Celebrating innovation: Startup Nation’s 10 biggest tech deals of the decade

Celebrating innovation: Startup Nation’s 10 biggest tech deals of the decade

From self-driving vehicles to chips that deliver information faster to spine surgery robots, The Times of Israel takes a look at the mega-bucks acquisitions of the past 10 years

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Illustrative image of the new year, end of the decade (Andrii Yalanskyi)
Illustrative image of the new year, end of the decade (Andrii Yalanskyi)

To celebrate the end of the twenty-tens, a booming time for Israel’s tech industry, The Times of Israel presents a list of the 10 biggest tech acquisition deals of the past decade.

According to data compiled by PwC Israel, the country saw 587 exit deals — defined as initial public offering of shares, or merger and acquisitions of Israeli startups — over the past 10 years, for a total of $70 billion. These helped put Israel’s tech scene on the global map in a whole variety of fields, including auto technologies, semiconductors and processors, health technologies, medical devices, and navigation apps.

• The biggest deal of the decade, and actually the biggest deal ever for Israel, was of course the acquisition by US tech giant Intel Corp. of Israel’s Mobileye, a Jerusalem-based maker of self-driving technologies, for a whopping $15.3 billion in 2017.

Mobileye’s tech emerged from the Hebrew University’s department for computer vision. The firm is a maker of vision technology for advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous driving technologies. The firm, founded in 1999 by Prof. Amnon Shashua and Ziv Aviram, had its shares traded in the US before Intel acquired it.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (third left) meets with Intel Corp. CEO Brian Krzanich (to his left) and Mobileye founders Amnon Shashua and Ziv Aviram, respectively first left and first right (Courtesy Haim Zach, GPO)

• The second largest tech deal of the decade — though it is still awaiting regulatory permits for completion — was the acquisition by US chip maker Nvidia of Mellanox Technologies Ltd. in 2019 for $6.9 billion.

Mellanox, with headquarters in Yokne’am, Israel, and Sunnyvale, California, is a maker of high-speed servers and storage switching solutions. The products developed by the firm, a pioneer in InfiniBand and Ethernet technologies, are used in supercomputers globally. The firm was founded in 1999 by Eyal Waldman and Roni Ashuri.

Eyal Waldman, left, founder and CEO of Mellanox and Jensen Huang, the founder and CEO of Nvidia Corp. at a press conference in Yokne’am, Israel on March 25, 2019 (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)

• The third largest deal was the acquisition by Cisco of NDS in 2012 for $5 billion.

UK-based NDS was a digital security firm with a large research and development lab in Israel. Although not an Israeli company, NDS has its roots in research conducted at the Weizmann Institute of Science. The company was established in Israel in 1988 as News Datacom and was acquired by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp for $15 million in 1992, becoming NDS.

The firm then held an initial public offering of shares in 1999, and was later sold to private equity firm Permira in 2009. In 2012, Permira sold the firm to Cisco for $5 billion, and in 2018, Cisco resold NDS back to private equity firm Permira. NDS is now called Synamedia. The original firm, News Datacom, was founded by Dov Rubin, Jonathan Hashkes, Michael Dick and Yishai Sered.

Playtika’s games, including the popular slot game Slotomania, are played daily by more than 6 million people in 190 countries. (Courtesy)

• The fourth largest deal of the decade was the acquisition by a Chinese consortium of Playtika, an Israeli online gaming company, for $4.4 billion in cash in 2016. The members of the consortium included Giant Investment (HK) Limited, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co. Ltd., China Minsheng Trust Co. Ltd., CDH China HF Holdings Company Limited, the Hony Capital Fund, and Yunfeng Capital — a private equity firm co-founded by Alibaba’s Jack Ma.

Founded in 2010, Playtika was a pioneer in the free-to-play games on social networks and mobile platforms and is the creator of popular titles such as Slotomania, House of Fun and Bingo Blitz. Playtika’s founder is Robert Antokol.

• The fifth largest deal of the decade was the acquisition by the California-based semiconductor equipment maker KLA-Tencor Corporation of electronics manufacturer Orbotech Ltd., a provider of systems for circuit boards and chips, in 2018 for $3.4 billion. The Yavne, Israel-based Orbotech was founded in 1981 by a team of engineers at Electro-Optical Industry Ltd. (El-Op) led by Shlomo Barak, who was developing electro-optical systems for military use, but saw commercial use for them as well.

An illustrative image of a payments system hacker (welcomia; iStock by Getty Images)

• The sixth largest tech deal of the decade was the acquisition by private equity firm Thoma Bravo of cybersecurity firm Imperva Inc. for $2.1 billion in October 2018. The Tel Aviv-based Imperva creates solutions that proactively identify, evaluate, and eliminate current and emerging threats wherever they reside in organizations, whether in the cloud, on-premises, or in hybrid environments.

The firm was founded in 2002 by tech entrepreneur Shlomo Kramer, the co-founder of another cybersecurity firm, Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. Other co-founders were Mickey Boodaei and Amichai Shulman.

Habana’s Goya Processor. (Courtesy: Habana)

• The seventh largest tech deal of the decade was the acquisition by Intel Corp. of Habana Labs, for $2 billion in December 2019. The deal marked Intel’s second-largest acquisition in Israel after the acquisition of Mobileye (see above) in 2017.

Habana Labs, founded in 2016 by David Dahan and Ran Halutz, uses artificial intelligence to improve chips’ processing performance and power consumption and lower the costs of production. The processors are aimed at the specific needs of training deep neural networks. The firm’s first investor and its chairman was serial entrepreneur Avigdor Willenz, co-founder of Galileo Technologies, which he sold in 2001 to Marvell Technology Group Ltd. for $2.7 billion, and of Annapurna Labs, which was sold to Amazon in 2015 for $370 million.

• The eighth largest acquisition was the acquisition by Irish-American medical devices maker Medtronic of Mazor Robotics Ltd., a maker of robotic surgical systems, for $1.6 billion in 2018. The deal marked the biggest-ever exit in the biotech sector. The Caesarea, Israel-based Mazor provides a suite of software that includes image processing and computerized anatomy recognition. The technology enables preoperative planning, helping surgeons better plan spinal procedures. Mazor was founded in 2001 by Eli Zehavi and Moshe Shoham.

The Mazor Robotics Renaissance® Guidance System is the brainchild of Technion Prof. Moshe Shoham. Photo – Technion-Israel Institute of Technology

• The ninth largest deal was the acquisition in 2019 by US cloud computing company Salesforce of Israeli-founded firm ClickSoftware in a deal valued at $1.35 billion. Petah Tikvah-based ClickSoftware Technologies was taken private in 2015 when it was purchased by California-based investment firm Francisco Partners Management for $438 million. It is now headquartered in Burlington, Massachusetts.

ClickSoftware is the world’s largest service management company, with its software used by hundreds of utilities, police and fire departments, and emergency rescue organizations to help them prioritize work orders, repairs, and emergency responses. The firm was founded in 2000 by Moshe BenBassat.

• The 10th largest tech deal was the acquisition by Canadian firm DH Corporation, a payments technology provider, of Israel’s Fundtech, in 2015 for $1.25 billion. Fundtech is a provider of software products for banks to automate such activities as payment, cash management, and other banking services. The Herzliya, Israel-based firm, founded in 1993, had its shares traded on the Nasdaq and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange after it held initial public offerings of shares in 1998 and 2003 respectively. The firm was founded by Reuven Ben Menachem.

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