NYC-bound start-ups hope to duplicate Wix IPO success

Fifteen Israeli companies presenting at a New York investment event hope to one day file their own $100-million initial public offering

A recent investment event sponsored by the US Israel Business Council (photo credit: Courtesy USIBC)
A recent investment event sponsored by the US Israel Business Council (photo credit: Courtesy USIBC)

In a high-tech “gathering of the exiles,” New York City has been sponsoring tours for start-ups around the world, to introduce them to the local tech scene in the hope that they will open offices there. This week it’s Israel’s turn, as the US Israel Business Council (USIBC) and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) sponsor “Israel to NYC,” part of its “World to NYC” program.

And for Israeli start-ups, the tour could be the beginning of big things — culminating in an IPO on the NASDAQ, just like an Israeli start-up announced it had done this week.

While locating in New York is no guarantee of success, taking a bite of the Big Apple could open doors for start-ups, said David Bratslavsky, executive director of USI, an organization that connects American and Israeli business leaders, investors, and innovators, and provides administrative and office solutions for Israeli companies. Participants in the event “will meet top industry partners, potential investors, and technology experts. It’s an opportunity to grow in the US market through NYC,” Bratslavsky said, providing them with connections that may pay off in the long run.

Of course, in order to impress investors, a company has to have the right product or service. Wix, which provides users with a web-driven, easy-to-use method for building sophisticated websites, has done just that. The company had $34.1 million in revenues in the first half of 2013, a substantial jump over the $43.7 million and $24.6 million it brought in in 2012 and 2011 respectively. Business is good enough to call for an IPO, Wix said. The company said it would seek up to $100 million in investments, to be used for expansion, hiring new employees, and further enhancing its technology. Founded in 2006, Wix has 400 employees at four sites around the world (most of them at its Tel Aviv headquarters), and says that its“cloud-based web development platform serves nearly 40 million users in 190 countries.”

What has enamored them of the service is the fact that Wix offers a drag and drop method to build HTML5-based websites. Users can choose templates to build upon (there are hundreds), and add basic web interface services as well as advanced apps (music, shopping forms, social media additions, etc.). Wix operates on a “freemium” basis, with basic (and some advanced) services free, and additional services, support, and hosting of sites available for a price.

Wix has been very popular for years, but some of the start-ups participating in Israel to NYC have great potential, too. Among them: Curiyo, the one-click, online information discovery tool that delivers a wealth of information about a term or concept from around the web when a word or term is clicked; Viewbix, a video marketing platform that lets businesses add forms, comment boxes, and other methods of boosting engagement and sales into videos; Augury Systems, which can diagnose problems in machines just by “listening” to them; Seebo, which bridges the gap between online games and offline toys by building a platform to let them interact; Brayola, an app to help women find their perfect bra; and ten others.

The start-ups will present to over 250 investors, entrepreneurs, and business leaders, among them Brian Cohen (NY Angels), Danny Schultz (Gotham Ventures), Dan Ciporin (Canaan Partners), Vicki Levine (Lightbank), Alessandro Piol (Vedanta Capital), and Michael Rubenstein (AppNexus). Each of them has had experience in investing in successful start-ups, so chances are good the start-ups will, at the very least, benefit from top-flight advice the investors will render – if not from the money their funds can supply.

According to Schultz, co-founder and Managing Director of New York’s Gotham Ventures, it’s a win-win, both for the start-ups and city. “Israel and New York have a tremendous amount of entrepreneurial energy and talent in common. For both, it’s about hustle, innovation, competitive spirit, and chutzpah. These qualities make both regions natural business partners.” For the start-ups, the visit could just be the first step to a Wix-style IPO of their own.

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