Thousands of readers and an expert panel of judges voted on the best startups, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists in Israel. Here were the winners
In Israel, the startup community’s big night is called the Geek Awards, sponsored by Geektime. It’s a mix between the Academy Awards and the Crunchies, and with a cast of sharp, smart wearing presenters and awardees.
Click here for some photos from the gala event.
Thousands of readers of Geektime’s Hebrew site voted on the best startups, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists in the country. In addition, a panel of expert judges from the industry had their vote, which included Saul Singer, Inbal Orpaz, Ayelet Noff, Eyal Gura, Hilla Brenner, Zack Weisfeld, Guy Grimland, Sagi Cohen, Assaf Gilad, Ruthy Kaidar, Sarit Cohen, Yifat Oron, Ruth Polachek, Roy Latke, and David Shamah.
The awards ceremony wouldn’t have been possible without the contributions of our generous sponsors, which included Blonde 2.0, LeumiTech, United, Luzzatto & Luzatto Patent Attorneys, Microsoft, and KPMG.
After much fanfare, here were the chosen few that won the Geek Awards 2016.
1. Best Israeli startup:
And the winner is: Fiverr
Fiverr is a global online marketplace offering tasks and services, referred to as “gigs,” beginning at a cost of $5 per job performed with a newly tiered pricing system. It is one of the pioneering startups of the sharing economy and has had explosive growth since it was founded in 2010 by Micha Kaufman and Shai Wininger. So far, the wildly successful startup has raised a total of $111 million, with an enormous $60 million Series D funding round completed in November.
As the global economy becomes increasingly freelance and interconnected, Fiverr will likely continue to expand. While 2016 may not be the year it goes public (few companies will dare to enter the public markets this year), we expect that Fiverr will likely IPO at some point in the relatively near future.
2. Best Israeli Investor (Fund):
- Magma Venture Partners
- Sequoia Israel
- Marker LLC
And the winner is: JVP
JVP, or Jerusalem Venture Partners, is one of Israel’s oldest and most prominent venture capital firms. Launched in 1993 by Erel Margalit, one of Israel’s all-time most successful investors and a current Member of Knesset in Israel’s parliament for the Labor Party, JVP invests in cyber, enterprise, and media startups. In recent years, it has invested in CyberArk, which went public in 2014 and is now worth more than $1 billion, and CyActive, which PayPal acquired for about $60 million.
It has also become one of the Israeli VC firms with the most established connections to Chinese investors. This is part of why Alibaba’s first Israeli VC investment was to JVP.
3. Israel’s Top Accelerator / Entrepreneurship Program:
- UpWest Labs
- Citi Accelerator
- Microsoft Ventures Accelerator
And the winner is: Microsoft Ventures Accelerator
Microsoft Ventures Accelerator also won this prize at last year’s Geek Awards. Microsoft’s four-month program is for startups in their early funding stages with a focus on companies developing software-focused solutions. During that time, the companies use office space at Microsoft Israel’s headquarters in Herzliya. They have access to all of Microsoft’s products as well as its Azure cloud platform and other services. They also receive assistance from over 100 mentors who are industry leaders and get exposure to the international market through introductions to potential customers and strategic partners. Microsoft doesn’t invest directly in companies nor does it take a percentage of equity, but it does arrange meetings between entrepreneurs and potential investors.
4. Best Israeli Enterprise Startup:
- Pyramid Analytics
And the winner is: Pyramid Analytics
Pyramid Analytics builds and manages business intelligence (BI) software and specializes in processing large scale information. Their staple product is the BI Office Suite based on their patented technology for database queries (they have the patent numbers to prove it). Their solution’s clean display, wide array of web-based tools and elimination of the need to write any new code makes it an attractive product in a growing market.
In October, Pyramid Analytics raised a $30 million Series B bringing the company’s total funding to date to $41.5 million. The new financing will allow them to expand their operations in every department, particularly by adding another 30 staff to their R&D center in Tel Aviv’s sister city of Ramat Gan. CEO Omri Kohl, CTO Avi Perez and EVP of Business Development Herbert Ochtman founded Pyramid Analytics in 2009.
