AOL plans to recruit Israeli start-ups and help them grow through a program called Nautilus, with the intent of “harvesting” their technology for mutual benefit, the American Internet giant announced on Sunday. The six-month program is set to provide start-ups not just with advice and assistance, but with $100,000 in investments as well, AOL said.
There are a lot of multinational-sponsored incubators and accelerators in Israel, but Nautilus is meant to be different, said Hanan Laschover, CEO of AOL Israel. Among other things, AOL plans to hire a full-time staff of mentors and guides to help start-ups perfect their ideas in the most efficient way possible. Merav Rotem-Naaman, formerly of Better Place, has been tapped to direct the program.
The company plans to bring speakers and advisers from the Israeli high-tech industry and from AOL offices around the world. Using an intensive “hands-on” approach, Laschover said Nautilus should be able to develop a tailor-made experience for each program member. All activities are scheduled to take place in AOL’s Tel Aviv headquarters, which employs about 100 people.
Once ready for the next step, AOL would introduce the now-mature start-ups to angels and venture capital executives. AOL plans to invest its own money in the companies, giving each start-up at least $100,000, on condition that they raise some money from an outside investor.
Nautilus is slated to offer these benefits to help entrepreneurs and start-ups grow, with the objective of helping to move a company from seed stage to providing projects and services for the international market. Ten start-ups are to be enrolled in the first round of the program, which will begin later this summer, AOL said.
This is not AOL’s first brush with the Israeli start-up world. The company’s acquisition of ICQ back in the 1990s helped AOL maintain its supremacy as an Internet service provider in the early years of the 21st century. AOL was purchased by Time Warner in 2000 and spun off into a separate entity again in 2009. The Israel office of the new AOL was opened a year later when the company acquired Tel Aviv video start-up 5min Media.
“AOL Israel was born as a result of Israeli entrepreneurship, which has evolved to become one of the strategic pillars of the Israeli economy overall and the international tech economy. As a result, we decided to take our experience and share it with Israeli start-ups that we believe will thrive and help their industries, and the world, progress,” AOL said.