Israel’s SpaceIL One of Five Finalists in Global Race to the Moon

TechNation | First-time investments by venture funds plunged last year; SentinelOne raises $70 million from Red Point, actor Ashton Kutcher; Secret Double Octopus secures $6 million for cybersecurity.

A simulation of the SpaceIL spacecraft on the moon.
SpaceIL

First-time investments by venture funds plunged last year

Venture capital funds cut back sharply in first-time investments in Israeli startup companies last year, figures released Wednesday by IVC Research Center and the law firm, APM & Company. These investments dropped 23% from 2015 to 341, with the decline led by a 30% drop by Israeli VC funds. Foreign funds also pared back their first investments but by a more modest 15%. Yonatan Altman, APM’s chairman, attributed the decline to investors seeking to reduce the risk involved in putting money into young startups.  “2016 was a year of political and social turbulence that were reflected in the markets and affected everyone’s financial decision-making, whether consciously or unconsciously,” he said. The top three first-time investors last year were UpWest Labs, a micro fund with just $9 million under management; Singulariteam, which was $251 million to invest; and the crowd-funding investor OurCrowd, each of which put out money into eight startups over the year.  (Eliran Rubin)

Israel’s SpaceIL one of five finalists in global race to the moon

Israel’s SpaceIL will face four other contenders from the U.S., Japan, India and a consortium of 15 nations in a contest to send the first private spacecraft to the moon. In addition, to SpaceIL, XPRIZE and Google announced on Tuesday that the finalists among 16 entrants were Moon Express of the United States, India’s Team Indus, Japan’s Hakuto and the Synergy Moon consortium. SpaceIL was the first to make it into the final stretch when it secured a position for its Sparrow lunar vehicle on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket in October 2015. The contenders, which will be competing for $30 million in prize money, have until the end of the year to initiate a launch. Alone among the contestants, SpaceIL is organized as a non-profit. “We took this route because we thought it was the right thing to do – this mission isn’t just ours but for every Israeli who values it,” said Kfir Damari one of the group’s founders. (Refaella Goichman)

SentinelOne raises $70 million from Red Point, actor Ashton Kutcher

SentinelOne, a Palo Alto-based Cyber-security company founded by Israelis, said on Wednesday it had raised $70 million in a round led by the U.S. venture capital firm Redpoint Ventures and Sound Ventures, an investment firm controlled by actor Ashton Kutcher’s and talent manager Guy Oseary. Existing investors Third Point Ventures, Data Collective, Granite Hill Capital Partners, Westly Group, and SineWave Ventures joined them. The company, which has a research and development center in Israel, said it planned to use the proceeds to expand marketing in a bid to boost sales by 400%  this year. SentinelOne, founded by CEO Timer Weingarten and Chief Technology Officer Almog Cohen, uses machine learning and behavior analysis to provide threat prevention, detection and response for endpoints and counts Time Incorporated among its customers. The latest rounds bring total funding to date to $110 million. (Eliran Rubin)

Secret Double Octopus secures $6 million for cybersecurity

Cybersecurity startup Secret Double Octopus, said on Tuesday it had closed a $6 million funding round with Jerusalem Venture Partners, Liberty Media’s Israel Venture Fund, Iris Capital, Benhamou Global Ventures and angel investor Yaniv Tal. The  capital will be used to hire software developers at its Beer Sheva and Tel Aviv offices and accelerate growth in the U.S. and European markets, said the company, which has a staff of 10. Based on algorithms originally developed to protect nuclear launch codes, the startup’s technology prevents cyber attackers from accessing critical information required to launch attacks. The company got its start in 2015 as an outgrowth of academic research conducted by Shimrit Tzur-David, now chief technology officer, with Prof. Shlomi Dolev of Ben-Gurion University. JVP brought them together with Raz Rafeli and Chen Tetelman,who are now CEO and vice president for R&D, respectively. (Ruti Levy)