Whatever the fate of the Orange brand name in Israel, Israel will continue to supply the international communications technology company with tech and investment opportunities.
“Our three-month tech program, called Orange Fab IL, is now on its second round of Israeli start-ups,” said Jacky Abitbol, a vice president of corporate development at Orange who is also the director of Fab IL. “We’ve been doing this for over a year, and have no plans to stop now.”
Orange, an international communications tech firm that grew out of France Telecom, has, over the last couple of weeks, been engaged in an on-again, off-again relationship with Israel.
Two weeks ago, CEO Stephane Richard told a gathering in Cairo he would break off the company’s relationship with Partner Communications “tomorrow” if he didn’t fear the Israeli company would sue; then Richard claimed he was misquoted; then, last week, at a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Richard said that he did not believe in or support boycotts of Israel, and that he admired Israel and would invest even more in the country.
Tellingly, though, Richard did not meet with officials of Partner during his trip here – lending credence to the reports that the Orange brand name will no longer be used in Israel. When asked about that in a television interview last week, Richard said, “I don’t know. We will see.”
On the other hand, Richard made a point of telling Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely that Orange “has a lasting presence in Israel” through its Orange Fab start-up accelerator program and its subsidiaries Orange Business Services and Internet television specialist Viaccess-Orca, which the parent company acquired in 2008. None of those businesses are going anywhere, Richard stressed.
As Orange’s “man on the ground” in Israel, Abitbol confirmed that for the accelerator, it was business as usual.
“We have a number of programs to help start-ups,” Abitbol told The Times of Israel. “The start-up program helps guide companies that we believe could be important to Orange or its customers.
“We also invest in companies via several funds, including Iris Capital, a firm I am a partner in and which works with Orange on tech investments, especially in the areas of mobile/ digital technologies– two areas Israel excels in. In addition, we run development programs with other companies, such as Deutsche Telekom. A company can work with us and DT and reach as many as 400 million customers.”
Via Iris, Orange in 2012 invested in one Israeli start-up, mobile ad tech firm myThings.
The accelerator offers the usual services, including mentoring, access to technology and investments, etc. There are two demo days – one in Tel Aviv and one in Paris, for Orange bigwigs – and companies can receive funds from Orange.
Just because a company gets into Fab Orange doesn’t mean it automatically gets a contract to supply technology to Orange, “although we are working with a number of the companies that have gone through the accelerator. Orange has not directly invested in any of the Israeli companies from the Fab yet, although that could change at any time. However, we do help them raise money or move towards an exit using our contacts and influence, and so far about half the companies that have gone through the accelerator have raised funds,” said Abitbol.
Among those companies is LogDog, a mobile cyber-security firm that alerts users if it detects any suspicious log-in activity on accounts.
“For example, LogDog will notify you if you open up Facebook from an IP address located in Israel, and open up Twitter from an IP address in the US a few minutes later,” said LogDog’s marketing director Omri Toppol. “Obviously one of those is incorrect, and could indicate that you are being hacked. We detect that and many other usage anomalies, and alert users so they can take appropriate action to defend or protect themselves.”
LogDog recently raised funding from Maxfield Capital, a global venture capital firm that invests in early stage technology companies, along with Curious Minds Investments and The Time VC. Other Israeli start-ups that have been through Orange Fab Israel and have made good include free VPN service Hola, parking app Parko, Coro.net, which has a technology to detect attacks on trusted cellular or wi-fi networks, and DogTV, the world’s most popular channel for canines.
When it comes to business – and especially Israeli innovation – boycotts of the type encouraged by the Palestinian-sponsored Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement just aren’t on the agenda, said Abitbol.
“For us at Orange, it’s all about business and tech in Israel, and there is no question that the technology being developed here is very valuable and unique. We are gearing up for our Israel Demo Day in September and eventually the graduation of the current class and the opening of the program to yet more start-ups. I expect this program to be around for years to come.”