TechNation: Alibaba Investing in Ecommerce Startup Twiggle

Leumi to launch digital banking in next several weeks; Transportation Ministry chief won’t countenance Uber; Signal Group secures $10 million for business intelligence.

People stand near a sign of Alibaba Group at its campus in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China, May 27, 2016.
John Ruwitch, Reuters

Alibaba investing in ecommerce startup Twiggle

The Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba is investing in the Israeli startup Twiggle, Twiggle CEO Amir Konigsberg told TheMarker on Tuesday. The final amount has yet to be determined but will probably be approximately $5 million, filling out a previous investment round of $12.5 million led by the South African media company Naspers. “We see Alibaba’s joining us as a vote of confidence in our product and our vison,” said Konigsberg, who founded the company at the end of 2013 with Adi Avidor, both of whom were among the first employees of Google Israel. Twiggle is developing an e-commerce search engine that delivers more accurate results than current offerings while allowing shoppers to write queries in conversational language. “It’s really quite exciting to have Alibaba as a partner,” he said. The technology website TechCrunch said Twiggle had reached deals to be integrated into several major e-commerce sites this summer but hasn’t revealed any names. (Elian Rubin)

Signal Group secures $10 million for business intelligence

Israel’s Signals Group, a maker of business intelligence software, said yesterday it had raised $10 million from a group of investors led by the Israeli venture fund Qumra Capital. It joins existing Signals Group investors, Sequoia Capital and TPY Capital, which led a $15 million round less than a year ago in the Netanya-based company. “We had a very strong year and we needed ‘growth money’ to accelerate our operations,” said CEO Gil Sadeh, who formed Signals Group in 2009 with Kobi Gershoni, the company’s chief research officer. The company’s platform draws on military intelligence methods to collect external and unstructured data about consumers, markets and technologies into that give businesses insights into their industries. “We gather information from hundreds of databases, like patents and social networks. When a company encounters a problem, like customers who are dissatisfied with a product or a drop in sales, our system offers the best solutions,” said Sadeh. (Elian Rubin)

Transportation Ministry chief won’t countenance Uber

Transportation Ministry Director General Uzi Yitzhaki vowed at TheMarker’s conference on the shared economy Tuesday that Uber would not be permitted to operate in Israel. Calling the ride-sharing app’s service the “third type” of shared transportation after hitchiking and carpooling, Yitzhaki said, “We’ve spoken a lot with Uber, but in the current situation to allow unsupervised transportation where we don’t know anything about the driver’s record and he doesn’t have a taxi license will destroy the regulated taxi industry.” He said Uber would hurt the incomes of Israel’s 22,000 taxi drivers and their families, and denied that the ban on Uber was motivated by politics. He denied the ministry opposed technological innovation, noting that the Israeli ride-hailing app Gett has been allowed to operate in Israel in spite of opposition from taxi drivers. (Uri Davidi)

Leumi to launch digital banking in next several weeks

Bank Leumi will be launching a digital bank called Papar very soon, Tamar Yassur, the head of digital banking at Israel’s No. 2 lender, told TheMarker’s shared economy conference on Tuesday. “We started building a digital bank about a year ago and in the next few week it will go into full operation. We decided to call it Papar. It will be 100% mobile and will offer a different customer experience,” she said. “The idea of the platform is to create a new work of banking and will give value to relevant clients, mostly younger ones.” Yassur said Leumi wasn’t concerned about the challenge posed by the shared economy on traditional banking, noting that it had invested in the online-lending startup Ezbob. “The digital bank we have founded shows that we understand that what was won’t be – everything’s changing.” (Elian Rubin)