Spotted: Unicorns in Israel

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“Unicorns”, perhaps the most overused term in the valley since Aileen Lee coined it in November 2013, are private companies with valuations in excess of $1 Billion. The tech world, and increasingly wall street, is enamored with them because of the enormous wealth they create, and as some surmise, the shift in private and public market dynamics they represent. Founders dream of their pony’s becoming mythical beasts, Fortune christened 2015 The Age of Unicorns and maintains an official Unicorns List and you can’t have a cup of coffee on University ave in Palo Alto without overhearing geeks and suits strategizing about how they can become or join one. That’s not really the case yet on Rothschild Blvd in Tel Aviv but we’re getting there and overall, its a positive thing trend that we’re thinking bigger.

The good news is that Israeli founders are not primarily motivated by money, the bad news is that we need much more professional exposure to the inner operational workings of nimble private companies that reach this kind of business and product scale. The 22 year old 8200 haxor that starts up a startup immediately after their military service is lacking fundamental company building experience – and often doesn’t know it. Michael Eisenberg opined astutely about this local dilemma in his infamous Hummus Manifesto.

Having recently sold my own company to a Unicorn, I’m witnessing first hand the personal growth benefits for our young Tel Aviv team, well beyond the substantial financial gain. Being an integral part of a young rocket-ship hurling towards IPO is expanding their professional skills and corporate acumen in ways our small startup could not afford them.

So what opportunities do the best and brightest in Israel have if they want to join a local Unicorn? Who are they and how do you get in touch? We’re very fortunate to have a significant number of rapidly scaling businesses in Israel, and we too have Unicorns in our midst.

Unicorns in Israel 2015 (Private companies valued in excess of $1B):

Company CEO Est. Valuation Office Jobs
 Palantir (US founders)  Alex Karp  $20B  Tel Aviv  Link
 Dropbox (US founders)  Drew Houston  $10B  Herzliya  Link
 Houzz  Adi Tatarko  $2.3B  Tel Aviv  Link
 Klarna (SE founders)  Sebastian Siemiatkowski  $2.3B  Tel Aviv  Link
 Gett  Shahar Waiser  $2B  Tel Aviv  Link
 Prosper (US founders)  Aaron Vermut  $2B  Tel Aviv  Link
 Magic Leap  Rony Abovitz  $2B  Tel Aviv  N/A
 IronSource  Tomer Bar-Zeev  $1.5B  Tel Aviv  Link
 Infinidat  Moshe Yanai  $1.2B  Herzliya  Link
 Outbrain  Yaron Galai  $1B  Netanya  Link
 Taboola  Adam Singolda  $1B  Tel Aviv  Link

Who’d I miss? Add them here.

UPDATE: Thanks Ron Reiter and Omri Baumer for the addition of Klarna and Gigya.

At TechAviv we encourage founders to build important companies that have a positive impact on the world and Israel. Getting on this list should not be a goal onto itself. Valuation is certainly not an exact science or barometer, and some say recent Unicorn IPO performance might bring valuations back down to earthly reality, but as opposed to the darlings of the dot.com boom and bust era, these companies have real, sustainable business models and hundreds of millions in revenue.

For Israeli founders and local talent its a unique opportunity to glean both inspiration and practical learnings from these rare phenoms in our backyard.  We’ve had several of them present at our events, as well as some impressive ponies that may soon be nipping at their heals including GigyaMyHeritageeToro, KalturaInnovidTaykey and Kenshoo. We’ll continue to explore the company building dynamics that lead to such hyper growth at upcoming events.

The future is bright for Israeli tech. Ride on.

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Categories: Israel, Startups

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