Depending on whom you ask, Silicon Valley and Israel have either had a long and prodigious symbiotic relationship when it comes to technology and technology companies, or Silicon Valley wouldn’t be able to find Israel on a map. Either way, one thing is for sure: Gil Ben-Artzy and Shuly Galili launched UpWest Labs because they saw a need to help Israeli entrepreneurs level the playing field.
While Israel is world-renowned as a center for tech research and development, and it plays home to R&D centers for practically every major U.S. company, access to Silicon Valley knowledge and capital networks can seem just out of reach to Israeli startups. Over the last two years, UpWest Labs has been working to change that by offering a Silicon Valley-based accelerator that caters exclusively to Israeli entrepreneurs.
Beyond bringing its startups to Silicon Valley (where they live together in a house in Menlo Park) for the duration of its four-month program, offering access to local mentors, workspace and a chunk of seed funding, what makes UpWest unique is that it focuses on working with companies that already have a product and customers.
Rather than guide them through the initial development phase or product-market fit, UpWest concentrates on incubating businesses that have already been through the proof-of-concept rigmarole and, instead, are looking for better access to U.S. markets and to get educated on best practices for selling to those markets. That’s why, although “sexy” is a word used infrequently to describe its businesses, UpWest is generally able to produce stronger batches than your average accelerator.
To that point, the co-founders tell us that its 30-something graduates have cumulatively raised over $20 million to date, and two-thirds of its graduates have raised an average of over $1 million per company. The majority of those rounds fall between $800K and $2.5 million, Galili adds, with ninety percent of total funding coming from U.S. investors.
UpWest typically chooses five or six startups from the 600-plus applications that it receives each year, the co-founder tells us, with the majority of its startups returning home after the program to bring what they’ve learned back to Israel. And while returning home, they frequently do so having set up partnerships with U.S. tech companies, with UpWest grads boasting deals with companies like Yammer, AT&T, Adobe, Workday, Cisco, Sears and Thumbtack, among others.
In December, UpWest graduated its sixth batch of startups, which, as is usually the case, spanned the tech industry spectrum, tackling everything from security and social media management to business intelligence. Those interested can find more on the batch in GeekTime’s coverage here.
Today, having already chosen the next group of entrepreneurs to make the journey to Menlo Park, the Israeli-American accelerator is announcing its seventh class. The six companies again represent a broad range of domains, including video marketing, fashion and, of course, one of Israel’s high-tech specialties: Security infrastructure. As has become characteristic of UpWest founders, the seventh batch includes two female founders and CEOs, Israeli intelligence veterans, cyber and Air Force officers and former tech and marketing execs from companies like Proctor & Gamble and Checkpoint Software.
A brief description of UpWest’s six newest startups is included below, and stay tuned for more news from the seventh batch coming soon. And keep in mind that some of the following startups are still in stealth.
- Donde: Mobile app that leverages artificial intelligence to help users quickly and intuitively search for fashion products.
- Javelin: A next generation security platform based on Software Defined Networking (SDN), offering network security visibility to provide real-time reactions as a better security solution to advanced cyber threats.
- Leaderz: The first grass roots platform for social causes designed to provide organizations with a complete community management solution.
- ModusP: A legal knowledge platform providing attorneys with unprecedented research capabilities resulting in thousands of saved hours.
- vBrand: Uses proprietary video processing technology to automatically identify surfaces, semantics and cue points optimal for branding engagement for in-video marketing.
- Doomoro: A marketplace for “next day delivery” of online services, helping users find hi-quality freelancers that provide the services within 24 hours.