Israeli venture fund Jerusalem Venture Partners launched JVP Play, a startup-boosting initiative in partnership with heavy hitters like British multinational grocery firm Tesco — which will start activities in Israel for the first time — as well as Barclays, Microsoft, and Deloitte.
The goal of the project is to serve as a bridge between new startups and established multinational corporations, with the startups offering their skills and problem-solving technologies to the big guns and helping bring artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning from Israel’s startup ecosystem into retail and financial services.
“JVP Play is changing the rules of the game in building global companies,” said Erel Margalit, chairman of JVP, in a statement. Margalit is a former Zionist Union member of Knesset.
“For the first time, we’re joining three key players on the playing field – entrepreneurs, investors and customers — at the very earliest stages to build significant, relevant companies with the strongest possible foundations and the potential to be the next big thing,” he said.
The idea of the project, called “Build Disruptive Companies in Collaboration with Global Customers, Partners, and Investors,” is to have the multinationals thus become “active players” in Israel’s startup scene, said JVP Partner Yoav Tzruya, who will head up the initiative along with JVP Labs Partner Yonatan Machado.
Early-stage startups and entrepreneurs, as well as academic researchers with a focus on AI and Deep Learning applicable to retail and financial technology, are encouraged to apply to join the program, and will be screened according to “the potential proof of value of the suggested technology and solution, and the magnitude of the need the product is addressing.”
Once selected, the winning candidates will be assigned mentors from the JVP Play’s corporate partners, which along with JVP will furnish data and feedback to help generate market value, the statement said.
JVP Play will be open to applications from now to December 21.
Founded in 1993, JVP has raised $1.2 billion across eight funds while building over 120 companies. In recent years, it has focused increasingly on AI and the Internet of Things (where digitalization is brought to everyday objects). In 2015, it partnered with e-commerce giant Alibaba to secure investment for several Israeli startups.
British retail shopping giant Tesco will be a major part of the new project, and represents a significant step for the company in starting activities abroad via its technology subsidiary Tesco Labs, specifically in Israel, JVP said. Tesco Labs will be working on several Israeli projects through JVP Play. Paul Wilkinson, Tesco’s head of Technology Research, attended the project launch in Tel Aviv last week and will be in charge of meeting Israeli entrepreneurs and startups.
“We’re delighted to be part of JVP Play, where we look forward to meeting the brightest and best — who may be able to help us shape the future of retail,” said Wilkinson.
“Tesco’s decision to enter the innovation sphere in Israel through the initiative of JVP Play is a vote of confidence in a model that will disrupt the whole high-tech industry,” JVP’s Margalit said.