Tech Roundup / Cost-wise, iPhone Is Not the Apple of Your Eye

Venture capital veteran Star Ventures sells its portfolio to Saints Capital, making way for newcomer Israel Growth Partners.

How much should an Apple iPhone cost? Well, depends on model and location, doesn’t it? On Best Buy’s website, the simplest 5s model starts at $124.99 (436 shekels.) In Israel, it turns out, that wouldn’t even cover the margin that Apple gets on the mini-machine. It isn’t selling to you, though – silly you. It’s selling them to the mobile operators Cellcom, Partner, HOT Mobile and Pelephone, which then tack on their own margin when selling to you. Got it? Nice. Apple sells the 5s in Israel for 3,070 shekels ($877) to the operators, which then sell them to you at whatever price they damn well please. In the case of Home Cellular Center that’s 3,600 shekels ($1,029); iDigital wants 3,650 for the version with the 16GB memory. Want the 32GB memory and it will set you back about 4,200 shekels. Bon appetit.

Fortissimo buys Eshbal: The investment fund Fortissimo is buying Eshbal Technologies for $192 million, following a bidding process monitored by the court. The court became involved after an agreement to sell the company for $170 million to a different buyer, IT company One1, fell through on the objection of Eshbal’s biggest shareholder, Ben Enosh (73%). Enosh, a co-founder of Cyota, had received the Eshbal shares from that company’s founders - his parents. Eshbal makes software for SMBs.

SMBs, not what you thought? Usually it stands for “small and medium businesses.”In a commentary for Haaretz, Elah Alkalay, business development manager at the IBI investments house, says that in Israel that might as well stand for “sado-masochist business” because it’s so hard to stay afloat unless you’re a titan. Or fish, presumably. But not many businesses are fish.

Star Ventures goes nova: The Star Ventures fund, one of the first VC funds in Israel, has sold its portfolio to Saints Capital, reports IVC Online. The portfolio of startups still includes 17 active names, including Siano and Orsense. Reportedly, people from Star Venture, a hoary oldie indeed at age 22, will remain involved in managing certain assets. Throughout its lifetime, Star ran a billion dollars in assets in 14 funds. Among its successes were Creo and Elgotech, sold to Kodak; Tecnomatix, sold to Siemens; and a host of companies that went public, including Fundtech, EZchip and Alvarion. Note that not all of them are still alive…

But the industry is, with a new venture fund, Israel Growth Partners: And who’s behind it? One of the founders is none other than Haim Shani, the CEO of Nice Systems who did the extraordinary thing of moving from a cushy job in the business sector to a decidedly illucrative one in governmentas director-general of the treasury. Anyway, that behind him; he’s now setting up IGP together with the former head of Microsoft’s research and development operations in Israel, Moshe Lichtman, and they’re closing in on $250 million in pledges from Israeli finance institutions. That in itself is rare; most local VCs target foreign investors. The anchor investor is Leumi Partners, a member of the Bank Leumi group; its participation had other Israeli institutions flocking.

Tech wages rose more than other wages: Salaries in Israel’s high-tech sector rose 4.1% on average in 2013, compared to 3.6% in 2012. Placement company Ethosia says that finding work in tech is also becoming easier: 11% of job placements in 2013 in the high-tech field, including biotechnology, were for new workers, compared to just 5% in 2012. The biggest increases in pay were for software developers, and the keenest demand was for mobile software developers.

Teva lied, investors claim: American investors are organizing a class-action suit against Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, claiming the company’s executives misrepresented its financial condition. They claim Teva executives provided inaccurate and misleading information regarding the state of the company and its future prospects. The suit also claims that the dispute over the company’s retrenchment plan between its board and senior management during the period in question was not properly disclosed to investors.

AP