “Just hook up to our service over an IT connection and you start to see merits. After four months if you don’t like what you see, then just disconnect,” Peleg proposes, pointing out that “It’s not just about saving water. TaKaDu can also detect faulty meters so that water companies know when their assets aren’t performing well.”

The monitoring network can impact water savings up to 50%, and can help cities predict and prevent water loss now and in the future. “A small leak today? How much is it worth tomorrow?” is Peleg’s concluding rhetorical query.

10 reasons Israel is a cleantech leader

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Israel, a global cleantech powerhouse, is now attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in cleantech investment every year.

The country gets more from its soil, water, air, and sunlight than most other nations on earth.

Why has such a small country been able to position itself a world leader in cleantech?

The answer, I believe, is a combination of many factors: its history, attitude of the people, ingenuity, and challenges to survival.

According to my research, the following are major highlights of Israel’s cleantech leadership to date in 2010:

1. Israel is the Silicon Valley of water. Relative to its small size, Israel has devoted more resources to the development of waste water treatment and reclamation than any other country in the world. Seventy percent of its waste water is recycled, three times the figure of number two: Spain. Israel is the birthplace and world leader in drip irrigation, which has literally turned deserts into farmlands. The Israeli firm Netafim, a $500 million high-tech drip-irrigation giant, is a world leader in smart irrigation technology and has been credited with starting the drip irrigation revolution. Israel Newtech, which promotes Israeli clean energy and water technologies, has identified hundreds of water companies. It’s estimated that Israel’s water industry was valued at $1.4 billion in 2008 and could reach $2.5 billion by 2011. The sector is supported by early stage private and government investment programs, such as the Kinrot incubator, 11 investments to date) and the Office of the Chief Scientist (several million dollars in early stage R&D grants), as well as large industrial players such as IDE Technologies, a global leader in water desalination and Mekorot, the country’s innovative technology-oriented water carrier.

2. Brain trust. Israel has the highest ratio of university degrees to population in the world. Within its small borders is an enormous concentration of PhDs and engineers, bolstered in large part by the large immigration from the former Soviet Union. This concentration of minds in a relatively small geographical space creates a country-wide incubator where ideas are constantly tested in the coffee shops of Tel-Aviv and the hallways of universities. Israelis also benefit from compulsory military service, where early exposure to high-pressure environments develop team building and leadership skills and a focus on technology-oriented innovation, which has a direct correlation with the needs of the cleantech sector.

3, Necessity as the mother of innovation. Due to its location and terrain, Israel is a country that has had extremely limited natural resources since its inception. Israelis have therefore become experts at getting the most out of limited natural resources. Confronting adversity has trained Israelis to think outside of the box. “Israel is poor in natural resources and rich in brain capital. Clean energy bridges that gap. What Israel lacks in the ground it makes up with its people,” says David Anthony from 21 Ventures.

4. Leveragability of tech expertise to cleantech. As Glen Schwaber, Partner at Israel Cleantech Ventures, wrote in his article The Quest for Smarts, “Israel’s tech sector has flourished through the creation of core technology competencies that are world leading. These include, but are not limited to digital printing, semiconductors, power electronics, optics and software. Over the last two decades, multiple billions of VC dollars have poured into Israeli companies in these sectors, market leaders have emerged, and many of the world’s largest multinationals have bought companies and set up shop in Israel as a result. Israel’s ability to compete globally in cleantech markets will depend largely on our success in leveraging all this know-how … Israeli excellence in advanced optics and systems has spawned a number of very interesting utility scale solar companies.”

5. Capital. Just about every major US VC firm in Silicon Valley, from Battery Ventures to Greylock to USVP to Sequoia Capital, is prospecting across Israel for cleantech investments. All told, at least 40 venture funds, several of them American, manage more than $10 billion in Israel, with an increasing share of their allocations devoted to cleantech companies. We are also seeing strong players driving alliances between US VCs and Israel cleantech ecosystem with organizations like CICC and its Cleantech Initiative, which is acting as a conduit and catalyst for US Israeli technology transfer. The Initiative is to feature 10 leading-edge cleantech companies from Israel in Silicon Valley next week.

6. The Better Place factor. Better Place is Israel’s best known cleantech company, and it recently raised a further $350 million (see Better Place deal bested by Airtricity). Founded by Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi, the company is developing electric vehicle battery swapping infrastructure. Israel was the first country to sign on with Better Place, Since then, Denmark, San Francisco, Canada, Australia and Hawaii have also begun working with the firm. Better Place accomplished significant milestones in 2009, including debuting the a first compatible EV in partnership with Renault at the Frankfurt Auto Show.

