Tech Briefs / Two Israelis on Forbes’ List of Richest Tech People

Venture fund FirstTime raises $60 million, Bezeq and China’s Hisense form IoT accelerator, and VATBox raises $24 million in round led by Viola.

Teddy Sagi
Nick Clarke

VATBox raises $24 million in round led by Viola

VATBox, an Israeli startup whose software is used by companies to reclaim all potential value-added tax paid abroad, said yesterday it had raised $24 million in a financing round led by Viola Private Equity. A group of private investors that had previous put money into the company joined the round, whose proceeds will be used to expand services to new markets and strengthen its position in existing ones in 40 countries, doubling its staff to 120 over the coming year. VATBox enables companies to take advantage of rules in European and many other countries that allow foreign businesses to automatically get a full refund on their VAT payments, which can run as high as 25% of the price for a good or service. The latest round brings VATBox’s total fundraising since it was founded just two years ago by CEO Isaac Saft and Noam Guzman to $30 million. (Inbal Orpaz)

Venture fund FirstTime raises $60 million

First Time, a venture capital fund led by Ilan Shiloah, Nir Tarlovsky and Uri Weinheber, said yesterday it had raised $60 million from investors, three times as much as it had originally planned. The three managers put $6 million of their own capital into the fund and have promised not to take management fees. Another $10 million came from Chinese investors. FirstTime closed its first round in June and has already invested in eight startups, most notably Playbuzz – which was formed by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s son, Shaul – and TalkSpace, which offers psychological counseling online. All told, FirstTime plans to put up to $2 million into 20 different companies. The fund specializes in Internet and media startups that already have a functional technology or product but haven’t raised any outside capital. Shiloah is the chairman of McCann Erickson (Israel). (Inbal Orpaz)

Bezeq, China’s Hisense form IoT accelerator

Bezeq, Israel’s biggest telecommunications operator, is establishing a startup accelerator with the Chinese appliance maker Hisense that will help companies developing Internet of Things technology. Dubbed Bhome, the accelerator will work closely with Tel Aviv University’s entrepreneurship center StarTau and its accelerator, Vertical Engine. Bhome will host five startups, offering them legal, financial and other services, as well as a physical space to work, while they develop a prototype product over 12 weeks. Hisense, which announced Sunday that it was acquiring Sharp America’s television business for the North and South American markets, operates a research and development center in Israel. It will invite the most promising startups to its Chinese headquarters to demonstrate their technology. The deadline for the first round of applications is December 27. (Amitai Ziv)

Two Israelis on Forbes’ list of richest tech people

Two Israelis made it onto Forbes’ list of the 100 richest technology entrepreneurs for 2015. Teddy Sagi, who started the gaming-technology company Playtech, captured 51st place on the list, with an estimated net worth of $3.8 billion. Gil Schwed, a founder of Check Point Software Technologies, was No. 95, with a net worth of $2.2 billion. The list is dominated by Americans, who occupy 51 of the 100 places, with 40 of those based in California. Another 33 are from Asia – 20 of those from Hong Kong. Europe counts only eight. And a mere seven women feature on the list. Canadian Mark Scheinberg, who is No. 46 and has close connections to Israel, built PokerStars – together with his father, Isai – into the world’s biggest online poker company. (TheMarker)

Pebbles shareholders seek to block sale to Facebook

Three venture capital funds that invested in Pebbles Interfaces filed a suit last week in Tel Aviv District Court, seeking to block the sale of the virtual reality startup to a unit of Facebook. The suit, filed by iVentures Asia, INetworks 360 and Heliant Ventures – which together have a 15% stake in the startup – acted as TheMarker reported that Pebbles shareholders would get only $20 million from the sale to Facebook’s Oculus unit, with another $20 million being distributed to employees prepared to move to California to join the Oculus team. The plaintiffs contend that they were not kept informed of the sale process and that the actual terms call for shareholders, who altogether put $20 million into the company, to get just $19.4 million back, while employees and directors get $23.8 million. They claim the negotiators themselves got $7.7 million from the sale, at the expense of shareholders. (Inbal Orpaz)