5. Best Israeli IoT startup:
And the winner is: Argus
Argus Cyber Security is one of the first startups to address the security challenges inherent in connected cars. In October Argus, an Israeli firm focused on automotive computer protection, announced that they wrapped up a $26 million Series B funding round. Argus markets an embedded hardware that integrates with the car’s computing systems on the production line, acting like a standard home computer’s antivirus system by blocking security breaches and on-board diagnostics.
CEO Ofer Ben Noon, VP of R&D Oron Lavi and CTO Yaron Galula founded the company in 2013. Based in Tel Aviv, they maintain offices in Stuttgart, Germany; Tokyo, Japan; Silicon Valley, and Michigan. Before this round, they raised a $4 million Series A in September 2014.
6. Top Israeli female entrepreneur:
- Adi Tatarko – Houzz
- Iris Shoor – Oribi
- Orit Hashay – Brayola
- Dr. Michal Tsur – Kaltura
- Gal Aharon – Engie
The winner is: Dr. Michal Tsur Shalev (Kaltura)
Dr. Michal Tsur also won last year’s award for top Israeli female entrepreneur– way to keep on rocking.
She founded the online security firm Cyota and sold it for $145 million in 2005. She then founded Kaltura, an open source video platform whose customers include Warner Brothers and HBO.
7. Best Israeli Internet startup:
And the winner is: Outbrain
Outbrain also won the award for this category last year. Outbrain’s content discovery platform uses AI algorithms to try and intuit content that users weren’t necessarily actively searching for while browsing a site, but would be very happy to have ‘discovered’ anyhow. As a business model, Outbrain essentially functions as a 3-way marketplace for content consumers, content publishers and media buyers, with their two products – Outbrain Engage and Outbrain Amplify – facilitating relevant engagement and leveraging between all three parties.
Its last funding round took place in July and raised $50 million in private equity and it has raised a total of $149 million since Yaron Galai and Ori Lahov founded it in 2006. There have been rumors that it has confidentially filed an IPO with NASDAQ, but it has been a while since Outbrain has made any further moves to go public.
8. Best Israeli FinTech startup:
And the winner is: Fundbox
Fundbox is a San Francisco- and Tel Aviv-based startup that can assess businesses’ credit risk online within an hour and helps credit worthy businesses automatically pay invoices when they experience cash flow problems. This company is one of the fastest startups from Israel in the last few years. Since Co-Founders Eyal Shinar, Tomer Michaeli, and Yuval Ariav launched Fundbox in 2012, they have raised $107.5 million in total funding, including their latest round in September of $50 million, which they partially raised from the likes of Ashton Kutcher and Jeff Bezos.
Their machine learning solution makes assessing credit risk much cheaper and easier than the capital-heavy work of loan officers, and their small loans to businesses experiencing cash flow problems are fast, easy-to-use, and at extremely good rates: They only charge between 0.7-3.0% for each requested payment.
9. Best Israeli mobile startup:
And the winner is: Moovit
Moovit also won the award for this category at the 2015 GeekAwards ceremony. One of the world’s most used crowdsourced public transit app, Moovit has been a darling of the Israeli tech scene since Nir Erez, Roy Bick, and Yaron Evron founded it in 2011. Beyond the $81.5 million in total funding that the startup has raised, it has recently gained Ashton Kutcher as an investor (the guy just loves Israeli startups) and announced that it has started to include bike sharing tracking in its latest update.
Still, did the co-founders ride the bus home after the ceremony? “The 37 bus,” CEO Nir Erez told Geektime after the 2015 awards ceremony, “has stopped running, so we have to drive.” However, they said, the company encourages its 60 employees to take public transportation as much as possible and even provides shuttle buses for them.
10. Best Israeli Cyber Security Startup:
And the winner is: Adallom
Adallom, a cloud security startup, was one of the fastest rising startups in the Israeli startup scene in recent years. Founded in just 2012 by Roy Reznik, Ami Luttwak, and Assaf Rappaport, Adallom was sold to Microsoft for $320 million in a deal that was first leaked to the press in July and confirmed in the fall.
Adallom addresses a popular cybersecurity trend: enterprise protection in the cloud. It helps companies monitor suspicious activity on SaaS solutions, such as on Salesforce.com, Google apps, and Microsoft Office. Behavior that might not be picked up by any individual cloud platform would pop up under Adallom’s monitoring because it analyzes every SaaS solution an enterprise deploys, including mobile cloud platforms. They also work with any platform or device.