7. The sun shines brightly over Israel. The solar radiation Israel receives is a driver of solar thermal companies. Siemens bought Israeli solar thermal pioneer Solel for $418 million, while BrightSource Energy has raised more than $160 million from investors, including U.S.-based VantagePoint Venture Partners, Google, BP’s investment arm, Morgan Stanley, and JPMorgan Chase. Other notable solar thermal companies include Heliofocus, ZenithSolar, and AORA.

8 Kibbutz Pioneers. The foundation of Israel’s cleantech industry was laid with the beginning of the kibbutz (collective communities) movement at the start of the 20th century (see Israel’s cleantech kibbutzim pioneers). At that time, the land was mostly semi-arid, with a scarcity of water and pockmarked by mosquito infested swamps, so principles of sustainability and self-sufficiency were adopted from the outset so as to “make the desert bloom”.

9. Home grown Israeli VC community. Israel has a vibrant local VC community which includes Israel Cleantech Ventures, AquaAgro and Terra Ventures—three firms dedicated to investing in Israel’s cleantech sector. Having a vibrant local VC community also draws foreign money.

10. Momentum. Israel is fast becoming the cleantech incubator to the world. In proportion to its population, it now has the largest number of startup companies than any other country in the world except the U.S., with 3,500 companies, mostly in hi-tech. Exciting new cleantech startups to keep an eye on, in our opinion, that haven’t been mentioned already include Bio Pure Technology, BioPetroClean, CellEra, Emefcy, Enstorage, Greenlet Technologies, GreenRoad, GreenSun Energy, IQ Wind, Linum, Panoramic Power, Phoebus Energy, SolarEdge, Takadu, Technospin, Transalgae and Variable Wind Solutions.

As Al Gore stated in a recent visit, “the people of Israel can lead the way to renewable energy. With its unique geographical position, and cleantech know how, Israel is a natural leader in the field.”

Cleantech could well become Israel’s biggest export market. Other countries should take note.

Shawn Lesser is the president and founder of Atlanta-based Sustainable World Capital, which is focused on fund-raising for private equity cleantech/sustainable funds, as well as private cleantech companies and M&A

IBM to invest in Israeli cleantech start ups

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

IBM to invest in Israeli cleantech start ups

As reported in Globes, the program, in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, is intended to reach dozens of companies.

Sources inform “Globes” that, this Tuesday, IBM Israel will announce a program for investing in cleantech (energy and water) in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor. The announcement is part of a general move in the past few years by the computing giant to get into cleantech, after indentifying it as a growth engine.

Collaboration between the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor and IBM is not something new. The ministry’s Program for the Encouragement of Multi-National Companies` Project Center in Israel connects the multi-nationals with local technology companies, and gives financial support for adapting the local company’s product to the multi-national’s needs. For its part, the multi-national company supports the adaptation process, both financially and by marketing it overseas.

Jacob Fisher, who runs the multi-nationals program and the Tnufa fund, told “Globes” that the new program would be different from IBM’s investments to date in the multi-nationals program framework.

Up to now, IBM has invested in its more traditional areas, such as information technology. The company has invested through its Global Technology Unit, not necessarily in start ups. By contrast, the new investment channel is directed at cleantech start ups.

“Up to now, IBM had 5-6 projects here annually,” says Fisher. “The new investment channel is intended to reach many more Israeli start ups several dozen a year.”

After the official launch of the initiative on Tuesday, the ministry and IBM will publish a call for proposals to Israeli companies. Israel is one of only a few countries in which IBM intends to invest through such a dedicated investment channel. The general manager of IBM Israel is Meir Nissensohn.

Cleantech VC reaches $1.9B in 1Q10

Friday, April 9th, 2010

As reported by IVC Online, transportation attracted $704M this past quarter, while energy efficiency and solar remain key sectors to watch, according to latest Cleantech Group data.

Cleantech venture capital investment was up 29 percent in the first quarter of 2010 compared to last quarter, and 83 percent higher than the same quarter a year ago, according to the Cleantech Group.

The company, in conjunction with Deloitte & Touche, released preliminary findings today that indicate a record number of deals, even besting the previous high of 165 deals worldwide recorded in the fourth quarter of 2009 (see Cleantech hits VC deal record in 2009).

“The first quarter’s bounce back in terms of venture capital investment compared to 2009’s early lows bodes well for what we think is in store for the remainder of the year,” said the Cleantech Group’s President Sheeraz Haji.

