The Hottest Startups in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv’s startup scene underwent a transformation around 2019, moving from a system of “Holy Grail exits,” as Eli David, CEO of StartUp Link, puts it, to “building companies not looking to sell to Google right away.” 

As has always been the case, the military is still the main source of founders—not least because almost everyone passes through it, but also for its emphasis on problem-solving and a focus on cybersecurity, AI, and robotics. There’s growth in Web3, gaming, and productivity startups while countries like India are coming online as customers. “We have a brain-drain problem,” admits Michel Abadi, managing partner of Maverick Ventures Israel. “But we have a lot of patience.”

Immunai

“We’re mapping the immune system and all its different pieces, from cell types and cell states, to provide researchers with a complete map and comprehensive understanding of the immune system,” explains Luis Voloch, who cofounded Immunai with Noam Solomon in 2018. The platform blends single-cell multiomics, machine learning, and functional genomics with high-quality patient data to identify and validate novel drug targets, lowering the cost and increasing the success rate of drug development. Total raised to date is $295 million in three rounds from Viola Ventures, Dexcel Pharma, and Koch Disruptive Technologies. Immunai has 25 academic collaborations with institutions including Harvard, Stanford, and Memorial Sloan Kettering, and 30 partnerships with Fortune 100 pharmaceutical companies. The company, with offices around the world, achieved unicorn status in October 2021—less than three years after founding—and acquired Dropprint Genomics, a San Francisco-based computational biology startup, and Nebion, a Swiss bioinformatics company. Plans include developing the company’s own drug-discovery pipeline from acquired compounds. immunai.com

Saar Safra, CEO and cofounder of Beewise, on top of a robotic beehive.Photograph: Jonathan Bloom

Beewise

“We have the clearest KPIs of any company I’ve launched,” says cofounder Saar Safra. “For every dollar we make, we save two bees.” According to Safra, 75 percent of all fruit and vegetables are pollinated by bees, while 35 percent of bee colonies are disappearing every year. Beewise, launched in 2018 by serial entrepreneur Safra and beekeeper Eliyah Radzyner, is on a mission to prevent colony collapse disorder. How? A robot that can shutter a hive if it detects pesticides, provide food if a colony runs short, and control the temperature to keep the bees alive. The company has raised $120 million over four rounds that have included local VCs lool Ventures and Fortissimo Capital, as well as US funders Corner Ventures and Insight Partners. It’s opening new factories near large bee populations, and claims to have reduced collapse from 35 percent to 8 percent where deployed. beewise.ag

Run:AI

Run:AI has created what it calls a special virtualization layer for deep learning that can train AI models running on graphics processing units much faster than is normally possible, while using less resources. With GPU accelerators being among the most expensive devices in a data center, efficiency is essential. In 2018, Omri Geller and Ronen Dar launched Run:AI to control workload from the cloud, pooling the resources of large clusters of GPUs and sharing these among different AI workloads by automatically assigning the required compute power each job needs. “We do for AI hardware what VMware and virtualization did for traditional computing,” says Dar. The company has raised $118 million in three financing rounds, backed by Insight Partners, Tiger Global, TLV Partners, and S-Capital VC. Since product launch in 2020, the company’s revenue has grown ninefold, and future projects include managing inference workloads—trained AIs such as facial recognition software—from the cloud. run.ai

Empathy

Empathy combines technology and human support to help grieving family members through the logistical tasks and emotional trauma following the death of a loved one. The app can help arrange a funeral and validate a will, founders Ron Gura and Yonatan Bergman argue, but human support from care managers offering emotional assistance is essential. Founded in 2020, the company has raised $43 million in two rounds of funding from the likes of Entrée Capital and Aleph, as well as angel investors including Micha Kaufman, cofounder of Fiverr. Empathy reports that 92 percent of users reported feeling better after using the app, and that US Empathy users saved $3,007 on average. The company now has partnerships with Goldman Sachs and New York Life to help employees. empathy.com

