Like other strong innovation ecosystems, Israel has many startups working on groundbreaking technologies and innovations that aren’t quite ready to make themselves known to the public. In tech industry jargon, these are said to be operating in “stealth mode”.
The technology they’re working on may need more testing and development, the founders may want to raise more money, their potential consumer base needs to be adequately understood and marketed --what’s called a product-market fit-- or the company may be preparing for a big launch event to capture the public’s attention –emerging out of anonymity with a bang.
Stealth mode companies can often portend new technologies or services, so it’s worth looking into what some Israeli companies that are (or were) in stealth mode are up to. Start-Up Nation Central is tracking some 5,900 currently active tech companies –companies with their own tech product or R&D. This doesn’t include service providers like outsourced development shops.
We define stealth mode companies as a company whose name is officially registered at the Israel Corporations Authority but may lack a website with any of its information publicly visible. Sometimes the stealth mode company’s founders won’t list the company on their LinkedIn profile.
As of June 2018, we’re tracking some 450 that are currently in stealth mode. This is around 7.6% of the entire startup universe that we track [just under 6,000 currently active companies].
What follows are some graphs that chart the trajectories and characteristics of Israeli stealth mode tech companies.
If we consider the founding year of all companies that we know have been in stealth mode at some point – whether they currently are or have moved out of it – and compare it to the overall number of companies founded each year, we get the graph seen above. We can see that a sizeable chunk of the companies founded each year started off in stealth mode.
Companies will remain in stealth mode for months or years, depending on their challenges, products and overall needs. We explored how long companies waited before coming out of stealth and listing themselves on Finder.
In the above table, we have tracked, by sector, the median number of months companies started in stealth take to leave stealth. This tells us some interesting things: Software and security – two of Israel’s most well-known specialties – have a median exit time of about a year. The median time in stealth across all Israeli tech industries is 14 months. It’s often easier to develop a piece of software (13 months) than, say, a new industrial technology, which has a much higher median (21.5 months). By industrial technology we’re mostly looking at smart manufacturing in the Industrial IoT space.
Disclaimer: By their very nature, stealth companies are trying to avoid attention. Still, a lack of public presence on the web and social channels seems to be a strong indicator that a company that we know has already formed, is operating under the radar. Hence, we do not publish their corporate information on Start-Up Nation Finder. No data is perfect. Our organization was founded five years ago, and it is only in the past 2-3 years that we have started to track stealth companies extensively. It is unlikely that we have found every stealth mode company in the ecosystem. Therefore, we don’t claim that the numbers we’re showing are exact or ironclad – just that they’re indicative of certain trends and patterns.
The DataNation series is published in collaboration with Start-Up Nation Central and is based on information and insights collected and analyzed by the organization. Start-Up Nation Finder maps the Israeli high-tech industry and connects the world to Israeli start-ups, investors and innovation programs.