Tech Nation: WhatsApp Top Israeli Mobile App, Poll Finds

Netflix threatens to upend Israeli TV market; Kalish raising capital for new venture fund; Innovid raises $27.5m for interactive ads

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WhatsApp top Israeli mobile app, poll finds

It’s now semiofficial: WhatsApp is the national mobile app, according to a survey of Internet usage conducted by Bezeq and presented at TheMarker’s annual digital conference on Monday. The survey found that 93% of all Israelis with a smart phone used the instant-messaging app and 81% said they wouldn’t be able to live without it, up from 71% the year before. Waze, the navigation app developed in Israel and sold to Google, is the second most popular, with 61% of respondents saying they use it. But Israelis are less inclined to use new apps. During 2014, the average Israeli downloaded 32 apps, but last year only 17. But Ilan Sigal, Bezeq’s acting vice president for marketing, said the survey also found what he called worrying trends – the widespread practice of “shaming” people or businesses they disapprove of over social networks and the popularity of snuff videos that graphically depict people dying. Some 58% said they had seen shaming posts and 11% passed them on to others, while 50% had seen a snuff video. (Elihay Vidal)

Netflix threatens to upend Israeli TV market

Netflix, the U.S. video-streaming service, threatens to upend the Israeli television market very soon, Ori Gal, vice president for marketing and development at the satellite TV company Yes, told TheMarker digital conference Monday. “Netflix will very likely come to Israel in 2016 and in practice already has 50,000-60,000 customers already using it through American subscriber accounts,” Gal said. Yes has shared the broadcast market with Hot Telecom, which has a monopoly on cable TV, but the duopoly was broken this year when mobile company Cellcom Israel introduced its own service and Partner Communications is likely to enter the TV market soon as well. “It won’t be easy, but Yes doesn’t plan to shrink but to grow. There’s a market for premium products in Israel. We will invest more in content and grow despite the competition.”  Yaniv Greenwald, who heads Cellcom’s TV unit, said he believed that more services would put an end to the high rate of pirated-video viewing. “In the end people don’t want to steal people want to see content they like and at a fair price.” (Amitai Ziv)

Kalish raising capital for new venture fund

Shlomo Kalish, one of Israel’s pioneering high-tech investors, is forming a new venture capital fund with Ranan Grobman, who has spent the last five years managing the Vaizra Israel fund of Georgian tycoon Yitzhak Mirilashvili. The two are meeting with potential investors and hope to raise at least $200 million to put into medium-sized, mature startups that are market leaders in their segments. The fund will make relatively large investments in a small number of companies. Kalish told TheMarker there are large number of companies with potential to grow into unicorns – startups worth more than $1 billion – in areas like the Internet of things, cyber and financial technology. Estimates are there about 400 startups in Israel with sales over $10 million, but the new fund will face competition from a handful of other VCs that have been formed to address the segment. Kalish and Grobman will continue to manage Vaizra’s portfolio of 15 companies in which the fund has invested $200 million to date. (Inbal Orpaz)

Innovid raises $27.5m for interactive ads

Innovid, an Israeli interactive video-advertising company based in new York, raised $27.5 million last week from an investor group led by new Spring Capital. Investors in this round include Sequoia Capital Israel; T-Venture, Deutsche Telekom’s investment arm; Cisco Investments; and Genesis Partners. The latest injection brings the company’s total funding to about $65 million since it was founded in 2007. Innovid last year had revenues of about $40 million and is now profitable after increasing the number of customers by 420%. The company said in the past that once it was earning a profit it would stop fundraising, but CEO Zvika Netter said Innovid’s rapid growth changed things. “Such a rapid rate of growth requires a lot of capital in infrastructure and customer retention,” he said, adding that the proceeds would also be used to roll out new products faster to stay ahead of rivals like Google and Double Click. (Inbal Orpaz)