Listen well, Israeli startups: American fund Accel Partners, whose resume includes companies like Facebook, Dropbox, and Slack, is taking on an Israeli partner to focus on promising developments and technologies from Israel. Nir Blumberger is joining the fund after two years at Facebook to lead investments in startups from Israel, mainly in the enterprise and consumer fields.
Accel opened its first international branch in London in 2000 to create partnerships with teams throughout Europe and Israel. Since that time, the fund has invested in more than 30 Israeli companies, including marketplace startup Fiverr, cybersecurity outfit ForeScout, and streaming company Qwilt. The fund’s most recent investment in an Israeli company came just last month, when it led a $12 million financing round in startup E8 Storage, whose solution is 10 times as fast as the current all-flash array solutions in the market.
Born and raised in Israel, Blumberger is joining Accel after being a business development manager at Facebook. In the more remote past, he worked at McKinsey & Company in Europe and Israel. Sometime between these two jobs, he found enough time to found two startups, including the well known events startup Bizzabo.
When we asked about which companies and sectors Accel plans to invest in, Blumberger told Geektime that, “We plan to invest in all the sectors: from storage and infrastructure – like our most recent Israeli investment (E8) – to the consumer sector, and everything in between.
“What’s important,” he said, “is the team. We’re looking for excellent entrepreneurs working with big ideas. Where the investment stage is concerned, Accel is a fund that invests in companies at relatively early stages – usually in the first or second financing round – and that’s also what we’re planning to do in Israel. Because the fund is fairly large, we have the flexibility and ability to invest large sums at growth stages when we find the right opportunity.”
Do you believe that the next Facebook could come from Israel?
“Certainly. The world is becoming more and more connected, and category-defining companies are springing up all over the world. As global investors, we believe deeply in this. People are used to setting upper limits for the various ecosystems, but this limit has been repeatedly exceeded. No one believed that Europe or Israel could create companies worth $5 billion or more, but companies like Mobileye, Supercell, and Spotify, among others, have proved the contrary, and are still doing so,” he noted.
“Can Israel and Europe create a $100 billion company? I don’t know, but I really hope so, and the trend is definitely in the right direction. What no one can dispute is that Israel has a lot of talent, and as time goes on, more and more global experience, which in my opinion is a big help in founding companies on a significant scale,” Blumberger added.
Explaining his fund’s focus on Israel, Accel partner Philippe Botteri said, “Accel has always believed in the ideas, technology, and superb teams coming from Israel. Since we developed our first international office in London 16 years ago, we have invested in more than 30 Israeli companies and entrepreneurs, and it has been our privilege to gain a close view of the developing and maturing Israel ecosystem, with its growing number of angels, excellent local venture capital investors, experienced entrepreneurs, and exciting companies. This development, which appears to be picking up speed, makes us believe that now is the time to increase our commitment to Israel and keep a partner there.”
Why someone from Facebook, and what does this tell us about the sectors you plan to focus on?
Botteri responded, “Accel and Facebook go back a long way (Accel led the A financing round in Facebook in 2005), and are still cooperating extensively with each other now, and that certainly helped. Facebook is an amazing company, a fertile source of talent, and an excellent school, but we weren’t specifically looking for someone from Facebook. It was important for us to find someone with experience and roots in Israel, but also with substantial experience in the U.S., something we regard as very important, and which everyone at Accel has. Nir’s fine background, which combines technology and business, together with the fact that he spent the last four years in Silicon Valley in a very important and relevant position, fitted us like a glove, and we’re very glad that Nir chose to join us.”
Only two months ago, Accel announced a new fund for investments in Israel and Europe, called Accel London V, which will invest in startups in the early and growth stages in all fields, although it will focus mainly on marketplaces, software as a service (SaaS), big data, and enterprise software. Including the new fund it launched, Accel has invested a total of $2.5 billion in Israel and Europe. Accel’s European funds posted dozens of exits in 2015 from companies with an estimated aggregate market value of $15 billion.