Tel Aviv WeWork Users Clearing Out to Make Room for Microsoft

TechNation | Israelis aren’t benefiting from country’s financial services technology prowess, top CEO says ■ Windward raises $16.5 million for marine-accident prediction tools ■ AgriTask develops app for medical marijuana growers

WeWork's Tel Aviv office space.
Amir Teig

Israelis aren’t benefitting from country’s financial services technology prowess

Israel is a leading center for financial services technology, with global banks such as Citi and JPMorgan operating research and development centers here, but ordinary Israelis rarely benefit, Ron Fainaro, CEO of the credit card company Leumi Card told a startup conference sponsored by TheMarker on Monday. “While there are a lot of digital services, like depositing checks digitally or transferring money among friends, real technological change, which disrupts the market, we haven’t yet seen,” he said. Israeli fintech startups, such as Lemonade (online insurance) and Fundbox (cash flow management for small businesses and freelancers) operate overseas, but not at home. Fainaro attributed part of the problem to the small Israeli market and stiff regulation, but he also blamed the local financial services industry. “If we only knew how to open our gates to startups, the financial service industry would take a major step forward,” he said. “For this we need to open infrastructure and share data.” (Amitai Ziv)

Windward raises $16.5 million for marine-accident prediction tools

Windward, whose technology predicts the risk of maritime accidents, said on Monday it had raised $16.5 million in a funding round led by the insurtech fund XL Innovate. Existing investors, Horizons Ventures and Aleph, also participated, as did a number of individuals, including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. Windward said it would use the money to accelerate development of its marine insurance products and expand its London office. Its Windward Insurance service monitors and analyzes how ships navigate, where and when they operate, what they do in rough weather and how they maneuver in ports. It then uses these operating patterns and behavioral traits to predict the likelihood of a ship having an accident in the year ahead. Those data are used by insurers to price policies. Windward Intelligence uses the same data to help governments uncover potential threats. In March, the UN Security Council said it used Windward Intelligence to discover vessels helping North Korea evade sanctions. (TheMarker)

AgriTask develops app for medical marijuana growers

AgriTask, whose platform enables farmers to better manage their crops by employing an array of data, is now expanding beyond ordinary crops into the more complicated business of growing medical cannabis. “Our challenge was to quickly adapt our platform that has been so successful with soybeans, coffee, cotton, various vegetables and in orchards and forestry to a crop that is highly regulated,” said CEO Israel Fraier. Because marijuana growers face such an onerous regulatory environment aimed at ensuring quality and preventing infiltration into the nonmedical market, AgriTask offers extra tools to monitor and document every step of the growing process from the mother plant to post-harvest processing and shipment reports. Each batch receives a unique ID in accordance with Israeli Health Ministry regulations, which AgriTask said are the most stringent in the world for medical cannabis. Data are entered by farm workers and managers through a proprietary app the company developed for cannabis growers. (TheMarker)

Tel Aviv WeWork users clearing out to make room for Microsoft

The WeWork center on Tel Aviv’s Dubnov Street is becoming MicrosoftWorks, it seems. Recently users of the shared-office space center have been notified that they will have to give up their workplaces to make room for the giant U.S. tech company, whose employees will begin occupying all 2,500 square meters (27,000 square feet) on four floors of the facility sometime in the next few weeks. Sources said Microsoft had signed a five-year contract with WeWork, which will continue to manage the center, including social activities conducted there. The Dubnov WeWork is the oldest of the company’s Israeli centers and enjoyed an occupancy rate of more than 90%. WeWork users at Dubnov, which is considered among the top facilities for WeWork in Israel because of its central location and unique design, pay 1,500 shekels ($410) a month for a desk and up to 9,500 shekels a month for a five-person office. The deal with Microsoft is reportedly at a lower price, but it provides WeWork with a long-term tenant and includes additional operating fees. (Gili Melnitcki and Eliran Rubin)