TechNation: High-tech Out of Reach for Many Israeli Arabs, Poll Finds

Rambam, U.S. firms team up to create digital medicine incubator; Jerusalem video-messaging startup to shift focus to smartwatch technology.

A high-tech workplace in Israel.
Ilya Melnikov

Poll: High-tech out of reach for many Arabs

About 40% of Israeli Arabs have had exposure to the high-tech sector, as compared to nearly 90% of the country’s Jews, according to a survey by MasarUp, a project initiated by the PresenTense nonprofit to encourage entrepreneurship in Israeli Arab communities. The survey, which polled 500 Arab respondents, found that only 20% knew someone in the high-tech field; this is particularly disturbing in light of the fact that such personal contact in many cases provides the impetus and support necessary to enter the field. About half those polled were supportive of making promotion of high-tech entrepreneurship a priority in Israeli Arab society. The survey found major differences among the respondents depending on their age, gender, place of residence and socioeconomic status. PresenTense founded Israel’s first entrepreneurship accelerator targeting the Arab community, in Nazareth several years ago. Three others followed and an additional one is due to open shortly in Jaffa. (Janan Bsoul)

Rambam, U.S. firms team up to create digital medicine incubator

IBM Watson Health and Medtronic are teaming up with the Rambam Medical Center to create a high-tech incubator that will encourage innovation in digital medicine. The Haifa hospital announced the partnership, to be called MindUP, on Friday. Funded by Israeli venture capital firms Pitango and Impact First, the incubator is to be housed at the Haifa Life Sciences Technology Park. MindUP will eventually be home to some 40 start-ups, according to the press release from Rambam, in fields that will include telemedicine, cloud computing, wearable and implantable diagnostic sensors, and IT systems for hospitals. IBM and Medtronic won an economic stimulus grant last year from the Israeli government to launch the incubator. The Economy Ministry said budgets for incubators range from $500,000 to $800,000, with the grant covering 85% of that amount. The start-ups pay royalties until the grant is repaid. (JTA)

Jerusalem video-messaging startup to shift focus to  smartwatch technology

Glide, a video-messaging startup based in Jerusalem – which The Wall Street Journal reported was valued at $100 million in late 2014 – recently laid off a quarter of its staff, leaving a workforce of 55. This was reported by the Business Insider website last week, which noted that the company is seeking now to focus on smartwatch technology. Glide, which launched a video-messaging app in 2013, has attracted $36.5 million in funding, the company’s CEO, Ari Roisman told Business Insider. “We will continue to develop our visual messaging app and support our millions of users, but we’re also hard at work on an exciting new project for smartwatches that we plan to unveil later this summer,” Roisman said. The investors in the company include Menlo Ventures, Marker LLC, Two Sigma Ventures and what was termed “a syndicate of new investors.” (TheMarker)

Shares of Palo Alto Networks, a Check Point competitor, slide 

Shares in Palo Alto Networks, an American information security company that competes with Israel’s Check Point Software Technologies, lost more than 12% of their value on Friday on the Nasdaq exchange, on a weaker forecast than expected, ending the trading day at $129.86 per share. Palo Alto, which was founded by Israeli Nir Zuk, a former engineer at Check Point, is now trading at a market cap of $11.5 billion. Zuk is now Palo Alto’s chief technology officer. His company is anticipating strong growth for its current fiscal quarter, which runs through July, but is still projecting results falling short of analysts’ expectations.  Palo Alto attributes the disparity to macroeconomic conditions. Although the company has had lower revenues than Tel Aviv-based Check Point, it has been taking away market share at a fast clip, and if it keeps up its current pace of growth, is expected to surpass Check Point in revenues within a few quarters. Its profitability is much lower than Check Point’s, however. (Omri Zerachovitz)