Back in February, Israel's espionage agency, the Mossad, had its first ever recruitment stand at the annual CyberTech conference in Tel Aviv. Now the Mossad has taken another step out of the shadows, announcing the official launch of Libertad Ventures, a technology innovation fund that will invest up to 2 million shekels ($568,000) per venture in promising technology companies.
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The Mossad’s promotional video looks like something from Steven Spielberg's futuristic action movie "Minority Report." The camera zooms in on an attractive brunette sitting at a café. The viewer then hears a voice coming from an invisible earpiece: “Get ready, he’s on his way.”
As the music builds, the woman removes a small case from her purse, presses on its smooth and featureless surface, and a contact lens magically floats up from inside. Inserted in her eye, it delivers real-time facial recognition and biometric data on everyone passing on the street, as she sips her cocktail. And then bingo! There's a match with her digital database.
With a wink of her eyelid, she transmits the image back to base. The response is instantaneous: “Mission Approved.” A Mona Lisa smile straight into the camera leaves us guessing. Is she a honey trapper? An assassin? Or just a very sophisticated autograph hunter?
“Working on ground-breaking technology?” asks the Hebrew-language voice-over. “Think it will interest the Mossad? Go to the website.” And up pops the Web address that the Startup Nation has been waiting for: www.libertad.gov.il
Other than the short voiceover, the video is either visual or in English.
In a statement issued through the Prime Minister's Office, the Mossad said Libertad Ventures was established to maintain the espionage agency's superiority by linking up with cutting edge civilian-sector startups.
Bucking the usual model of high-tech investment, the Mossad will not be seeking an ownership interest in the companies in which it invests, instead simply asking for a license to use the technology without paying royalties. Entrepreneurs “involved in cutting-edge technological R&D” are invited to submit proposals relating to a range of technology, including robotics, high-speed encryption, automatic personality profiling, document scanning and cataloguing and data extraction.
"As the first Technological Innovation Fund led by the Mossad, Libertad seeks out promising startups, entrepreneurs, and ideas with a focus on technological research in its early stages," says the website, libertad.gov.il, which is in both Hebrew and English.