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Mobileye: A Feather in Jerusalem’s Venture Cap

莫比莱 (Mobileye):耶路撒冷风险投资的荣誉

Everyone’s excited about the acquisition of Mobileye by Intel.

Well, they should be, of course: at US$15.3 billion, Intel’s purchase of Mobileye is the largest exit in Israel’s high-tech industry to date, and a move with the potential to impact people around the world. From Mobileye’s perspective this is a huge vote of confidence in its’ technology, which Intel could leverage to gain a key role in the future of driverless cars; and from the Start-up Nation’s point of view, it is yet another proof that Israel’s can-do culture is an endless source of applied innovation.

And then there’s another factor: Jerusalem, the home and the cradle of the 660-employee company. Mobileye was founded in 1999 by Amnon Shashua, a researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and its technology evolved from his research there. Yissum, the university’s Technology Transfer company, played a part in the process of spinning off the company from the academic work. Shashua and his co-founder Ziv Aviram chose to remain in Jerusalem, placing the company at the Har Hozvim hi-tech park in the city, where they could attract many of the university’s graduates.

It comes as a surprise to many that this is not an unusual case. Jerusalem is usually perceived as a 3000-year-old nexus of history, religion, and conflict; a place of ancient stones, shrines, and scripture. All this is true, but the Jerusalem of today is also a vibrant hub of hi-tech and innovation, so much so that it was listed as #1 in a Time Magazine ranking of the five emerging tech hubs around the world. It was also included in the Startup Compass “2015 Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking” as one the world’s top 40 start-up cities, and among the top 20 in Europe.

In addition to the presence of major players like Intel, Cisco, and Teva pharmaceuticals, as of 2016 there were more than 400 start-up companies in Jerusalem, 200+ of which were founded in 2014 and 2015 alone; tech investments have increased fourfold, from US$70 million in 2012 to US$272 million in 2015; and there has been an unprecedented surge in tech events all over the city, from only a handful a year to more than 350 in 2015.

So, Mobileye’s link to Jerusalem is not an exception at all; the capital of Israel is a key player in the Start-up Nation landscape. How this came to be, and what factors are driving it forward, is a fascinating story, which is described in a Coller Venture Review article by Hanan Brand, Helen Wexler and Wendy Singer. Titled “The Business Kibbutz”, this article shows that it’s all about the culture – a unique culture that pulls together the commitment and mutual support of very diverse populations in the city: Jews and Arabs, Secular and ultra-Orthodox, academics, entrepreneurs, investors, government, non-profits… all helping each other to create an exciting venture ecosystem, in which Mobileye could feel right at home.

“The Business Kibbutz”, telling the story of Jerusalem’s venture ecosystem, is part of the upcoming Issue #5 (City Venture) of Coller Venture Review. Access the full article here. You might also want to take a look at the recently published city case of Jerusalem.

And if you want to know how your university can become the cradle of the next “Mobileye” – as it is, first and foremost, a university venture – join us at the CIV2017HK conference, where we will focus on redesigning universities into hubs of venture and innovation.

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