By Tad Freese
Silicon Valley trends are often soon felt in its Israel equivalent Silicon Wadi. The two start-up ecosystems are intrinsically linked. In April this year, the connection between the two regions was further tightened when United Airlines launched a new direct flight between Tel Aviv and San Francisco.
New flight routes are demand driven and Silicon Valley and Bay Area businesses and investors have a history of buying up and buying into flourishing Israeli start-ups in Israel. Equally, Israelis have become part of the start-up and tech fabric in the Bay Area.
The Bay Area is definitely experiencing a boom right now and there is little surprise that Israel is following suit. West Coast-based venture capital houses are certainly looking to deploy capital on a more global basis and Israel is viewed as one of the prime tech and start-up locations to invest in. Innovation Endeavors, founded in 2009 by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and Dror Berman, is just one example of a US-based VC house being part of the Silicon Wadi scene. Earlier this year, Schmidt said that he expected to see a number of Israeli start-ups mature into fully-fledged unicorns, worth more than $1bn.
Capital flows from West Coast to Israel are noticeably increasing in parallel with global trends. Israeli tech companies raised a substantial $2.8bn in the first half of 2016 according to IVC Research Center. Earlier this year, the private equity firm Francisco Partners paid $400m to acquire SintecMedia, the Jerusalem-based tech company.
M&A valuations in the start-up and tech space are understandably strong despite few IPOs coming to market. Often a healthy IPO market will help a start-up’s founders achieve a healthy valuation, but despite the global stock markets showing signs of bouncing back in 2016 – the NASDAQ Composite index is up nearly 6% from the start of 2016 – few tech companies have gone public.
The impressive performance of San Francisco-based Twilio on NASDAQ since its IPO in June has certainly injected some much-needed confidence in the tech stock markets, but this buoyancy has yet to transfer fully into the wider start-up ecosystem. Twilio’s stock price rose from 23.66 on the day of its IPO in June to a high of 68.40 in September.
M&A exits are still by far the most popular approach for start-up founders and entrepreneurs, but Twilio’s successful IPO, as well as a few recently-completed IPOs may result in companies looking for dual M&A and IPO strategies to maximise value. Whatever strategy is chosen, the solidified relationship between the West Coast and Israel can only work in an Israeli start-up’s favour.