Hiatus

Hey Everybody!

I will be taking an indefinite break from writing this blog.  I finished my MBA in Israel, and I’ve moved to India with my girlfriend to work in exports.

I had a great time writing Israel Start-up News, and I learned an immense amount about a wide variety of topics.  It has been fascinating to see how human beings are working so hard to improve our condition every day by creating new treatments for diseases or new ways to eliminate waste without hurting the environment.

Israel in particular is truly exceptional in the vast amount it contributes to technological and scientific innovation, and my respect for that country has grown tremendously.  It is nothing short of stunning that a group of people with such a difficult history and vulnerable security situation can rise to the occasion again and again with innovations that improve the lives of ordinary people around the world.

I hope Israel continues to produce promising start-ups and amazing new technology.  I am not a scientist or engineer, and don’t really have the qualifications necessary to work in a start-up myself.  But hopefully I can make enough money in my own business so that one day I can be an investor in other promising start-up ventures.

Sincerely,

Dani Dechter

Worklight Raises $12M with Pitango Leading Round

WorkLight Inc., a startup that provides web 2.0-style access to a wide variety of enterprise applications and databases, today announced that it has closed a series B round of funding totaling $12 million led by Pitango Venture Capital, Israel’s largest VC. Founded in 2006 by CEO Shahar Kaminitz and CTO Yuval Tarsi, the company was initially backed with $5.1 million from Genesis Partners, Index Ventures and Shlomo Kramer.

Worklight’s flagship solution is a server-based software product that allows companies to leverage consumer tools such as RSS, iGoogle and. Facebook behind the corporate firewall, working with internal IT controls for completely secure use by enterprise employees. Most recently the company announced Workbook, a secure Facebook overlay that enables collaboration, access to enterprise applications and knowledge sharing using the popular social networking application.

The round triggers renewed commitment from Genesis Partners, Index Ventures and Shlomo Kramer, a world renowned security expert and Imperva CEO.

Check out the press release.

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.

RoofArena Launches Beta Site; Interview with Shay Sharon

So you live in a three-story brick building somewhere in Brooklyn and you wanna let you’re friends in Tokyo know exactly where you live. Why not email them a Google Map with your face plastered on the roof of the building itself?

Or you’re a business, let’s say a bar, and you want to provide directions on your website. Why not put your roofarena map on your site with your logo on the actual spot where the bar is located?

Sound cool? If everything goes according to the founder of roofarena Shay Sharon’s plan, the whole (inhabited) world will be covered with pictures of people and businesses buying and selling rooftops. I had a chance to interview him about the launch of his cool site:

So what’s the basic idea behind Roofarena? Why would somebody want to buy a rooftop and put their picture on it?

In our vision, Roofarena is a site combining the one million dollar homepage, social networking and a virtual real estate market. One million dollar homepage was a great gimmick and a huge success but was missing any type of user experience. There was no reason for the user to come back and we thought it could be nice to try and bring the world of social networking into those pixels and maybe create, in the long run, a market place for those roofs.

Can you give me a little background on the team, and how you came up with this idea?

Started out as an idea of selling virtual real estate, like an online sim-city, and then we started to realize the potential behind it. The fact that you own a piece of virtual space that has geographical presence means you will have ‘neighbors’, you can form ‘neighborhoods’, as well as the commercial potential of reselling your property as an investment. The team is a group of entrepreneurs with extensive experience in the software market. We have Beta’d using self funding and are only now considering the option of bringing in some external capital.

So I can see putting my own pic on a roof as a novel thing to do, but what other applications do you have in mind for roofarena, i.e. businesses that put their pic up on a roof to advertise their store, or using the roofarena map to give directions etc…?

The most obvious reason for buying a roof is to advertise your business. We hope the buzz around it will attract businesses to get a roof and ride the PR this site will might get. Our main goal and the initial idea was to create geographic communities like what Geocities was suppose to back in the late nineties and just like the real world, allow individuals to buy, sell and rent those roofs.

Will the site be incorporated into other sites, such as Facebook, using a widget?

Facebook is definitely one of the first integration we really want to do. We feel that Facebook, myspace and other social networks along with roofarena can make what Geocities tried more than ten years ago to create.

Do you plan to extend the service beyond Manhattan?

Of course. I have great plans on my apt in San Francisco where I used to live… But first we take Manhattan…

Will users be able to sell their roof, perhaps even make a profit by selling later at a higher price as the service becomes more popular?

Assuming the site will become popular, there is no reason why one will not be able to buy a roof and sell it later on or even rent it to someone else. We believe it is possible to create a virtual real estate market.

Other than the initial selling price of a roof, what other revenue-generation methods are possible with a site like yours?

