ELIAN D. ALVAREZ

- VENTURE CAPITAL - ANGEL INVESTMENT -
- ENTREPRENEURSHIP - LATAM - INNOVATION -
- INVESTMENTS - PRIVATE EQUITY - FINANCE -

Israel Government and Venture Capital

Feb
05

The government of Israel has actively participated in the development of Israeli Venture Capital (VC) market through hybrid financing, i.e., a mix of private and public VC funds. This was done to gain the maximum advantage of private funds from foreign investors.

 

Formation of the YOZMA Group – Initiative of the Israeli Government

The government has continually faced the challenge in Israeli VC policies on how they can deal with a small size of their domestic market and limited availability of funds. In order to tackle this issue, the Israeli government created the YOZMA Group in the early 90s. This program followed the U.S. style VC operations. Although, it carried tax breaks and equity guarantees for foreign investors, yet, there were not enough incentives for local investors.

YOZMA group was formed in 1993 with the infusion of 100 million U.S. dollars that was supplied by the Israeli government. It is basically a VC fund that invests in high-tech startups. During the next three years after its formation, the group created a total of ten hybrid funds. The second fund was launched in 1995 with the backing of European, American and Israeli investors. Each of these funds was financed with approximately 20 million U.S dollars.

Alongside these initiatives, YOZMA was also involved in new startups, which gave rise to a professionally managed VC market in Israel. The group turned out to be a catalyst for development and growth of the VC sector in Israel. Companies at any stage of development could receive funds from the group, but its primary focus is to invest in early stage companies that target high potential companies in biotechnology and life science sectors.

 

YOZMA III CEO Club – Initiative of the YOZMA Group

The group also developed professional relations with a number of well-known academic institutions and IT incubators in the country. Some of the companies in the YOZMA portfolio directly arose from these institutions. With the aim to involve executives at a senior position and founders of successful firms in YOZMA’s activities, a group was formed called YOZMA III CEO Club. This group turned out to be a great success and was a valuable source of a number of investment opportunities available at a particular point in time to companies or investors.

 

Privatization of YOZMA and New Challenges Faced by the Government

The late 90s, the government took a decision to privatize the YOZMA group as it believed that the private sector was adequately strong and healthy. The Israeli government auctioned its direct co-investments in 14 organizations. It also sold away its interest in 9 YOZMA funds to its partners. Although, the state still holds a small interest in two YOZMA funds, yet, all the funds are privatized and the direct contribution of YOZMA related VC capital has largely declined.

 

Other Initiatives by the Government to Improve VC Sector

The Israeli government also undertook a number of other initiatives, including the launch of tax incentive schemes for investors, fostering the international research and development, and development of other programs.

  • Tax Incentives for International Business Angels

According to a research paper by Günseli Baygan, a large number of Israeli VC funds are believed to be injected by business angels in Israel and other countries, specifically the U.S. The government offered tax incentives along with other programs to connect small enterprises and VC funds with international institutions and multinational companies.

Many of the VC funds started their offices in the U.S. and Europe to provide assistance to portfolio companies in finding investors and bringing awareness of technological and market developments in the international market. Given the small scale of the local market, it was a great move to flourish VC firms.

  • Fostering International Research and Development (R&D) Agreements

The government also fostered international R&D agreements, including the Israel-US Binational Industrial R&D (BIRD) foundation and the US-Israeli Science and Technology Commission. The BIRD was established in the 70s to fund R&D in startup companies. Moreover, it has also made a contribution by working alongside VC community, making its matchmaking services available for their portfolio companies in order to find out the business angels.

  • Other Programs

Apart from the above mentioned initiatives, different government bodies, including the Export Institute in Israel, MATIMOP – an Israeli Industry Center for R&D, and MESSER – Israeli Idea Promotion Center, made their contributions by offering assistance to small firms and entrepreneurs in assessing local and foreign markets for launching their services and products.

 

The VC industry in Israel grew from an investment of $440 million in 1997 to $1,759 billion in 2007, and almost all the investments in the country focus on high-tech companies, including bio-technology and ICT.

Corporate Venture Capital vs. R&D

Nov
04

According to a venture capital database (CB Insights), the venture capital market invested $74.2 billion across North America in 2015. The Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) groups participated in 17 percent of the deals in that region, making up 24 percent of the total venture investment distributed to startups that have been fueled by VCs.

This definitely reflected a reasonable improvement in CVC activities as their participation was limited to 12 percent in 2011. Significant growth has been observed in this investor type as an alternative source of funding for new businesses, but only a few know what corporate venture capital is.

 

Corporate Venture Capital (CVC)

CVC is defined as an equity investment by an established company in a startup business. It can be put together as an independent part of a company or an appointed investment team that is off their company’s statement of financial position. The main goal of CVC is to invest in companies showing high growth prospects. Some of the marquee brands having venture presence in the technology and healthcare industry, include Dell Ventures, Google Ventures, Cisco Ventures, Intel Capital and Johnson & Johnson Innovation.

Corporate venture capital has been one of the most critical contributors in the venture capital ecosystem that has matured over time.

 

Research and Development (R&D) and Corporate Venture Capital

R&D and CVC are two prominent sources of creating new potential.

CVC can be used as a substitute for internal research and development in creating such opportunities or capabilities. In different theories proposed by Dushnitsky and Lenox (2005), Cassiman and Veugelers (2002), and Gompers and Lerner (2001), there was unanimity on the idea that R&D backs the increasing use of CVC, in contrast with CVC to be used as a substitute for internal R&D. However, not much consideration has been given to how different industries might affect the relationship between these two sources.

 

Preferred Use of Investment

With the rapid changes in the global market, companies have drawn their focus on research and development investment to strive for achieving short term targets, as VCs are considered too quick to get caught up in the latest thing. But it doesn’t have to be this way. A number of opportunities with the great potential to boost innovation already exist, except corporations are not able to make use of it. One of these means is to use corporate venture funds.

 

Corporate R&D – Slow and Expensive Investment

Research and development investment is mostly focused on perfecting technologies that are already used by the public. The United States has spent billions on gigantic science projects for years, but the commercial returns were not as expected. Cutting back on R&D is not the right choice either, as Kodak ended up filing for bankruptcy when they cut their research funding and focused on film, and Nokia is now being purchased by Microsoft as they tried to keep their focus on low-end phones.

 

Corporate Venture Capital – Quick and Cheap Investment

CVC, on the other hand, is better at identifying new regions and is quite flexible and cheap as compared to R&D. During the last 20 years, a number of CVC initiatives gave a boost to pharmaceutical companies that were struggling to catch up with new advancements in bioscience.

The large companies in a corporate sector stay cautious of CVC, as they have seen them distributed ineffectively. For a corporate venture to be a successful mode of investment, its goals should be in line with corporate objectives and the approval of funds should be done smoothly with the same compensation levels as offered by independent venture groups. If a company fails to provide a fair incentive, it is likely to face a consistent flow of desertion. Rewards should always be given if people solve a problem or launch a new product in the market, but they do not necessarily have to involve cash. Recognition can also be a significant reward for such efforts.

Traditional R&D are not good at pointing out threats from the competitors. Instead, it keeps its focus on a specific number of projects that results in ignoring innovative advances that happen outside the company. Whereas, CVC quickly responds to change and potential threats, which allows decision makers to withdraw from any investment that doesn’t seem to be generating revenue in the future. It is highly likely that a creation of the CVC fund would prove to be a breakthrough idea that changes everything.