Intel Capital expands Israel team, announces new $117m global investments

At annual summit, semiconductor giant’s venture arm marks significant year for portfolio companies, including Israeli startups

Ricky Ben-David is The Times of Israel’s Tech Israel editor and reporter.

The Intel Capital Israel team, from left to right: Noam Kaiser, Shira Vissoker, Roi Bar-Kat, and Yair Shoham. (Courtesy of Intel Corp.)
The Intel Capital Israel team, from left to right: Noam Kaiser, Shira Vissoker, Roi Bar-Kat, and Yair Shoham. (Courtesy of Intel Corp.)

PHOENIX, Arizona — Intel Capital, the venture capital arm of US semiconductor giant Intel Corp., announced on Monday that it was growing its Israel team to further invest in Israeli startups and companies, having poured some $120 million into 14 Israeli ventures over the course of 2018. This is out of a total of 95 deals Intel engaged in last year to the tune of nearly $400 million in overall investments.

In Israel, Intel Capital said Roi Bar-Kat, previously with US fund Liberty Technology VC, and Noam Kaiser, formerly Amazon’s business development manager for the VC field in Israel, Spain, and Portugal, would be joining the local team as partners and investment directors. The fund’s Adi Caspi Zepkowitz was promoted to associate at Intel Capital and Shira Vissoker will be joining as a business analyst.

Intel Capital said the Israel team would continue scouting for companies in all stages, with a focus on earlier stage startups.

The announcement came as Intel Capital held its annual Global Summit conference in Phoenix, Arizona — now in its 19th year — welcoming some 600 entrepreneurs, venture investors, business leaders, and Intel executives for the three-day event focused on the chipmaker giant’s achievements and future prospects. A number of senior officials from Intel’s portfolio companies in Israel attended the summit, including from transportation data startup Moovit (in which Intel led a $50 million investment), AI processor developer Habana Labs ($75 million), and gaming tech startup Overwolf ($16 million).

Intel Capital Israel’s investment director Yair Shoham said in a statement that the decision to expand the Israeli team “was driven by the importance the fund sees in Israeli entrepreneurs and innovation.”

Intel Capital Israel’s investment director Yair Shoham. (Courtesy of Intel Corp.)

“Intel Capital provides unique value to entrepreneurs, including access to customers and mega-corporations across the globe, ties with other funds and a proactive and supportive approach to help our portfolio companies grow,” Shoham said.

With currently 28 portfolio companies in the country in sectors such as cybersecurity, Internet of Things (IoT), enterprise software, cloud computing, autonomous vehicles, and 5G, Shoham said Intel Capital plans to further expand its activity in Israel as the country “has innovation to offer in all of these areas.”

Since setting up operations in Israel in 1974, Intel has made cumulative investments and acquisitions of over $35 billion in Israel and has grown into the largest private sector employer in the high-tech industry with over 11,000 employees. The US firm is behind the largest single exit for an Israeli company to date, having acquired the Jerusalem-based firm Mobileye, a maker of advanced driver assistance systems, in 2017 for a record $15.3 billion. It employs an additional 1,170 people from the Israeli company founded in 1999 by professors Amnon Shashua, now a senior VP at Intel Corp, and Ziv Aviram.

In January, Intel confirmed that it was building a new plant in Kiryat Gat, where it produces and develops some of its most advanced computer chips, that is expected to include an $11 billion investment.

In recent years, the US firm has been transitioning from being a maker of silicon computer chips to a data-centric company, with activities ranging from the manufacturing of chips to developing safety features in vehicles, wireless phone connections, drones and cloud-based technologies.

Intel’s plant in Kiryat Gat (Courtesy)

Intel Capital said that in 2018, the fund made six new investments in Israeli startups, eight follow-on investments, and oversaw the acquisition of cloud migration tech company Velostrata to Google for an undisclosed amount. Intel Capital is currently the most active corporate fund in Israel, according to a recent report by the IVC research center, which tracks Israel’s tech ecosystem.

At the event on Monday, Intel Capital announced a new investment in Israeli startup ProteanTecs, which emerged from stealth mode this week with a $35 million Series B financing round. ProteanTecs was founded in 2017 by industry veterans that include co-founders of Mellanox Technologies, the Israeli maker of high-speed servers and storage switching solutions, acquired last month by chip maker Nvidia (an Intel competitor) for $6.7 billion.

The investment in ProteanTecs was made alongside other investors including Avigdor Willenz, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, and Viola Ventures, and is one of 14 new investments totaling $117 million made by Intel in global companies so far in 2019.

Intel said the funding news sets a new record for investments announced at the yearly Global Summit, “and further demonstrates Intel’s commitment to building the future.”

Leaders from the 14 companies joining the Intel Capital portfolio pose with Intel Capital President Wendell Brooks at the Arizona Biltmore as the 19th annual Intel Capital Global Summit kicks off April 1, 2019. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

Haifa-based ProteanTecs developed a solution for predicting and monitoring electronic systems’ performance and reliability throughout their life cycle, with implications across industries from phones to medical devices, automotive systems, large-scale data centers and IT systems. ProteanTecs says its trademarked Universal Chip Telemetry™ is a new language of inferred measurements for chip health and performance monitoring.

“We offer a one-stop cloud-based platform that combines data derived from proprietary agents embedded in chips, with machine learning and data analytics,” said ProteanTecs’ co-founder and CEO Shai Cohen in a press statement. “This significantly improves chip and system production quality, while tracking operational reliability and alerting on faults before they become failures.”

Cohen told The Times of Israel at the Intel summit that the startup currently has a number of high-profile clients but declined to go into details.

“The scale of electronic systems and their complexities are growing. The technology in many of these systems is not only delicate but also very expensive. We have come up with a new definition of how you deal with machines’ reliability when not just money but also sometimes lives are on the line,” Cohen said.

“The responsibility [for daily operations] is moving increasingly to machines, and we must have some accountability. We have to make electronics communicate their health conditions and predict systems loss or failure; we have to know how long they have before they give out.”

With offices in New Jersey and California, ProteanTecs said it plans to use the new investment to grow its teams and scale its operations, offering its combined hardware and software solution to chip makers, system vendors, and digital service providers.

“While deployments of advanced process and assembly technologies accelerate, ProteanTecs’ pivotal solution addresses the consequent increasing complexities”, said Shoham, of Intel Capital. “ProteanTecs is poised to revolutionize how our industry achieves the challenging yet essential levels of visibility, quality, reliability and predictability.”

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