TechNation / German Institute to Set Up Cyber Research Center in Israel

Number of Walla e-mail users drops by 70%; Teddy Sagi’s firm invests $5.5m in Soomla; CropX raises $9 million, including funds from former Google CEO’s firm; Yotpo e-commerce platform raises $15m.

Yuval Tebol

German institute to set up cyber research center here with the Technion
The German Fraunhofer SIT industrial technology institute announced on Tuesday that it would be setting up an international cyber research center in Israel in cooperation with the Technion Israel Institute of Technology at an investment estimated at tens of millions of shekels. The center, which will focus on the development of software, systems and products and services for use in the civilian sector, is expected to be set up by the end of the year, although the location of the facility is yet to be determined. The research will be carried out both in Israel and Germany and will involve the exchange of staff between the two countries. The center will also cooperate with high-tech companies in Israel, including SAP Labs. Fraunhofer, which is based in Darmstadt, has an annual budget of about 1.9 billion euros ($2.1 billion) and a staff of 23,000 people. (Inbal Orpaz)

Number of Walla e-mail users drops by 70%
The popularity of the e-mail service offered by Israel’s Walla news and entertainment content website has plummeted by 70% in five years, the company itself has reported. In 2010, Walla reported that it was maintaining 3.5 million active e-mail accounts, but last week, Walla Communications CEO Ilan Yeshua told the Globes business daily that the figure had declined to one million. Walla established itself as a website in part as a result of the free e-mail service, but has since put its efforts into content development. The drop in the use of Walla e-mail is apparently the result of competition from Gmail and corporate e-mail addresses. (Nati Tucker)

Teddy Sagi’s firm invests $5.5m in Soomla
Playtech, the gambling software and services firm founded by the London-based Israeli billionaire Teddy Sagi, has invested $5.5 million in Soomla, a company involved in the mobile game sector, TheMarker has learned. Soomla, which is based in Tel Aviv, disclosed the investment but declined to identify the investor, other than saying that it was a major publicly-traded gaming firm. In a prior investment round, Soomla attracted $1.4 million from private investors including Oded Vardi, the son of high-tech entrepreneur Yossi Vardi. Soomla produces a product called the Whales Report, which enables the developers of mobile-based games to identify gamers who have already paid to play other games, a small fraction of all players. The company’s clients are game development studios both large and small. Established in 2012, Soomla has eight employees and expects to hire another five in the coming year. (Inbal Orpaz)

CropX raises $9 million, including funds from former Google CEO’s firm
CropX, a developer of irrigation technology, announced on Monday that it has raised $9 million in Series A funding round led by California-based Finistere Ventures, Innovation Endeavors of California and Israel and Greensoil Investments, which has offices in Ra’anana, Toronto and Amsterdam. Jerusalem’s OurCrowd also participated. Innovation Endeavors is former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s venture capital firm. CropX’s technology, which was developed in Israel and New Zealand, enables farmers to manage water usage in different portions of their fields. Isaac Bentwich is CEO and chairman of the company, which has offices in Tel Aviv. (TheMarker)

Yotpo e-commerce platform raises $15m
Yotpo, which provides a review and content marketing platform for e-commerce businesses and also shares the content on social media, announced on Tuesday that it has completed a $15 million funding round that brings total investment in the company to $30 million. The latest round was led by Marker LLC and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors. [See item above for another investment by Innovation Endeavors]. Founded in 2011, Yotpo has a staff of 70, fifty of whom are in Israel. It plans on using some of its new funds to hire an additional 100 employees, half of them in Israel. (Inbal Orpaz)