Geopolitical Risk a Nonissue for Investors in Israeli Startups

Despite the conflict in Gaza, Israeli companies are raising capital and completing deals, although some employees have been called away on military...
Iris DorbianAugust 7, 2014
Geopolitical Risk a Nonissue for Investors in Israeli Startups

Israel may be in the midst of a military conflict with Hamas (or not, if the current ceasefire holds up) but that hasn’t prevented Israeli companies from making deals. Although some startups have felt firsthand the impact of the conflict, with employees called away on mandatory military reserve duty, it’s business as usual in a country that is largely used to volatility in its 65-year history, reports The Wall Street Journal.

IsraelAdam Fisher, a partner at American venture capital firm Bessemer Venture Partners, tells the news outlet that the dichotomy is typical when it comes to investor interest in Israel, dubbed “Startup Nation” for its sheer density of tech startups.

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“The market has long ignored the geopolitical risk factor of investing in Israeli companies,” he says. “The more [intellectual property] is required to deliver the product, the less vulnerable it is to physical disruption, whether it’s a war or an earthquake or a tsunami.”

Last week, Mobileye, a Jerusalem-based provider of auto anti-collision technology, raised $890 million in an initial public offering. Trading on the NYSE, the stock fared well in its trading debut, with shares soaring 56%.

Also going public last week were three Israeli biomedical firms: MacroCure, Bio Blast Pharma and VBL Therapeutics. According to the WSJ, combined the three companies raised $154 million.

The fighting also didn’t derail 3D Systems Corp, a South Carolina-based 3-D printing firm, from revealing that it plans to buy Simbionix USA Corp, an Israeli medical devices firm, for $120 million.

However, some Israeli companies are experiencing delays or project postponements due to employees called up for military duty.

At one Tel Aviv startup, Zuznow, a mobile app creator, eight employees are gone, with one slated to return this week. Unsurprisingly, low morale has resulted.

“This is true for me also, and I am one of the company’s co-founders,” Racheli Levkovitch, vice president of sales and business development at Zuznow, told the WSJ.

Certainly, the war has temporarily stopped business VIPs from coming to Israel. A source told WSJ that Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer eighty-sixed a planned visit to Israel because of the fighting. Meyer’s cancelled trip follows Yahoo’s announced acquisition of Israeli-based RayV, a maker of internet protocol television software.

And, when flights were halted to Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport two weeks ago, American software firms, such as Teva and Intel, which have Israeli operations, also experienced the impact. In separate statements, both firms addressed the need to increase security for employees, while hoping for an end to the war.

Source: Israeli Tech Scene Endures During War

Photo: Israel Defense Forces