In the News: Fixya, Intercure, Mazor, Perytons

According to webware, tech-support startup Fixya will announce a partnership with Best Buy whereby “customers wanting to perform their own fixes (or trying to dig others out of trouble) can go to the Best Buy Web site and access http://geeksquad.fixya.com from the “Customer Service” tab. They can search by product, SKU, manufacturer, or product category, or post a new query and receive community troubleshooting” for free. This is sure to boost traffic on Fixya’s site, which already claims over 6 million views per month. The site also boasts more than 30,000 “geek” contributors.

InterCure Ltd., a medical device company (TASE: INCR), announced yesterday that its RESPeRATE hypertension treatment device, clinically-proven to significantly lower blood pressure, will launch into full-scale retail distribution in the UK this May through leading pharmacy chain Lloyds.

“The full-chain launch of RESPeRATE at Lloyds Pharmacy clearly demonstrates the broad appeal of our effective and truly natural device-guided breathing therapy for hypertension,” said Erez Gavish, president and CEO of InterCure. Sixteen million adults in the UK suffer from high blood pressure. Left untreated, it may lead to heart attack, stroke and kidney or heart failure.

Founded in 2005 and based in Ness Ziona, Perytons provides developers, implementers and field engineers with analyzers for standard and proprietary wireless communication protocols. The startup announced today an enhanced version of it’s multi-antenna multi-channel 802.15.4/ZigBee analyzer based on Integration Associates EZLink 802.15.4 USB dongles. The tool provides the capability to analyze and track multiple network sessions that coincide in time in a user friendly manner. “We are excited to provide our customers a feature rich, user friendly analysis tool with very high reliability needed for analyzing sophisticated wireless networks.” – Yaron Soffer, Perytons Founder and CEO.

Mazor Surgical Technologies, a 2001-founded provider of the SpineAssist, a miniature surgical assistance system for a wide range of spine procedures, has signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Mazor has received exclusive, worldwide licenses to two patents for the development of permanent implants for the spine.

CEO Ori Hadomi predicts that the product, which has already undergone a feasibility study, can reach market within a year. He adds that the product will open a new market to the company – orthopedic implants – and that it can also boost sales of Mazor’s own SpineAssist product line.

Finally, check out this Globes article about a Israel Venture Capital Research Center survey that shows that high tech start-ups in Israel have not been affected so far by a possible global slowdown, and that in fact venture capital funding is at a seven-year high.

A Blow for Israeli Startups? Jeff Pulver Quits PulverMedia

Jeff Pulver announced in his blog that he’s resigning as director of PulverMedia. Here’s a rough translation of Guy Grimland’s article in the Marker:

A Blow for Israeli Startups? Jeff Pulver Announces His Resignation from PulverMedia

Jeff Pulver, one of the biggest name investors in Israeli startups and a well-known figure amongst Israeli entrepreneurs, announced at the end of the week in his blog that he’s resigning.

It looks like the rumors of hard financial times at Pulver’s media company were correct. Pulver declined to explain his decision. Pulver most recently visited Israel when he participated in The Marker’s The Marker COM.VENTION. When asked, on that occasion, of the financial state of PulverMedia he also declined to comment.

The blogger Om Malik said at the end of March that TICC Capital Corporation, the investor in PulverMedia, closed the company and its bank accounts. As a result various checks the company had issued bounced. Malik points out that in a TICC statement to the SEC last March it stated that “PulverMedia forecasts a sharp decrease in revenues in the coming year.”

PulverMedia is responsible for the convention organization VON which deals with VoIP technology. A source familiar with Pulver told The Marker that in their estimation Pulver’s financial position has little to do with his investments in Israeli startups. Pulver has, to date, invested in Jerusalem Capital Ventures and in Israeli startups Kayote, Corbomite Games, Semantinet, Innovid, Urbanseeder and ZShow.

Generally, Pulver tends to invest sums ranging from $15,000 to $50,000 in seed-stage companies.

Texas and Cleantech

Startech Early Ventures is trying to connect between Israeli hi-tech and Texas investors, according to Globes.  Similar to Virginia’s Gateway America (which I mentioned in an earlier post), Startech is aiming to help Texas boost trade relations with Israel and capitalize on Israel’s robust growth in the technology sector.

The VC has just hosted the “largest-ever delegation of Israeli high-tech companies to visit Texas” in a series of meetings and workshops held over a three day period.  The Texas government, academics and investors see viable partnerships where “Texan high-tech centers could be an excellent springboard into the US market for Israeli companies.”

Matthew Blanton, Startech’s founder, said the visit “opened the eyes of both sides. Unfortunately, many Texans think that Israel is a big desert full of camels. Texans who have never been exposed to Israel learned from this delegation the fact that if there are any camels in Israel, it does not contradict the fact that it is a high-tech powerhouse and great source of innovation.” 

He added that “large parts of the US that are suffering from prolonged droughts, especially Texas, could become attractive markets for innovative Israeli water technology companies.”

In other cleantech related news, Jonathan Shapira and Gene Dolgin of Israel Cleantech Ventures are hosting the second Cleantech Israel meetup on April 29.  The pair see a lack of government assistance, a paucity of networking opportunities and lots of cleantech-related research in Israel as ample justification for the event.  This meetup will include, among other things, a presentation by co-CEO Alon Tamari of  SolarPower Ltd.  For more info see here.

