from the April 2014 issue

Cross-border mergers and acquisitions deals soared in 2013

The year 2013 has been good for the Startup Nation. Entrepreneurs have raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in merger and acquisition deals, more companies have conducted initial public offerings than in previous years and venture capital investment reached its highest level in more than a decade in the final quarter.

Deciding which Israeli startups should be in our top five is tough. There are hundreds of startups out there and more than enough cool ideas. But no Israeli company has made it really big on a global scale - there has not been an Israeli phenomenon like Facebook or Twitter, for example, at least since ICQ pioneered Internet chat nearly two decades ago - and most startups tend to melt in the marketplace. Here are five that have come closest, as well as two promising ones that flopped badly during the course of 2013.

Waze created a navigation app that won over tens of millions users and put paid to the old husband-wife debate about whether to check a map or ask directions. In addition to directions, Waze also provides real-time information on traffic conditions, based on crowdsourcing. Google paid more than a $1 billion to buy Waze in June, a giant deal that enhanced Israel's place on the global high-tech map.

Mobileye makes the perfect complement to Waze: One gives you directions, the other makes sure you get there in one piece. Mobileye warns drivers that they are coming too close to another car or to a pedestrian, or veering out of lane, and will hit the brakes if necessary. The technology uses sophisticated algorithms that can do the job with a simple single-lens camera rather than the usual and more costly multiple cameras or radar. Mobileye, which expects to sell 1.5 million of the devices this year, raised $400 million in new capital in July.

Wix enables people with no knowledge of design or coding to build professional-looking websites using templates and apps. The basic technology is free but, of course, if you want to use more advanced tools there's a charge. The company counts some 40 million users and went public on Wall Street in November, where its share price has since shot up 75%.

Moovit is doing for the bus rider what Waze did for the motorist: Amassing information from users to provide real-time data on bus and train arrivals, crowdedness and getting around stations. Three months ago, it began selling tickets over its app in certain European cities and in Israel. Moovit has three million users around the world and raised $28 million in December.

Silentium. From one of the world's noisiest countries comes technology that helps reduce it - not from the guy at the restaurant table next to you, but from electronic equipment. Silentium's chips and controllers reduce the sound of humming and whirring in everything from corporate computer servers to home air conditioners and even automobiles. Silentium products generate an anti-noise to cancel out as much as 90% of a device's unwanted noise.

Two companies that would have been top-five candidates but flopped in a big way in 2013 are:
Better Place raised hundreds of millions of dollars and recruited the French automaker Renault as a partner, with plans to roll out a network of battery-changing stations that would keep electric cars on the road long enough to make them practical. Better Place ran through some $800 million of investors' cash, but no one bought the cars. It filed for bankruptcy last May.

Babylon parlayed its translating software expertise into a fast-growing online advertising business, with a toolbar that people using search engines could download. The catch was that Google Chrome users couldn't get rid of the toolbar. Citing that and other user complaints, Google cancelled its contract in the fall, depriving Babylon of close to half its revenues and leaving the company adrift.

With Google's backing, UpWest Labs will invest in female start up entrepreneurs in Israel and Silicon Valley.

Google Inc. (Nsadaq: GOOG) is investing in nurturing Israeli female start up entrepreneurs. UpWest Labs, the Silicon Valley accelerator for Israeli entrepreneurs, announced the new program, financed by Google for Entrepreneurs, which is focused on closing the gender gap in Silicon Valley. The Google for Entrepreneurs initiative, called the #40Forward: 40 startup communities rethinking the gender gap,' is a $1 million program supporting the initiatives like UpWest Labs to increase female representation in the start up community. With Google's backing, UpWest Labs will invest heavily in growing the community of female entrepreneurs both in Israel and Silicon Valley.

The UpWest Labs Female Entrepreneurship Program includes: partnering with key programs in Israel that specifically encourage women to apply to the UpWest Labs four-month accelerator program in Silicon Valley; establishing a network of mentors in Silicon Valley and Israel in order to increase visibility and access to female entrepreneurs; expanding access to a pool of investors motivated by investing in female led startups.

To date, UpWest Labs has supported 33 start up companies, which have raised more than $20 million in funding. 20% of UpWest Labs companies have included female founders, a level of representation that is four times higher than the average gender ratio.

UpWest Labs co-founder Shuly Galili said, "Israel leads the world in empowering women to take command. The applicants in this year's class proved no exception with two female-led companies out of the six companies accepted to our program."

Galili added, "Building on our success, the goal with Google's initiative is to further provide support to our female founders with more visibility, tools and mentorship. That has always been the mission of UpWest for all our startups. The backing of such a powerhouse in Silicon Valley, focused on women, will absolutely take our efforts to the next level and help us empower female entrepreneurs."

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report April 2014

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