TechNation: Israel Dropping Indictment Against Uber

Flytrex to join North Carolina in test of food delivery by drone ■ Digital gift card startup Loop Commerce sold to Syncrony of the U.S. ■ Israel looks to life sciences to safeguard its tech edge

File photo: The Uber headquarters in San Francisco.
Eric Risberg/AP

Israel dropping indictment against Uber in settlement over transportation rules

Uber will pay the Israeli government 112,000 shekels ($31,400) in a settlement that also provides for the dropping of all charges against the U.S. ride-sharing company for violating transportation regulations. The settlement marks another setback in the company’s quest since opening in Israel in 2014 to offer the same services it does in the United States. The firm had hoped a service similar to its Uber X in America that it began 18 months ago would conform with Israeli rules, but a year ago, Israel’s Transportation Ministry filed an indictment against the company, CEO Yoni Greifman and eight drivers for not having a proper business license, the proper operating license and for transporting paying passengers. Last November, a court ordered the services, known as UberDay and UberNight, stopped. “Our taxi service will continue as before,” Uber Israel said. “We are committed to cooperating with the Israeli authorities and to finding ways our technology can provide reliable, complete and safe transportation solutions.” (Oren Dori)

Flytrex to join North Carolina in test of food delivery by drone

Israel’s Flytrex will be joining one of 10 projects chosen last week by the U.S. Transportation Department to assess how to regulate drones and integrate them safely into U.S. air space. Flytrex, whose technology is used to manage drone fleets, will work with North Carolina’s Transportation Department to explore options for delivering food by drone. Working alongside the state’s transportation department, Flytrex will provide a food delivery service to suburban areas. The company is the only food delivery platform with an active product on the market, having deployed its drone delivery service in Iceland last August. North Carolina’s was one of 149 applications to be accepted. The applicants listed companies they would partner with in the experiments, giving winners a head start at the billions of dollars the emerging industry expects to generate. The United States has lagged behind other countries in experimenting with drones, something the program hopes to correct. (Amitai Ziv and Reuters)

Digital gift card startup Loop Commerce sold to Syncrony of the U.S.

Two Israeli entrepreneurs based in California have sold their digital gift card startup Loop Commence to Syncrony, a U.S. consumer financial services company for an undisclosed sum, Syncrony announced over the weekend.  Loop Commerce’s platform lets people buying online gifts to choose a present and notify the recipient by email. The recipient can make changes to the order, such as adjusting the size or color in the case of apparel, before it is completed, saving everyone involved the problem of returned or unappreciated gifts. Loop Commerce counts as customers retailers including Athleta, Banana Republic, DXL, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Target and Vera Bradley. Formed six years ago by Alex Sirota, who founded musical browser add-on FoxyTunes, which was acquired by Yahoo in 2008, and CEO Roy Erez, a former partner at the Cedar Fund, Loop Commerce had raised $29.2 million. Despite its Israeli connections, the company has no operations in Israel. (Eliran Rubin)

Israel looks to life sciences to safeguard its tech edge 

Israel is looking to attract pharmaceutical companies involved in life sciences to help retain its competitive edge in high technology. The Israel Innovation Authority has published a tender seeking pharmaceutical firms to open research and development centers and two firms will likely be chosen by July, IIA CEO Aharon Aharon told Reuters. Israel’s high-tech sector attracts billions of dollars a year in foreign investment, but the sector has reached a “glass ceiling” where growth is being hampered by a lack of engineers, he said, noting the need for more life sciences firms. “We have a few but it’s not enough,” said Aharon. “As a result, the salaries are very high and our overall competitiveness is going lower. To grow in the innovation-based economy you have to look for another ecosystem, and life sciences is the perfect one because of the level of intellectual property created at the universities and hospitals,” he said (Reuters)