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Israeli shipping analytics startup gets former BP CEO on board

Tel Aviv-based Windward says Lord John Browne of Madingley is an investor in the firm and has joined its board of directors

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

Israeli startup Windward has created software that analyzes global shipping movements and builds machine learning and predictive models for governments and companies to track vessels at sea and for marine insurance companies (Adi Lamm Photography)
Israeli startup Windward has created software that analyzes global shipping movements and builds machine learning and predictive models for governments and companies to track vessels at sea and for marine insurance companies (Adi Lamm Photography)

Maritime analytics startup Windward said on Tuesday that a former chief executive officer of the oil and gas giant BP, Lord John Browne of Madingley, is an investor in the firm and has joined the company’s board of directors.

Browne has been an investor in the company since 2016, Tel Aviv-based Windward said on Tuesday, without disclosing details of the investment. He will join the company’s roster of board members and investors, which includes former CIA director David Petraeus and Tom Glocer, the ex-CEO of Reuters.

Windward has created a set of analytic tools that help bring clarity to the world of shipping, analyzing global shipping movements to track vessels at sea. Marine insurance companies can use them to help predict the probability of accidents, and  governments can use them to check for illegal activity such as breaking sanctions; if a ship’s activities are unusual — turning off its radar or visiting an at-risk port — it will be flagged.

Ami Daniel, left, and Matan Peled, right, co-founders of Israeli startup Windward with Lord John Browne of Madingley, center (Adi Lamm Photography)

The company is already supplying “top end customers in Europe and other places,” said, Ami Daniel, the co-founder and CEO, at a meeting with journalists on Tuesday.

This is Browne’s first investment in Israel, the British lord said in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, as the Israeli startup announced the news. It is a private investment, he added, saying he was on the scout for other tech firms in Israel as well. Most of his focus is on growth companies, and the aim is to identify and build up companies — like Windward — that can serve industries and “make them different” with their approach, he said.

The shipping industry is an ancient industry that is very conservative and has not been touched by innovation, Browne said, but Windward can change that. “We are not just making products, we are marketing ideas as well,” he said.

Bringing Browne on board as both an investor and adviser is testament of the “aspiration of what we believe we can be, and the humble recognition of how hard it will be, so we want to make sure we have the top people in the world to guide us and save us from mistakes,” said the CEO, Daniel.

The startup was set up in 2010 and has raised to date $22.4 million from investors including Aleph, Horizons Ventures, the former CIA director Petraeus, and Reuter’s Glocer. The company is headquartered in Tel Aviv, with an office in London.

Israeli gas sector is a ‘very interesting business’

Browne is also the chairman of L1 Energy, an oil and gas investment company controlled by the Russian billionaire Mikhail Friedman via the Alfa Group. L1 Energy is overseeing the merger of its DEA oil and gas unit with Germany’s Wintershall, a subsidiary of the German chemicals group BASF, which would create one of Europe’s largest oil and gas producers.

Regarding whether the newly created joint firm would be interested in acquiring stakes in Israel’s natural gas fields, Browne said, “We have had some discussions. At the moment we are not looking at them because we are in the middle of the discussions of the merger, and we have to get through that before we look at any other entries into new regions to do business.”

Israel and the region’s gas fields are a “very interesting business indeed,” he said. The gas reserves present “many opportunities” for getting the gas to different markets, including Egypt, to the domestic market in Israel, and potentially to Turkey and to Europe as well, via pipelines, he said.

“There is clearly a lot of gas,” in the Eastern Mediterranean, he said. The region is a “gigantic gas province” and is a “very important” source for the balance of global supply. “There are insufficient sources of supply,” he said, with security based on diversity.

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