He said the preliminary first quarter results—totaling $1.9 billion invested across 180 cleantech companies with a focus on North America, Europe, China and India—confirm some of the key trends the Cleantech Group predicted for 2010 (see Ten clean technology predictions for 2010).

The Cleantech Group has been tracking the sector since 1999 and provides research, advisory services, and networking events around the world. The group also publishes this Web site.

“North America was particularly dominant this quarter,” said Haji, highlighting how the region raised $1.5 billion, up 79 percent from a dip in 4Q09, which he said seems to have been “a blip.”

North America accounted for 81 percent of total venture investment this quarter—a three-year high for the region.

European and Israeli companies were off to a slower start, raising $257 million in 43 disclosed rounds, down 49 percent from 4Q09. Europe and Israel accounted for 14 percent of the total investment this quarter.

China and India investments remained similar to previous quarters, combined to still make up less than 5 percent of the total investment in cleantech.

Transportation, predominantly infrastructure and vehicles, and energy efficiency are now the top sectors to watch, Haji said, with a hot sub-sector being LED lighting.

Better Place inked the second largest VC cleantech deal we have ever recorded,” Haji said. The electric vehicle battery swapping company secured a Series B round of $350 million in January (see Better Place $350M deal bested by Airtricity).

Transportation had a record quarter, raising $704 million aided by the Better Place round, while energy efficiency won the popularity contest from investors, with 39 funding rounds.

The solar sector has lost some of its previous dominance, but still proves to be an area investors are interested in, bringing in $322 million from 27 deals.

According to Cleantech Group data, the most active cleantech VC investors this quarter included Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Braemar Energy Ventures, Carbon Trust Investments, Foundation Capital, and Good Energies (see New cash keeps Genomatica on track for chemical plant, Nexamp closes Series A round, brings on new CEO, Agile Energy raises $13.2M for PV projects in N. America).

Haji said the IPO window hasn’t shut down; it may just be on hold until the second or third quarter of this year. Many of the high profile companies planning to go public in the U.S. in late 2009/early 2010 haven’t followed through.

There were 13 cleantech IPOs in the quarter, totaling $1.5 billion, down from 18 IPOs in the fourth quarter of 2009, which totaled $2.9 billion. China made up eight of those transactions, taking the lead over North America, which only had three cleantech IPOs.

The Netherlands-based sensor maker Sensata Technologies (NYSE:ST) had the quarter’s largest IPO earlier this month, raising $569 million in its offering on the New York Stock Exchange (see Sensata floats largest cleantech IPO in two years and Sensors, solar, Series A rounds in week’s deals).

The Cleantech Group will review key findings of the first quarter 2010 data in a live webinar for clients on April 6.

NSW Government releases Regional Innovation Strategy

The NSW Government has released a Regional Innovation Strategy to support businesses, jobs and investment across the state.

The Strategy has been developed by the NSW Government with input from Industry & Investment NSW, the Department of Environment Climate Change and Water, and the Department of Education and Training.

The NSW Government will establish Innovation Initiatives for each of the State’s regions focusing on areas where local innovation can make a difference. These innovation blueprints will be customised to the unique characteristics of each region and integrated into Regional Business Growth Plans.

Innovation Initiatives will be rolled out to all regions during 2010 and will be updated regularly to reflect the changing priorities and needs of each region. The NSW Government will work with Regional Development Australia (RDA) committees and local stakeholders to implement the Innovation Initiatives.

The Strategy includes a set of recommendations for immediate implementation. These include expanding access to management training programs; innovation coaching including in lean business techniques; greater knowledge sharing through business networks; expert innovation workshops; tapping into the knowledge generated by our research institutions; and using the capacity of broadband to enhance regional business innovation.

The Strategy is available at

Australian innovators now have access to an extra $40 million in venture capital funding with the establishment of new fund manager OneVentures, which has been awarded a license under the Australian Government’s Innovation Investment Fund (IIF) program.

The IIF program provides fund managers with $20 million which they must match with private sector capital to establish new funds to invest in promising early-stage Australian companies commercialising Australian research.

OneVentures, headquartered in Sydney, will invest in emerging Australian companies in the cleantech, new media / information technology and life sciences sectors.

The OneVentures fund will also be structured as an Early-Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnership (ESVCLP).

An ESVCLP receives flow-through tax treatment – that is, it is not a taxing point and investors receive a full tax exemption on their share of the fund’s income and capital.

Fund managers are urged to submit applications under the latest round (Tranche 3 of Round 3) of the IIF program, which closes on 31 May 2010.

For more information on the IIF and ESVCLP programs and other AusIndustry assistance measures, visit the website at