In the future, the site will offer many more services and affiliations to our ‘residents’. There are several business models we are considering around these new services. Still remains to be seen.

See you on top of the world…

Thanks!

Check out roofarena for yourself.

Israel Delivers: TechnoSpin, Gizmox, Endogun, Applicure

Today Israel’s innovators made all kinds of headlines from cleantech to medical devices to software security.

Let’s start with TechnoSpin. The four year old startup has raised $8 million from US VC 21 Ventures. They develop and produce rotors for small wind turbines which, it claims, are cheaper to produce and more easily assembled than competitor’s products, and can be operated on 80% of the earth’s surface – not just in high-wind areas. TechnoSpin also develops wind turbine gears which produce torque that is then converted into electrical power. Check out an interview with the CEO, Maxim Rakov.

 

Next on the list is Gizmox. This 2006-formed web application design startup announced today that it has reached an agreement to market its software through Microsoft marketing platforms. The Maayan Ventures portfolio company will use its Ajax-based environment for running web applications to enhance Microsoft’s Visual Studio environment development partnership program.

 

Then there’s Endogun Medical Systems. The 2004-founded graduate of Meytag Technology Incubatorand now Biomedix Incubator portfolio company has announced FDA approval for its internal soft-tissue fastening solution. This procedure, a key element of many Minimally Invasive Surgeries (MIS), is difficult to perform. Endogun’s technology, apparently, makes MIS procedures more safe, effective and simpler to perform.

 

Finally, Applicure Technologies released a statement via email that it has signed an agreement with British Trafalgar Capital Management for an investment of up to $5 million over a three year period. The four year old company, which is still negotiating with other investors in Israel and abroad for additional financing, creates software-based products for web application security and database compliance.

Epix Achieves Positive Results for Vasovist

Epix Pharmaceuticals is an Israeli biopharmaceutical established in 2000 that discovers and develops novel therapeutics using its proprietary in silico drug delivery platform. According to a press release, the company has “achieved positive results from the blinded, independent re-read of images of its novel blood pool MRA agent, Vasovist.” Previous re-read of images from phase III trials met FDA specifications and the company now plans to resubmit a new application (NDA) to the FDA in mid-2008. Vasovist is approved for marketing in 33 countries.

“There are currently no contrast agents approved in the United States for use with MRA, a non-invasive modality for imaging blood vessels. However, it is estimated that approximately 1.5 million MRAs will be conducted in the United States during 2008 using gadolinium-based products.

Andrew Uprichard, M.D., president and head of R&D at EPIX said the “positive results confirm the efficacy upon which the NDA was based and allow us to move forward with our strategy of achieving U.S. regulatory approval,” and eventually bring Vasovist to the U.S. market.

Michael G. Kauffman, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of EPIX added that the company remains “focused on monetizing our Vasovist asset in the near- to mid-term and these positive results are a significant milestone towards achieving this goal.” “We believe these positive results position us well for FDA approval and that our product, if approved, will serve a large and unmet need in the U.S.”

Check out the details on Vasovist here.

Tveez, MediaBoost and AdYouNet Score $$$

Online advertising and marketing startups are thriving in Israel and raising large amounts from VCs in the process.  Here are three that have made headlines:

Tveez Marketing Intelligence is a point-of-purchase marketing company founded in 2004 that supplies consumer-oriented companies with proactive sales and marketing management technology, enabling them to increase sales and deliver superior customer service.  They’ve recently raised $15 million, according to Haaretz, in a round led by Giza and Benchmark Capital, and include Yair Goldfinger(one of the founders of Mirabilis, developer of ICQ, sold to AOL for $400 million) amongst their founders.  Their clients include McDonald’s, 7-Eleven, HSBC and Sheraton Hotels and they’ve recently signed a $10 million deal with Citibank.  Read all about their main product, TVeezMI.

 

MediaBoost has raised $1 million from Teuza – A Fairchild Technology Venture, according to Globes, adding to the $500,000 they invested in the company last year, as part of the latest round to raise a few million dollars in financing.  The online advertising startup was founded in 2005 by CEO Alon Matasand VP Business Development Uri Shtrichman to create technologies and products that automate and optimize decision-making for online media buying.  Their group of “scientists” use tools ranging from game theory to operations research algorithms to create software which aims to improve “bottom-line profits from online campaigns.”  In 2006 they launched their flagship product, Adbooster, which is tailored specifically for advertising in Google AdWords.

 

AdYouNet Technologies is a “stealth mode” online advertising company founded in 2007 that has raised NIS 3.5 million from its current investors Xenia Venture Capital Ltd.(TASE:XENA) and NetService Ventures, according to Globes.  The startup is developing a CRM advertising application over the web that enables one-to-one identification of targeted users to deliver a tailored advertisement campaign.