“Who is in Israel for the first time?” A flurry of hands went up, more than half the visiting delegation. From the US, China and Europe, this group had come to Israel to see something new and exciting: the rapid development of a innovation ecosystem of new mobility technologies.
Over the course of two days, the second Maniv Mobility Mission to Israel showcased fourteen startups to a select group of investors and automotive industry participants. At dinners in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the group was joined by an array of Israeli entrepreneurs, academics, investors and government officials. The visit also included an extensive Q&A session with Mobileye’s CEO, Ziv Aviram and CFO, Ofer Maharshak at their Jerusalem headquarters.
As the only venture fund in Israel exclusively focused on the rapidly expanding field of automotive and new mobility technology, Maniv Mobility has extensive knowledge of the local mobility tech ecosystem and a network of relationships that extend throughout it. As vehicles rapidly become digitized, Israel’s position as a global hi-tech heavyweight has become increasingly critical to the global automotive value chain. Over two years of investing in the sector, Maniv has seen a groundswell in the number and quality of startups in the space and there has also been a slew of coverage from publications such Financial Times and NBC.
Though there has been a recent surge of new Israeli startups developing mobility tech, this wave of innovation is in part fueled by the significant success Israel has already achieved in this sector. Besides Mobileye, which is Israel’s largest ever IPO, Israel has two other mobility tech unicorns: Waze, which was acquired by Google in 2013 for $1.3B, and Gett, an app that connects customers with taxi drivers recently received a $300M investment from Volkswagen (Gett’s CFO, Tal Brener presented to our delegation). These more mature companies serve both as inspiration to younger entrepreneurs and incubators of expertise which gets transferred throughout the ecosystem.
As an example, Guardian Optical Technologies, which is developing an optical sensor to monitor vehicle cabin occupancy, has Mobileye veterans in leadership positions who have brought valuable experience and a network of relationships throughout the industry with them to the company.
Another trend is that founders that have achieved great success in other sectors such as telecom, are now focusing their attention on the automotive sector. Rani Wellingstein, who sold his previous company Intucell to Cisco for $475M, is now leading Oryx Vision, a startup developing a unique sensor for autonomous vehicle applications.
Other presenting companies included Autotalks, developing DSRC chipsets to enable vehicle-to-vehicle communication; Nexar, which is using smartphone dash-cam video to monitor driving behavior; Optima, which offers a set of patented engines and algorithms that perform fault simulations for automotive silicon certification; GuardKnox, which is developing automotive cybersecurity solutions; Bringg, which offers a SaaS and mobile solution that gives businesses the ability to offer last mile, on-demand delivery; Intuition Robotics, which is addressing social isolation and loneliness through robotic technology; Streetsmart, an app that recommends a route to taxi and ride-share driver that will increase their chances of picking up their next passenger; and otonomo, which offers a vehicle data cloud management solution. There was also a presentation from Ariel Sella, who runs Capsula, a future mobility accelerator program based at Tel Aviv University along with short pitches from three start-ups that were part of Capsula’s winter class: MIO (mobile kiosk), RFISee (radar technology) and WayCare (traffic data management).
One sentiment that was repeated regularly by members of the delegation was how impressed they were by the quality of the underlying technology of most of these startups. “In the Valley, there is a tendency by entrepreneurs to learn how to pitch well before the business is developed,” said Reilly Brennan, Executive Director of the Revs Program at Stanford University and Partner at Trucks Venture Capital. “In Israel I experienced somewhat close to the opposite: even though the presentations were not as polished, I saw some really novel and transformative technology.”
Though the agenda was packed, there was a little time for sightseeing. In an incredible journey from cutting edge to deep history, the delegation experienced a mere ten minute drive between hearing Mobileye’s leadership team discussing the company’s future plans to enable the launch of fully autonomous vehicles by 2021, and an expert tour guide showing them the foundations of the Temple Mount laid almost four thousand years ago.