Drop Expected in 2008 VC Funding

The inflow of venture capital to Israeli startups is extremely high compared to other countries — one only has to take a look at the posts I’ve written for this blog since I’ve started it.  According to Israel Venture Capital Research Center, however, a drop is expected in VC funding of new startups in 2008, compared to 2007.

The economic downturn in the U.S. and internationally is undoubtedly one of the reasons.  “When something happens in the U.S. and Europe, it happens here”, says Efrat Zakai, the center’s director.  “It’s not an Israeli issue” of politics or security.

While some funds are closing and others are having trouble raising more money, there is still some $2 billion in capital that needs to be put to good use.  60% of that is targeted for new startups and the rest as follow-on funding for current portfolio companies.  Despite the downturn, a few new funds, like AquAgro, SCPVitalife and MGIC have been successful in raising new capital.

Get the full scoop from Market Watch.

Israeli Startup is China’s #1 Job Site

Two Israel entrepreneurs, Barak Paz-Tal and Guy Rotberg, have officially launched their “multi-lingual job-candidate search site” Meijob.com after running in beta mode since January, 2007 — in China. Aggregating more than 900,000 job opportunities from more than 150 job websites in China, and reaching more than 2 million viewers per month, Meijob has now officially become China’s #1 job site.

According to his blog, Paz-Tal is just an ordinary guy who worked at a mobile phone company and decided to “try something new.” “When we launched Meijob,” he says in the press release, he and Rotberg “thought that there must be a way to search for candidates that put the focus on the employers’ needs and saved time in the recruiting process.” He claims that their platform makes the lives of both job seekers and employers easier by “using the same technology that enables our jobs search so recruiters can search online and find great candidates faster.”

Jason Pang, Meijob’s Marketing Manager said, “China’s online recruitment market — estimated at $102 million — is soaring at 45% a year. This fast growth has created challenges for recruiters”…”Many candidates apply for positions that are not relevant for them. Recruiters have to go through all this data, post ads and register with dozens of sites.” This over-congestion of information is being answered by Meijob with “time-saving, superior [Ajax] technology that provides recruiters with access to great candidates and powerful search functionality.”

Meijob currently has more than 5 million views per month and 500,000 registered users, with over 95% coming from mainland China. Meijob now plans to boost its marketing activity to become a leader in China’s online recruitment market.

Globes: Israeli’s Would Rather Be Entrepreneurs Than Lawyers

israel_web20board.jpgSince I’ve started this blog I’ve been amazed by how many start-ups actually come out of Israel. Everyday brings news of at least two or three start-ups raising millions of dollars in financing, or exiting to a multi-national company for hundreds of millions of dollars. For each one of these, there are hundreds more languishing behind closed doors quickly brewing up the next big internet widget, water-cleaning solution or life-saving technology.

I, along with many other people, ask how this truly amazing phenomenon exists and wonder how long it will last. I — and not just for my blog’s sake — certainly hope that the trend continues. One thing is definitely certain: “Israeli’s Would Rather Be Entrepreneurs Than Lawyers.” That’s the title of the following very short Globes article reprinted here:

By Noa Parag (March 19, 2008)

A survey by Geocartography Knowledge for start-up 1500.co.il found that 45% of Israelis want to be partners in a start-up compared with 8% who want to be partners in a law firm and 11.4% who want to be a partner in an accounting firm. The survey also found that half of the respondents would continue their regular daily lives after selling their start-ups.The dream of being a partner in a start-up is especially prevalent among younger Israelis. 51% of respondents aged 18-34 cited this wish, compared with 36% of respondents aged over 55.
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CelloTrip Seeks Funding in First Round

cellotrip1.jpgFounded in 2006, Tel Aviv-based CelloTrip uses technology stored in most cellphones to translate text messages into different languages. Simply text the message to the CelloTrip headquarters and receive a message seconds later with the translated text. Like the guys over at onehourtranslation, it seems that some Israeli techpreneurs see translation services as the next big thing.

According to Israel21c, the technology is already working in a number of languages such as English, Spanish, French, Russian, Hebrew and Arabic in Israel and other countries where Israeli cellphones work. The company aims to use “street language” as opposed to the formal and awkward translations of some mainstream language guides.

CEO Itzhak Ron says that CelloTrip’s real “killer application” will be translation of online web-based text messaging such as those sent through MSN, ICQ, Facebook and MySpace. Overall his company’s mission is to enable “people all over the world to connect with each other in whatever language they talk. This new technology translates single messages – and we are doing it in such a manner that the performance of the translation is better than other technology out there.”

cellotrip.jpg

The CelloTrip translating service, which is offered at comparatively low prices, also allows phone companies to deliver targeted ads to users based on keywords. The Platform can make shopping and dining suggestions or even recommend late-night entertainment.

Ron expects CelloTrip to become a dominant player in business and travel communication services. Currently the company is in its first round of financing and will use the funding to expand its language database, finalize its Instant Messaging product, and further its technological edge. If everything goes according to Ron’s plan the company will be bought by a hi-tech multi-national company in “about two or three years’ time”.