China’s Baidu invests $3 million in Israeli start-up

The Internet giant sees promise in Pixellot, which has developed a unique take on video filming and production

Pixellot screenshot (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Pixellot screenshot (Photo credit: Courtesy)

After investing in an Israeli venture capital fund in October, China Internet giant Baidu has made its first direct investment in an Israeli start-up.

Video capture firm Pixellot said Monday that it had received a $3 million investment from Baidu, China’s leading search engine. According to Peter Fang, senior director of Baidu Corporate Development, his company “is very enthusiastic about bringing Pixellot’s ground-breaking technology to Chinese Internet users. For the first time, video content producers can broadcast concerts, sports, and stage events and enable the audience to watch streaming video with total freedom to choose camera angles in real time on their devices.”

Pixellot is the originator of a unique method of filming – the unmanned “capture-all” system, which deploys cameras to capture all angles and views of a venue. At a concert, for example, the Pixellot devices would be positioned to capture the action on stage, as well as the crowd. Pixellot’s system allows for video editing and production in the cloud, and the interface allows users to zoom in on any part of the action and roll that particular segment ahead or back in time – so a viewer could see the changes in the crowd over time, while seeing the band on stage at a fixed moment. Or  users can focus on a specific player throughout a football or basketball game, watching him play from any angle and at any moment in the game and rolling the video clip forward or backward as desired.

Both the cloud editing system and the “capture-all” search options were invented by Pixellot, and both are unique to the company’s technology.

It’s perfect, said Dr. Miky Tamir, Pixellot’s co-founder and chairman, for the largely untapped market of personalized video for high school ball game and theater productions, allowing players, their families and fans to create their own personal videos as well as to monitor the players’ performance parameters using cloud-based services.

Another market Pixellot is targeting, said Tamir, is servicing professional broadcasters. The system’s ability to jump back and forth in time, while focusing on specific segments of the action, provides a new twist on instant replays, allowing viewers to see the development of a play in a sports match from different points of view. Pixellot is already in advanced talks with leading global networks and sports federations that are interested in using its technology to capture high-profile sports and music events, the company said.

In October, Baidu, along with Chinese insurer Ping-An and software company Qihoo360, invested in an venture capital fund sponsored by Israel’s Carmel Ventures. That investment, as well as the latest one by Baidu, is evidence of the ever-closer business relationship that has been developing between Israel and China, say prominent investors who have worked for years with Chinese investors and companies to enhance that relationship.

According to Edouard Cukierman, chairman of Cukierman & Co. Investment House and a managing partner of the Catalyst Investment Funds, “China over the past two years has become the number one investor in Israel. For them, Israel is a great source of technology to help them develop their economy, while for us, it’s a fantastic opportunity to gain entry into the biggest market in the world. As much as we are helping them, they are helping us.”

Nathan Low, an Israeli-American investment banker whose ZionTech Angels group has paired up dozens of Israeli companies with foreign investors, also sees China as a place where Israelis can do business – lots of it. “Israeli startup companies can solve problems with the technologies and products they already have in hand, eliminate or vastly reduce China’s food and water shortages, improve freight logistics, optimize municipal bus schedules, reduce pollution, as well as improve health care,” said Low. “China and Israel are destined for partnership. China has the money and the markets. Israel has the products to solve problems and address opportunities.”

Commenting on the deal with Baidu, Pixellot CEO Tamir said that the company was “truly excited to kick off this partnership with Baidu as a strategic investor, which will enable us to grow globally and bring us into the Chinese market. We are both honored and proud to become Baidu’s first investment in an Israeli company. With this capital inflow, we plan to invest in further expanding our R&D and advancing our global marketing and business development platform.”

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