Two Israeli-American startup companies, both founded by graduates of elite technology units of the Israel Defense Forces, raised nearly $50 million at the end of last week’s investment rounds.
Via, whose ride-sharing application instantly matches commuters with drivers, said on Thursday it raised $27 million to help expand its transportation network, which is now offered only in mid-town Manhattan.
The investment round was led by Israel’s Pitango Venture Capital and included media group Hearst Corporation, Ervington Investments, representing Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and 83North, which had invested in an earlier round as well.
Meanwhile, Tapingo, which offers an app to college students to place food orders, announced it has raised $22 million Qualcomm through its Qualcomm Ventures arm. DCM Ventures, Kinzon Capital, and existing investors Khosla Ventures and Carmel Ventures also joined.
Tapingo said it would use the funding to accelerate its expansion beyond the college market.
The two giant fundraisers come amid a surge of cash for startups in the United States and Israel, fueled by a more vibrant environment for the exits investors need to cash out and make a profit.
Via, which was started in New York City two years ago, offers a mobile app that competes with public transportation, allowing passengers heading in the same direction to share a vehicle for a set fee, putting it into competition with the much bigger Uber. Via, which employs about 30 people, half in its New York headquarters and half in its research and development offices in Tel Aviv, has raised a total of $37 million since it was formed less than two years ago.
Its founders Daniel Ramot and Oren Shoval, both of whom are graduates of the IDF’s Talpiot program, said the idea for Via came from the sherut, or shared taxis, that ply along the main bus routes in Israel. With Via, the cost is a flat $5 or $7 per ride, not including tax, depending on whether the user pays in advance.
Tapingo, whose two founders CEO Daniel Almog and Chief Technology Officer Udi Oster met in the IDF’s 8200 intelligence unit, uses machine-learning technology to determine user preferences and match them to what’s available at the university cafeteria or nearby eateries.
“When you buy a coffee, you shouldn’t have to wait in line, pay at a register, then wait again,” says Almog. “Your phone should know what kind of coffee you like and make sure it’s available for you — where you need it, when you need it.”
After Tapingo went viral at the College of Management in Rishon Letzion, Almog and Oster moved to San Francisco in 2008 to tap the U.S. college market. Tapingo said it now serves more than 85 campuses and processes more than 25,000 transactions every day.
The company, which has raised $41 million to date, employs 41 people, 18 of them in R&D in Tel Aviv. It plans to add 12 more between now and the end of the year. With its new funds, the startup plans to expand its offerings to hospitals and large companies.
“Our vision was always to begin with dense retail ecosystems involving high-frequency transactions. We realized that college campuses were the perfect proving ground,” said Almog in a statement.