Tech Roundup / Start-ups Score, as Better Place Gets a Fresh Start

Israeli start-ups find financing for new computer chip, group messaging app, 3D printer and credit card security app.

Israeli start-up Celeno Communications, which develops chips for multimedia applications on home Wi-Fi networks, announced last week it has raised $24 million in its fifth round of financing. The company has raised a total of over $68 million so far. Existing investors Greylock Partners, Liberty Global, Cisco Systems and Pitango Veture Capital contributed financing, and Alen Peled's fund, Vintage Ventures, joined as a new investor.

This round of funding will go toward the continued expansion of Celeno's 802.11ac development program, its new standard for home Wi-Fi networks. It will be used to expand the company's sales, marketing and worldwide development teams. Celeno's customers include China Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Liberty Global, UPC and Bouygues Telecom.

The Israeli start-up Hoozin launched its group messaging app and announced that it raised $750,000 this week. Investors include the Explore. Dream. Discover. Group, which is owned by Plus Ventures and Yoel Cheshin' s 2B Angels. The app, available on Apple's iOS and Google's Android devices, presents user messages in a circular display instead of as a list – unlike apps like WhatsApp.

The company, which was founded by Arnon Joseph, Udi Zohar and Omry Levy, has six employees. This is its first launch launch; users in users in other countries will have access to the service soon.

FormLabs, a 3D printer manufacturer founded by Israeli Natan Linder, has raised $1.45 million in one week through the crowd-funding website Kickstarter. The company is seeking to produce its Form1 3D printer, which it claims makes the new technology inexpensive and easy to use. For $2,299 (the cost of the printer for initial backers), users receive a software design program and the Form Finish kit – a finishing tray and various other accessories that allow the product to be cleaned and refined after printing.

The company was founded a year ago at the MIT Media Lab and is now based in Boston, where it employs several Israelis. Investors in the company include Jewish French angel investor Jeremie Berrebi, Internet entrepreneur Mitch Kapor and the Innovation Endeavors investment firm, which is funded by Eric Schmidt's and run by Israeli Dror Berman. The company raised $500,000 in its first round of funding in November 2011 and exceeded its initial fundraising target of $100,000 on Kickstarter within a few hours.

The Israeli start-up BillGuard, which develops platforms that track accounts and alert clients to problematic credit card charges, launched its first app for mobile devices. The app is designed for the new e-wallet service provided by Apple called Passbook. Versions for additional smartphone platforms are expected soon.

BillGuard's launched the first versions of its service, just for computers, in the spring of 2011. It is designed to protect users from unnecessary chares by using the wisdom of crowds: Customers who find suspicious charges or hidden fees report them to the service, which immediately locates and informs any users who incurred the same charges.

The company, which was founded by Raphael Ouzan and managed by Yaron Samid, raised $13 million from investors such as Khosla Ventures, Peter Thiel's Founders Fund, Eric Schmidt's Innovation Endeavors and Saul Klein.

Shay Agassi, who founded the electric car company Better Place five years ago, has been ousted from his position as CEO by the board of directors. The board has replaced him with by Evan Thornley, the current CEO of its Australian subsidiary. Agassi will now serve as the company's director. Automotive industry insiders have speculated that Israel Corp, one of Israel's biggest holding companies and a major Better Place backer, initiated the move Agassi because of Better Places' halting start in Israel and Denmark. It's unclear whether the company's worldwide headquarters will remain in Israel or relocate to Australia or the United States following the changes.

In the second quarter of the year, the company accelerated the establishment of its network of battery charging stations in Israel, at a cost of $40 million. At the end of June, the company had just $131 million dollars in its coffers, which at the current rate of spending would last another four or five quarters. Better Place, which has raised approximately $800 million since it was founded five years ago, has posted $477 million in cumulative losses since the beginning of 2010. During the second quarter of 2012, the company posted losses of $64 million.

Tomer Appelbaum