Top Israeli tech firms ‘graduate’ for 6th time at MS accelerator

Start-ups of the world’s most prestigious programs present their technology at a major Tel Aviv event

Zack Weisfeld at the sixth Demo Day of MS Ventures Accelerator, June 29, 2015 (Courtesy)
Zack Weisfeld at the sixth Demo Day of MS Ventures Accelerator, June 29, 2015 (Courtesy)

For the sixth time, Israeli start-ups participating in the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator Israel program had the opportunity to show off their technology — and meet investors — at the accelerator’s Demo Day in Tel Aviv this week.

Some 330 companies from Israel, as well as 23 countries around the world, applied for the sixth round of the accelerator program — among them companies from the Far East, Europe, the US and Africa. The 11 companies chosen to participate in the program develop products in fields such as e-commerce, marketing, finance, cyber-security, agritech, human resources, and tourism.

In the world of high-tech accelerators, it’s hard to beat the record of the MS program, either in Israel or in the eight other locations where the company runs or partners with an accelerator.

Around the world, the MS accelerators have, over the past three years, graduated 410 companies, of which 77% have raised follow-on funding of $3.3 million, with 23 exits and one IPO.

In Israel, 70 companies have participated in the six batches of the Israeli accelerator program held so far, with approximately 80% of them raising funding in the total amount of $90M. Three of the graduates of the Israeli accelerator have been acquired: Kitlocate was acquired by Yandex; Appixia was acquired by Wix; and Conferplace was acquired by Meda Group.

And, since the beginning of the current round in Israel, which began four months ago, 7 of the 11 companies have raised backing or have received funding offers. “Can any other accelerator beat this record?” rhetorically asked Zack Weisfeld, director of the MS Ventures program worldwide.

To boot, it was all Israel’s idea, said Weisfeld. The Israeli accelerator was the first MS Ventures Accelerator, and the role model for them all. “It was seen as an experiment by the company, but people inside the company believed in what we were trying to do,” explained Weisfeld.

The cities where MS Ventures Accelerators are operating, among others, include London, Berlin, Paris, Beijing, Seattle, and Bangalore, as well as a joint program in Brazil — all modeled on the original Israeli accelerator.

Over the four-month course of the program, companies get office space, access to services (software, cloud storage, etc.), as well as mentorship from some of the top figures in Israeli tech. When a company’s tech is ready, Microsoft introduces them to its business partners and customers around the world (there’s a pool of several hundred thousand in all possible areas of commerce to choose from).

In return, Microsoft asks for — nothing. No rent, no equity, no percentages, or anything else. Companies don’t even have to use Microsoft products, said Hanan Lavy, head of the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in Israel. “For us, it’s about discovering new technologies and helping new start-ups succeed,” he stated.

Of course, Microsoft would be very happy if a start-up were to partner with it to sell a new product or service — a move that would make a lot of sense for the start-up as well, continued Lavy. “One of the ideas behind the accelerator is to enable us to build relationships with the world’s top entrepreneurs, the ones who are are able to get into the program. In this way, we are realizing our goal of expanding the markets for Israeli start-ups.”

This year’s graduates hailed from a wide range of the Israeli tech ecosystem. Among the companies: GetJob, which provides potential employees with a way to connect with employers for unskilled, low-tech, or service jobs (waitering, etc.); DOV-E, which uses ultrasonic sounds emitted by smartphones to pay at cash registers, gas pumps, food- and drink-vending machines, etc.; Highr, an app that workers can use to find a better job without telling anyone or leaving their current jobs until they find a new one; Bontact, a platform that allows website owners to accept communications from potential customers in a variety of ways from a single dashboard; and Taranis, which has developed an advanced weather-forecasting model that it is supplying to farmers, with actionable advice on when to plant, when to use fertilizer, how to beat insects, etc.

MS will soon accept applications to the seventh round of the accelerator. While all applicants with a good idea are welcome, Microsoft has teamed up with partners in several specific areas to provide even more partnership and investment opportunities for accelerator grads. Among them: BD and Pfizer, in the health and medical domains; Bank Hapoalim and Poalim Hightech, in fintech; El Al’s Cockpit, in tourism and air travel; Melanox Technologies, in fast communication hardware/software products for computing and storage centers; and hub:raum, the corporate incubator of Deutsche Telekom, for telecom-related products and services.

“The companies in the current batch are at a more mature stage, and personalized programs were tailored for them,” explained Lavy. “They were also offered access to our clients and partners around the world. Now, at the end of the program, we can see the impressive progress made by the companies and their success, not only in raising funding, but also in attracting clients from among the largest companies in the world.”

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