Israel’s Startup Scene Bubbles Along, But Supergiant Rounds Remain Scarce

Calling Silicon Valley valuations bubbly is a figure of a speech. In Israel, however, you can take it literally.

This year, the country’s largest acquisition actually involves a fizzy drink maker. Israel-based SodaStream, the leading seller of home beverage carbonation systems, announced two weeks ago that it is selling to PepsiCo for a whopping $3.2 billion.

For a country famed for launching leading companies in security, computer vision, pharma, and other “deep tech” sub-sectors, a bubbly water pioneer might not be the likeliest suspect to land the year’s biggest M&A deal. One would expect something more like 2017’s front-runner, computer vision heavyweight Mobileye, acquired by Intel for $15.3 billion.

But Israel’s track record for building, IPOing, and selling businesses is nothing if not eclectic. From heart implants to 3D imaging to cloud storage, Israeli startups continue to attract significant funding rounds and buzzworthy exits.

This year, the Israeli startup and growth financing scene is still chugging along. Below, we take a look at the numbers and trendlines, based on Crunchbase data.

Funding Rises

Overall, Israel ranks as a significant global technology hub. However, it’s startup ecosystem is a fraction of Silicon Valley’s total haul, and smaller than other venture hubs like New York, Boston and, of course, Beijing.

Still, there’s been plenty of growth in recent years. Funding for Israel-based startups has approximately tripled between 2012 and 2017, with rounds ticking up more modestly.

In the chart below, we look at annual funding totals and round counts beginning in 2012.

Supergiant funding rounds ($100 million or more) remain rare among Israeli startups. That said, there are quite a few in the tens of millions, and large funding recipients are a varied lot, spanning sectors including enterprise software, security, computing vision, e-commerce, and life sciences.

So far this year, the biggest venture funding recipient comes from the device space: V-Wave Medical, a developer of implants for patients with chronic heart failure that raised $70 million in a Series C round. Second is Mantis Vision, a developer of 3D video and image capturing technology that raised $55 million in a Series D round that counted Samsung’s corporate venture arm among its lead investors. A third deal—$300 million for publishing tech firm Landa Digital Printing—is larger than those two, but hard to classify as a classic venture deal.

Billion Dollar Club

Tech founders in small countries like Israel are known for focusing on global markets from the get-go. That international orientation has enabled Israel, a nation of fewer than 9 million, to serve as home to a good-sized stable of unicorns relative to its size.

Several companies have secured funding in recent years at valuations above $1 billion. The list includes data storage provider Infinidat, media analytics platform IronSource, and Orcam, a startup launched by Mobileye founders that develops AI-enabled devices for the visually impaired.

Boosters of the Israeli founder scene note that the list would be a lot longer and more heavily funded if it included entrepreneurs who’ve launched companies overseas. Then, we could tack on such high-valuation names as WeWork, Houzz, and Palo Alto Networks, to name a few.

Even so, the list of founders who’ve kept local headquarters is impressive on its own, and generated some big exits to boot.

Bubbly Exits

There are plenty of more recently founded big exit generators. In addition to Mobileye, larger M&A deals of the past couple years include drugmaker Neuroderm ($1.1B deal), game developer Plarium ($500M) and software firm Argus Cyber Security ($430M). We put together a list of some of the bigger deals here.

Israeli startups are also going public at a decent clip. We put together a seperate list of 11 companies that have launched IPOs since last year, ranging from micro-offerings on local exchanges to more substantial overseas market debuts.

More Bubbliness Ahead?

When will SoftBank and the other super-sized venture round investors start piling into Israel? Who knows, and perhaps the current cycle will fizzle before that happens.

Either way, Israeli startups have demonstrated they can scale pretty well with the capital resources at hand.

Top Image Credit: Li-Anne Dias

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