Israel digital accessibility startup to be bought by US firm in deal valued at $99m

UserWay, a developer of technology to improve websites” usability for people with disabilities, will be delisted from the Tel Aviv stock exchange as part of the transaction

Sharon Wrobel is a tech reporter for The Times of Israel.

Team at Israeli AI digital accessibility startup UserWay. (Courtesy)
Team at Israeli AI digital accessibility startup UserWay. (Courtesy)

Israeli startup UserWay, a provider of AI technology to make digital websites accessible to people with disabilities, has inked an agreement to be bought by US firm Level Access in a deal worth almost $99 million.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, Level Access will pay $98.7 million to UserWay shareholders as part of a cash deal. The price tag represents a premium of 17% over the startup’s share price as of market close on December 28.

Traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, UserWay shares have ballooned more than 160 percent this year, giving the firm a market value of NIS 272 million ($76 million). Following the transaction, UserWay will be taken private and merged into Level Access.

Founded in 2016 by CEO Allon Mason, UserWay has developed AI-based technology solutions to improve website accessibility to many of the 1 billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, who have disabilities from vision impairment to dyslexia. The startup’s widget tool uses artificial intelligence to detect accessibility issues on a website or app and automatically fixes the site with a single line of code in real-time.

The widget also has usability feature enhancements, including increased color contrast, text size adjustments and an onboard screen reader.

“This transaction provides our team with a great opportunity to bring our technology to a broader market,” said Mason. “We are unified by a shared mission to make the world more accessible, and we believe this partnership will increase and accelerate what we are able to accomplish.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has in recent years made the need for accessible websites even more critical, with the shift to remote environments and more people going online. However, despite the growing need, 96% of the world’s top 1 million websites are not fully accessible to those with disabilities, according to a recent study. That’s as one in four adults in the US have some type of disability, according to data by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Arlington-based Level Access, founded in 1997 by engineers with disabilities, is a provider of commercial software for testing web accessibility and is backed by investors, including JMI Equity and funds managed by private equity giant KKR.

Level Access said that the merger with UserWay “will create advanced digital accessibility solutions to help more organizations to start, and accelerate, sustainable digital accessibility programs.

The transaction is expected to close in early 2024, subject to approval by UserWay’s shareholders and receipt of customary regulatory approvals.

Over the past year, the number of UserWay’s paying customers, including businesses and organizations, increased by 60% to 6,800 users. Its technology is installed on more than a million websites, according to the startup’s website.

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