Israeli spooks seek startups to boost tech skills in search for better security
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Israeli spooks seek startups to boost tech skills in search for better security

Shin Bet security agency to open a second accelerator program with Tel Aviv University for entrepreneurs with promising tech in AI, cybersecurity, fintech and robotics

Illustrative image of a spy (cyano66; iStock by Getty Images)
Illustrative image of a spy (cyano66; iStock by Getty Images)

Israel’s security agency, the Shin Bet, is calling on startups to join an accelerator program it has set up with the venture arm of the Tel Aviv University in its bid to tap into new technologies ranging from artificial intelligence to cybersecurity to fintech.

This is the second accelerator program run by the secret service together with TAU ventures, after it selected seven Israeli startups earlier this year mainly in the field of artificial intelligence. In the new program, for which entrepreneurs can register until December 30, nine startups in various stages of development will be selected, in the fields of AI, cybersecurity, fintech and robotics.

The program is intended for early entrepreneurs who have proof of technological feasibility for their products and are not necessarily for the defense market. The startups will be chosen by a joint committee of professionals from the Shin Bet and TAU Ventures, and will receive a $50,000 grant from the security agency, without requesting equity or other restrictions in return.

“Following the success of the first program we have decided to deepen our collaboration with TAU ventures, to unveil additional technologies in different verticals,” said Nadav Argaman, the Shin Bet chief, in a statement. “We believe in the strength of Israel’s technology industry, in its entrepreneurs and its extraordinary capabilities and their products, which are already affecting the capabilities of the Shin Bet and its activities in safeguarding the nation.”

Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman, left, with Nimrod Cohen, the managing partner of TAU Ventures (Eilon Yehiel).

The startups that will take part in the program will benefit from mentoring by technology and other experts in the agency as well as Tel Aviv University. The companies will also be able to test out their technologies within the framework of the agency and get feedback.

As security threats multiply — both in the real and virtual spheres — Israel’s security agencies, the Shin Bet and the Mossad, have been stepping out of the shadows and seeking collaborations with the private sector.

The Shin Bet did not say whether it used or invested in any of the seven startups it selected for the previous accelerator program. “The Shin Bet cannot say what technologies it uses, but is definitely interested in some of the technologies” that took part in the program, it said in a text message.

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