Israeli start-ups getting less capital, lower valuations

Israeli start-ups getting less capital, lower valuations

Analytics show local companies having harder time than companies in other countries, but the statistics may not tell the full story

D. Todd Dollinger (photo credit: Courtesy)
D. Todd Dollinger (photo credit: Courtesy)

Start-up funding for Israeli firms is becoming harder to come by than ever, a new analysis shows.

Fewer venture capital firms are investing in start-ups here, and those that are still investing are putting in less money than before, according to the study, by Tel Aviv-based SiSense. Those start-ups that do get funding and make it to an exit, moreover, find that their value is significantly lower than it would have been five years ago.

According to the data, venture capital investments in Israeli start-ups fell by about 25% over the past five years, as compared to an average increase of 70% for start-up companies in the rest of the world. And those that did raise money got less than their counterparts elsewhere: The average Israeli start-up raised 3.4 million in initial, or “round A,” financing, as compared to an average $6.3 million elsewhere.

Israeli companies that survived round A actually fared better than in the past five years when it came to round B financing, which was up 9% compared to the previous five years. But 50% fewer Israeli companies actually received round B money. Fewer start-ups in other countries were able to get to round B as well — but only 18% fewer, indicating again the relative weakness of the Israeli venture capital market.

Israeli start-ups also earned less from exits, referring to sum payed for a start-up when it is bought out by a bigger company. The average sabra start-up got $118 million at exit, compared to $234 million in countries other than Israel. What’s more, Israeli companies that had IPOs on various stock exchanges (mostly the NASDAQ) were valued on average at $521 million, 21% less than the $685 million average for non-Israeli start-up IPOs.

The numbers are interesting, said D. Todd Dollinger, an early-stage investment expert based in Israel. “But as Mark Twain quoted Disraeli, ‘there are lies, damn lies, and statistics,’” he said.

Dollinger, CEO of The Trendlines Group, which invests in early-stage Israeli start-ups in the medical device and agritech industries, told the Times of Israel that while on the surface the numbers portray Israel’s high-tech industry as being at a funding and exit disadvantage as compared to other countries, the real question is what statistics are being considered, and what they represent.

“Big data analytics are a tremendous resource, but we need to make sure that we are reviewing data sets appropriately to reach right conclusions,” said Dollinger. Israeli companies may raise less money, but many need less money — and can do more with the money that they do get than companies in other countries. In many cases, companies prefer not to take too much VC money, in order to retain more control over their enterprise, he noted.

“When looking at funding statistics, comparisons cannot be made with accuracy unless we are looking at truly comparable industry sectors,” he said. “For instance, there are many Israeli companies in the Internet/mobile space and these are companies that can prove — or disprove — their investment hypothesis with very small sums of money,” said Dollinger. “You can’t consider these raises and the raises for medical device companies and draw appropriate comparisons between Israeli and American start-ups.”

In the case of Israeli high-tech, he cautioned, the raw numbers just don’t tell the whole story.

SiSense, which carried out the latest study, specializes in “big data” analytics, parsing through huge databases in order to extract meaningful information on just about anything. Its goal is to make big data analysis “more accessible for the common man,” says SiSense CEO Amit Bendov.

The company recently developed an analytics system called Prism, which allows users of even laptops to analyze large amounts of data at great speed. “There’s a lot of hype around Big Data Analytics, but even the biggest companies are struggling because of the massive infrastructure, budgets and specialized skills required. Prism levels the Big Data playing field so that businesses of all sizes can get in the game,” said Bendov.

In another recent development, SiSense demonstrated that its system could zip through a huge ten terabytes of data (that’s 10,240 gigabytes, or 10485760 megabytes) on a single off-the-shelf Dell server in just 10 seconds, and come up with answers to business intelligence problems posed to it. The demonstration, at the Strata Big Data Conference held in Silicon Valley last month, merited SiSense the Audience Choice Award at the event.

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