Tel Aviv, the world’s most expensive city (Dan Perry photo)
  • ADTECH & MEDIA: Outbrain And Taboola are a global duopoly, and Engageya is sniping at their feet with a product that brings social media content to the open web. If sites are using video chances are the tech is IronSource. Outbrain went public on the NASDAQ last summer raising $160m at a $1.1b valuation (less than expected) while Taboola, after the failure of a planned merger with its rival, just went public via a SPAC at $2.8b; IronSource went public at over $11b, also this year.
  • CLEANTECH: UBQ has a hell of a world-beating (and planet-saving) elevator pitch: Any trash can be recombined at a molecular level yielding infinitely reusable plastic substitute for industry. This eliminates the need for sorting for recycling (which does not work well) and at scale could minimize the need for landfills, reducing methane emissions, mitigating global warming. After a pilot operation in Israel, the company recently announced a large-scale facility in the Netherlands for Europe and in December approached unicorn-level valuation by raising $170m. Among users of its material are Mercedes-Benz, global retail solutions provider Mainetti and Arcos Dorados, the McDonald’s franchisee in Latin America.
  • BIOTECH: Jerusalem Venture Partners, an Israeli VC with global ambitions, this year inaugurated a new food tech innovation center in northern Israel. But perhaps the most interesting development of 2021 comes from BioHarvest, which has found a way to replicate plant cells in bioreactors, is already selling a product based on red grapes which have health value, and in December announced it was producing large quantities of pure cannabis from trichome cells without growing the plant. This resolves the problem of cleanliness and consistency, a pain point of the booming global cannabis industry, and if applied more widely could upend agriculture and conserve land all across the planet. Similarly, Future Crops, an innovator in vertical farming, has established a fully automated vertical farm in Holland (what is it about this country?) that aims to be a model for the industry.
  • THE GIG ECONOMY: Its stock has fallen in recent months as COVID seemed to be receding, but Fiverr remains one of the most of-the-moment companies, providing a marketplace for freelancers. Want your deck improved, text edited or video produced? You could be in Israel, and a pro from hostile Pakistan will do it on Fiverr, which listed on the NASDAQ two years ago at a $650m valuation. A more recent Israeli entry into this space, roughly, is Wisio, which provides a platform for influencers — or “creators” — to monetize their audience and get paid for interactions; for many, it is a more honest living than product placement on Instagram.
  • CYBER, SECURITY, & AI: NSO Group, which has faced a blizzard of criticism over allegations it helps governments target dissidents, claims to be actually fighting crime and terrorism. Its Pegasus spyware can take over control of a phone and download data or activate the camera and microphone. The skullduggery concerns didn’t stop US-based Berkeley Research Group from acquiring effective control of NSO in a transaction with a reported valuation of $1b. On the defensive side of cyber, MyPrivacy aims at giving phone users a way to protect their content, and Check Point remains a global champion, despite being nudged out of the NASDAQ 100 index. Last year co-founder Marius Nacht invested in BeyondMinds, which makes systems aimed at enabling corporations to deploy deeply customized AI — for computer vision, claims validation, and more — without building from scratch. This tackles a surprising problem: most AI projects are dropped halfway through.

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