Spotify, the World’s Biggest Music-streaming Service, Launches in Israel

TechNation: Mossad investment fund chooses first batch of startups ■ Weizmann Institute, Ofakim to open first science-based pre-army program ■ Viola FinTech hopes to reach $150 million in assets

File photo: Music streaming apps on an iPhone.
Jenny Kane/AP

Mossad investment fund chooses first batch of startups

It didn’t reveal the names of the startups, their areas of expertise or how much it was investing in them, but that’s all par for the course since Libertad Ventures is the investment arm of Israel’s Mossad espionage agency. What Libertad did reveal Monday was that it completed its first round of investments. When it was launched, in June, Libertad said it would invest 10 million shekels ($2.9 million) annually in five startups. Libertad doesn’t take an equity stake in its portfolio companies but it does get nonexclusive use of any technologies developed. “In Israel, there’s cutting-edge technology that can enlarge the Mossad’s envelope of capabilities,” Mossad Director Yossi Cohen explained. The companies, which were chosen for their technologies’ potential usefulness to the spy agency, have this year and the next to complete their research and development work. The Mossad said it expected to announce another round of selected startups later this year. (Eliran Rubin)

Weizmann Institute, Ofakim to open first science-based pre-army program

The first pre-army program (mekhina) geared toward science and technology will take in its first participants in September 2019. The Weizmann Institute’s Davidson Institute of Science Education and the Negev town of Ofakim, the program’s co-sponsors, said Sunday it would be open to top high school science students and would offer a year-long program similar to other pre-army programs that combine education and community service between high school and army service. “Students will study science, experience science and make use of educational materials provided by the Davidson Institute to schools and educational frameworks in Ofakim and its environs,” said Liat Ben-David, director general of the Davidson Institute. Davidson will provide most of the 2 million shekel ($580,000) annual budget for the first two years. The program will accept up to 18 participants in the first year, and eventually grow to 40 in the years ahead. (Lior Dattel)

Music-streaming service Spotify launches in Israel

Spotify, the world’s biggest music-streaming service, launched in Israel Monday after lengthy negotiations with the local artists’ rights organization over royalities. Veronica Diquattro, the Swedish company’s manager for Southeastern Europe, including Israel, said English-language music would be available immediately and that Hebrew-language music would follow in the next few weeks. With 159 million users globally, Spotify could serve as a conduit for bringing Israeli music to a global audience. The company will help artists by providing metrics on who’s listening, at what time of the day and how they learned about the music. Spotify is offering a free service with ads and no music selection and a fee-based option at 19.90 shekels ($5.78) a month, quite a bit less than the global average of about $10 a month. Other packages for families and students will be announced later, Diquattro said. Spotify joins Apple Musuic, Tidal and Deezer, which already operate in Israel. (Refaella Goichman )

Viola FinTech hopes to reach $150 million in assets

Viola FinTech, a new financial technology fund from Israel’s Viola investment group, hopes to increase the fund’s size to as much as $150 million in the next few months. Half of the $100 million that has been raised came from Canada’s Scotiabank, The Travelers Companies, BNP Paribas and another unnamed European bank. Israel’s Bank Hapoalim, investment house Meitav Dash, Israel Discount Bank and Direct Insurance provided the rest. “We will expand the list of investors by two or three,” Daniel Tsiddon, a founder and general partner in the fund, told Reuters, adding that the company can “handle up to 12.” Tsiddon said Viola FinTech is also very close to making its first investment in a startup that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to help small businesses. The fund will invest in about 20 startups, with initial investments of up to $5 million, although in some the amount could reach $10 million, he said. (Reuters)