Tech Roundup / Lest Intel Stray

EU: Standardize the mobile charger, TowerJazz partners with Panasonic, Best Buy snaps up the assets of ailing SupportSpace.

Due diligence, shmoo diligence: Israel wants foreign investment. Intel has so far been quite a prolific source of such investment, but for that to continue, Israel has to keep Intel happy, lest it stray to more attentive countries, such as Ireland, which are also competing for its charms. Late last week, the Israeli government offered to cover between 4% and 10% of the cost of upgrading the Intel plant in Kiryat Gat and building a new one alongside it. The value of the offer would be anywhere from $200 million to $1 billion. Well and good, but today TheMarker reports that “sources near the negotiations” say the state never considered whether the taxpayer’s investment makes economic sense. It might, but it might not. It bears noting that Israel’s offer is informal, if only since Intel has never promised to either upgrade the Kiryat Gat plant or build a new one in Israel. It’s still waiting to see if it gets better offers from other places. Stay tuned.

400 million Whatsapp users is an opportunity to meow: Mazal tov to the latest wrinkle in cross-platform group messaging, Whatsapp, which achieved the milestone of 400 million active users worldwide, with nary a business model in sight. A quarter of those joined in the last four months, CEO Jan Koum blogged. He thanked the users, noted that the company has just 50 employees and boasted that the milestone was reached without a penny spent on advertising. WhatsApp’s success was an opportunity to sandblast the competition: “We bet that if our team of engineers could make messaging fast, simple and personal, we could charge people directly for the service without having to rely on annoying banner ads, game promotions or all those other distracting ‘features’ that come with many messaging apps,” Koum wrote. Pow!

One charger for all: WhatsApp is, of course, an app for mobile phones, and as the devices loyal users know to their bitter pain, each company has its own type of charger. That is annoying. The European regulator is not happy when the people are unhappy, it would seem: the  EU passed a law on Thursday requiring mobile phone makers to provide a standard battery charger that can fit any device, including smart phones. Of course, succor won’t be immediate. Provided the outline agreement gets endorsed by the European Parliament and EU member states, it will be implemented in around 2017, EU officials said.

Moovit raises $28 million: The Israeli startup Moovit, formerly known as TranzMate, has secured $28 million in pledges from venture capital funds. Total investment in the company now comes to $31.5 million. The company says it will use the proceeds to continue its “technological revolution,” which in its case apparently means more and better apps to keep track of public transportation and bringing them to more countries. The company’s apps are based on crowd-sourcing: you can get real-time information about bus and train schedules, navigating between stations and more. The app has three million users, of whom 350,000 are in Israel.

TowerJazz allies with Panasonic: TowerJazz Semiconductor and Panasonic are creating a joint venture to produce Panasonic’s semiconductors for cars and other products. The move is expected to boost TowerJazz’s revenue by 65%. Panasonic, which is wrapping up a huge restructuring, will transfer three semiconductor factories in central Japan to the joint venture, which will be 51% owned by TowerJazz, the companies said on Friday. Panasonic will become a minority stakeholder in TowerJazz and the company’s largest client.

Best Buy purchases remains of SupportSpace: The Best Buy group has acquired the assets of flailing technology company SupportSpace, which supplied online support services through a business partner model. Details of the transaction were not published, in fact neither was the transaction itself, which took place two months ago. But Best Buy is believed to have paid some millions of dollars for the assets of SupportSpace, which raised $37 million from venture capital and other sources over the years. In other words, SupportSpace’s backers lost money. Best Buy had been SupportSpace’s biggest customer.

With reporting by Ora Coren, Israel Fischer, Reuters, Inbal Orpaz

Eliahu Hershkovitz