11. Best new Israeli startup:
- Zebra Medical Vision
And the winner is: Zebra Medical Vision
Founded by Eyal Gura and Eyal Toledano, Zebra Medical Vision is developing a medical imaging research platform that relies on big data. In April, they raised $8 million in a round led by Khosla Ventures, with DeepFork Capital and Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff also participating. In a statement to the press about the funding announcement, Zebra Medical CEO Elad Benjamin stated, “Advances in machine learning and computer vision have made it possible to create diagnostic quality algorithms based on big data, that surpass current reading accuracy rates. Such algorithms will reduce false positives, identify false negatives, provide earlier diagnosis of cancer or other diseases and unlock incidental findings hidden in the vast amounts of imaging data that resides within archives of health providers.”
12. Best Israeli male entrepreneur:
- Or Offer – SimilarWeb
- Micha Kaufman – Fiverr
- Lior Div – Cybereason
- Amnon Shashua – Mobileye
- Adam Singolda – Taboola
And the winner is: Amnon Shashua – Mobileye
Amnon Shashua is the CTO and Co-Fonder of Mobileye, which had one of the most successful Israeli IPOs in recent years. In 2014, Mobileye’s (MBLY) IPO began at $25 per share on the NASDAQ. On the first day of trading it surged to $37 per share, giving the company a valuation of $7.85 billion.
The company develops vision-based advanced driver assistance systems that help prevent and mitigate collisions. The technology is based on optical vision systems along with motion detection algorithms that can work in both day and night time conditions and recognize motor vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and other potential obstacles. Mobileye is principally competing against Google in the space of driverless technology.
13. Top Israeli male investor:
- Shmil Levy – Sequoia Israel
- Gigi Levy-Weiss
- Yuval Shachar
- Zohar Gilon
- Uri Levine
And the winner is: Gigi Levy-Weiss
One of Israel’s most active and connected investors, Levy-Weiss served as CEO of gambling site 888 and became an angel with multiple successful investments in a variety of companies. Over the last several years, Levy-Weiss has invested in close to 70 companies including Kenshoo, Plarium, MyHeritage, Playtika, and SimilarWeb. This year, Levy-Weiss joined Ooga Labs and founded NFX Guild, an accelerator-like venture that helps startups developing marketplaces and networks in Silicon Valley. Every company accepted to the program receives $120,000 and enters a three-month training program. Aside from being an active and successful investor, Levy-Weiss is considered a guru in the gaming industry.
14. Top Israeli female investor:
- Shuly Galili – UpWest Labs
- Rona Segev – TLV Partners
- Danna Mann – OurCrowd
- Shelly Hod Moyal and Mor Assia – iAngels
- Tilli Kalisky – 83North
And the winner is: Rona Segev
Rona Segev also won the award in this category at last year’s ceremony.
She started out as an entrepreneur and later became an investor in BRM and a partner at Evergreen VC. In 2004, Segev moved to Pitango VC and served as a partner there until 2015, when she left and founded the TLV Partners Fund together with Eitan Bek.
Segev is considered one of the leading venture capital investors in Israel, and is responsible for a large number of successful companies, such as Itemfield, which was sold to Informatica for $65 million; Aduva, which was acquired by Sun MicroSystems; Identify, which was bought by BMC for $150 million; Traiana, which was purchased by ICAP for $247 million; Worklight, which was sold to IBM for $75 million; as well as one of the most talked about Israeli IPOs of the year, Varonis, which opened on NASDAQ with a valuation of $500 million.
15. The community leadership award:
- WeWork Community
- Eytan Levit and David Katz – Podcast Hashavua
- Tmura Fund
- Izhar Shay – Startup Stadium
And the winner is: KamaTech
KamaTech is a venture aimed at accelerating the sector’s integration into the hi-tech sector. The effort organizes conferences and meetings among successful Haredi entrepreneurs and includes a coalition of dozens of hi-tech companies such as Cisco, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Verinet, and others. As a result, hundreds have started work at hi-tech companies. Earlier this year, KamaTech launched the first round of its accelerator, featuring six carefully selected companies picked from over 220 applicants.