NeuraLight

Most neurodegenerative diseases—such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s—have highly subjective, nonsensitive examination and diagnosis of symptoms, hindering timely diagnosis, drug development, and precision care. NeuraLight, cofounded by CEO Micha Breakstone and CTO Edmund Benami in 2021, is building the world’s largest database of symptoms, measuring over 1,000 volunteers to date. NeuraLight has recently secured its first commercial contract with a publicly-traded pharma company to help therapeutic discovery for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The company has raised $30.5 million in two rounds from Koch Disruptive Technologies, Samsung Next, Operator Partners, and VSC Ventures. Three trials with Parkinson’s and MS patients in collaboration with major hospitals are scheduled for this fall. neuralight.ai

LUSIX

LUSIX produces lab-grown diamonds for the gemstone market and industrial applications in its solar powered lab. The company has raised $135 million—with LVMH Luxury Ventures leading the company’s recent $90 million round, intended to fund expansion of its production capacity in Israel with a second 100 percent solar-powered facility coming online this summer. The company was founded in 2016 as a spinout from the digital printing company Landa, by physicist Yossi Yayon and entrepreneur Benny Landa. “The lab-grown diamond journey is barely beginning, and has been embraced by consumers, especially millennials and Gen Z,” says Landa. lusix.com

Better Juice

Better Juice uses enzymes from microorganisms to convert sugar in fruit juice into nondigestible fiber, claiming to reduce up to 80 percent of all sugars in juice. Founded in 2018 by Eran Blachinsky at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, it has received $8 million in seed funding led by iAngels with Food Tech Lab and The Kitchen Hub. Blachinsky says his process does not affect the smell or taste of the juice, although it does reduce the sweetness. Manufacturers can tailor the processes to select the amount of sugar they would like to remove. The recent round will fund other product lines, such as ice cream, soft drinks, and jam. better-juice.com

Yanib Maor, founder of Tevel.Photograph: Jonathan Bloom

Tevel

“Farmers all over the world are struggling with recruiting fruit pickers, a situation that puts the whole industry at risk,” says Tevel founder Yaniv Maor. The company has raised $32.1 million, most recently from agriculture equipment manufacturers including Japan’s Kubota and China’s Forbon, for its fleet of drones for performing picking, thinning, and pruning tasks in orchards. A single unit consists of a wheeled vehicle with four quadcopter drones electrically tethered to the vehicle and equipped with a meter-long mechanical claw and AI-powered eyes that can differentiate between fruits and assess their size and ripeness. The company plans a commercial rollout in southern Europe in late 2022. tevel-tech.com

AiVF

Since 1978, over 8 million babies have been born through IVF—although, with almost 3 million IVF cycles every year, the ratio of treatments to births could be better, says embryologist Daniella Gilboa and in-vitro fertilization specialist Daniel Seidman, founders of AiVF. The company combines AI-based computer vision with a database of previous studies to identify the embryos most likely to be successfully fertilized without needing invasive tests. Founded in 2018, the company has raised $35 million in a series of rounds with investors including Insight Partners and Adam Neumann’s Family Office. Having received a European CE Mark in 2021, the company is now planning US expansion. aivf.co

Trigo

For a startup founded in 2018, Trigo has picked a tough target to beat—Amazon, which has opened 70 frictionless checkout stores. “We are the only company which can convert existing stores into autonomous stores,” explains Michael Gabay, CEO and cofounder with brother, Daniel. The company’s computer vision system includes camera hardware and encrypted “grab and go” software that allows customers to pick up items and get billed before they leave the store. Trigo has secured $104 million in a series of rounds with backing from the likes of 83North, Vertex Ventures, Red Dot Capital Partners, and Tesco, which opened its first London checkout-less Trigo store in October 2021. Trigo is deploying in Germany, Netherlands, and the UK across 2022. trigoretail.com

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