Introducing 97212 Ventures: providing Israeli founders with seed capital and insider access to the NY tech scene

Eyal Bino
6 min readMay 7, 2024

--

Today is a very special day for me as we officially launch 97212 Ventures, a NY-based seed fund fully focused on investing in early-stage Israeli startups that are committed to building global companies in NYC.

It’s been a lifelong mission of mine to help Israeli startups at the earliest stages unlock their full potential and speed up their time to market.

Growing up in Israel (972), while building my entire professional career in New York City (212), I have been fortunate enough to develop a deep network and a profound understanding of what it takes for Israeli founders to effectively expand from Israel to the US market, and to build a global company. This understanding has helped me in being a friendly investor and long-term partner to them.

The launch of 97212 is the culmination of this journey.

97212 Ventures is a founder-driven fund. We are all about doing whatever it takes to help Israeli founders be successful, with a heavy emphasis on GTM. When thinking through what will make us attractive and relevant in a fairly crowded venture market, we came up with a clear mission: investing early, working hard with founders on building their businesses in the US market, providing real access to help enable startups’ first major wins, and paving the way to product-market fit, and early growth.

I believe that this is where the true magic happens, which is why it was critical for me to bring together some of the most experienced and successful investors, founders and operators, to join our fund, and be an active part of our operation.

While we are officially launching today, the last few years have been extremely busy for us. Since starting the fund in 2022, we’ve already made 15 investments across pre-seed and seed, with over half the companies already raising follow-on rounds from notable VCs, while establishing a vibrant community of founders, LPs, and partners aligned with our mission.

The common denominator for our founders — they are techy, scrappy, bold, gritty, big-time risk takers, and visionaries. Just the way we are.

NYC has proven to be the best place for Israeli startups to grow big companies

2010 was the start of NYC evolving into a major tech hub. Innovation started flowing into the city which has transformed from a financial hub into a major tech ecosystem. WeWork opened more and more buildings, Meetups popped up all over the city, and VCs from Silicon Valley opened offices in New York. There was a feeling of something big and exciting in the making.

In a short period of time, New York put itself in a position to attract great tech talent not just from across the US… but from around the world. Israeli founders immediately took notice and started flocking to the city, bringing the number of Israeli startups with a base in NYC to 450 in just over 10 years.

Today, there are 30 Israeli-founded unicorns based in the city, and the Israeli tech community here is thriving. The impact of Israeli startups on the NY startup ecosystem is real and noticeable.

It’s been incredible for me to have a front row seat, and a small role, in the establishment of the NYC-TLV ecosystems. After launching and running the Global Innovator program aimed at identifying the most promising seed startups from all over the world, and giving them access to the NY tech scene, I then co-founded ICONYC labs, a first check accelerator providing Israeli startups a small check, space in the heart of New York City, and significant help in building their companies in the Big Apple.

In the span of 6 years we invested in some of Israel’s most game changing companies including the likes of Connecteam, Dataloop, SecuriThings, Leal Health, Duve, Copyleaks and many more. These companies raised hundreds of millions of dollars in VC funding, and employ hundreds of people across the US and Israel.

While we were a very small investor, I felt that our impact was priceless. We didn’t just provide access and know-how on how to raise capital or sell to a startup’s first US customers, but added credibility, which is crucial for any founder building a company outside of their natural surroundings. I became more than an investor to the founders we invested in, but rather a partner and a friend they can trust in sharing their problems, dilemmas, and joys.

So why did we start 97212?

Towards the end of 2021 it was clear to me that the market had reached its peak, and that startups (and in particular Israeli startups), would need to go back to basics — running a capital efficient company with a focus on building a real business that brings value to customers and investors. The age of high valuations and “easy money” was about to end.

In parallel, I strongly believed that a new “product” was needed in the venture market for Israeli founders looking to go global. A platform-based fund that teams up with founders and larger VCs, rather than competes with them, and provides not just a check but also strategic value in areas which are meaningful to founders and shareholders alike.

A fund that over time becomes one that every founder wants on their cap table. I raised the idea with close mentors, fellow investors, and successful founders who overwhelmingly supported me on going “all in”. 97212 was born in early 2022, and I couldn’t be prouder of our mission and vision for the future.

As we know, in startups and in funds it’s all about the team. And while 97212 is a solo GP type of fund, it is very far from being a one man show. I was fortunate enough to join forces with some of the best minds in Israel and the US, who are fully committed to the success of the fund and our founders.

This is a good opportunity to thank Amit Maimon (one of the top-under-the-radar successful Israeli founders and investors), Ronnie Lavi (our operating partner, and chief value-creation officer), and Vamsi Sistla (a successful founder, operator, and LP in some of the best funds in the US), for making 97212 bigger than its sum.

In addition, we’ve assembled an LP base that includes a long list of partners from some of the best VCs, founders who sold their companies for billions, and operators from some of the top companies in the US. This collection is one of the most unique I’ve seen in the venture scene, and is rare for first time funds.

The Future of Israeli Tech

This is a critical moment in time for Israeli tech. The judicial reform in Israel that brought millions to the streets, followed by the Israel-Hamas war made it incredibly hard for Israeli founders to raise capital and run their business effectively as the geopolitical climate is still very unsettled.

And yet, it’s clear that Israeli tech is very much alive… and that the future is bright.

The resiliency of Israeli founders is second to none, and I continue to be bullish on Israeli startups, and am excited to back more of them in the coming months and years. If you’re a founder looking to build a company out of Israel with a New York state of mind, I’d be happy to chat.

Feel free to reach out to eyal@97212.vc and start a conversation.

--

--

Eyal Bino

Bridging the best of Israeli and NYC tech. Founding Partner @ 97212 Ventures & @ ICONYC labs. Formerly @Forbes Contributor. Living and breathing NYC-TLV tech.