Local startup designs diets for Israel’s Olympians based on their microbiomes
Scores of Israeli Olympians are expected to start getting some high-tech help with their diets in a collaborative project with the Israeli startup DayTwo. The startup has developed a kit to capture a stool sample that together with a blood sample is analyzed using DayTwo’s proprietary research to create a profile of an individual’s gut microbes. The data are used to design an appropriate diet. The technology is based on research conducted by profs. Eran Segal and Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute and licensed to DayTwo. The startup was formed in 2015 by Marius Nacht, a cofounder of Check Point Software Technologies; chairman Yuval Ofek and CEO Lihi Segal. To date it has raised $17 million in capital from investors including Nacht, the U.S. company Johnson & Johnson and the Mayo Clinic. For Israel’s Olympians, the diets are designed to raise energy levels while avoiding spikes in blood-sugar levels.
Behalf raises $150 million from Soros, Viola for small-business lending
Behalf, an Israeli-American startup that provides short-term loans online to small businesses, said Monday it had raised $150 million to expand its credit line. The lead backers are Soros Management Fund, controlled by George Soros, and the Israeli venture fund Viola Credit, both of which are also equity investors in the company. “The latest fundraising will allow us to expand our finance platform and improve the terms we offer businesses,” said CEO Benji Feinberg. Founded in 2011 by Israelis Benji and Shai Feinberg, Behalf is one of several of Israeli startups that serve the financing needs of small businesses that generally can’t get short-term bank loans. The company had until now a $100 million credit line and had raised $60 million in equity funding. Borrowers, who are automatically vetted by Behalf using proprietary technology that draws on information like credit history, can get loans of up to $50,000 within 24 hours after applying. (Eliran Rubin)
Sale of Playtika to Chinese group delayed by Beijing regulators
The deal by Caesars Entertainment Corporation to sell Playtika, the Israeli developer of casino-style games for smartphones, to Chinese buyers has run up against regulatory obstacles, the Wall Street Journal reported last week. Caesars agreed to sell Playtika in 2016 for $4.4 billion in cash to a Chinese consortium that includes Giant Interactive Group and a private-equity firm co-founded by Alibaba’s Jack Ma. But sources told WSJ that the China Securities Regulatory Commission is reluctant to approve the sale over concerns that Playtika’s games encourage gambling, which is illegal in China except for Macau. The sources said the deal hadn’t been formally rejected and that Giant executives were making the case the Playtika games don’t involve gambling by the legal definition. Meanwhile, Playtika is going ahead with plans to expand its Israeli payroll by 100 people and rent 2,400 square meters of office space on the 51st floor of Tel Aviv’s Azrieli Center. (Yael Darel and TheMarker)
AmTrust on the hunt for Israeli insurance-tech startups
AmTrust Financial Services is looking to boost its presence significantly in Israel in the next year through partnerships and taking stakes in startups to tap into the move towards insurance technology. “We look at Israel as a tech hub of artificial intelligence, deep learning and data,” Yair Smith, vice president of AmTrust’s strategic development, told Reuters on the sidelines of the OurCrowd conference. AmTrust, a U.S.-based global property and casualty insurance firm, began operations in Israel a year and a half ago to look for technology to help it with a range of issues, from accessing claims to underwriting risk. Smith said AmTrust was open to investing in early-stage companies and taking minority stakes as strategic partner. AmTrust said it had already forged partnerships with Israeli startups like Replay.ai, Verishow and Spark Beyond to improve video chat abilities, improve communication and use AI to create business and process recommendations. (Reuters)