Companies are raising record amounts of money from investors at unprecedentedly high valuations and shares of publicly traded firms have seen a surge in value on the public markets.
This is helping Israel to speed up its shift from a Start-Up Nation, with a plethora of fast-moving small tech firms that get sold quickly, to a “Scale-Up Nation” in which entrepreneurs hold on to their companies and seek to grow them into large and hopefully profitable ones. This tech boom is also creating newly minted tech millionaires.
The boom is in line with what is happening to the tech industry worldwide, where the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated digitalization of work and play. As businesses, schools, shopping and food services increasingly went online amid COVID-imposed lockdowns, the world turned to technology for assistance. The virus has underlined the key role of innovation with a message that is loud and clear: businesses that don’t go digital and innovate cannot survive. This push has fired up the industry.
Even while tech shares have been getting battered on Wall Street as the specter of inflation looms, experts believe that in the long run the overall picture for tech firms is positive.
On Tuesday, Valens, a maker of high-speed chips for the audio-video and automotive markets, said it will merge with special purpose acquisition company PTK Acquisition Corp. in a transaction that values the Israeli firm at $1.16 billion. On that same day, Forter, an e-commerce fraud prevention startup founded in 2013, said it raised $300 million from investors at a $3 billion valuation.
Earlier this month, as deadly conflict flared between Israel and the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, Global-e Online Ltd, an Israel-based provider of an e-commerce platform, held its share debut on Nasdaq at a $3.55 billion valuation. Fintech firm Nayax started trading on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange after an initial public offering that valued the firm at $930 million, making it the largest in the history of TASE’s high tech sector’s IPOs, in terms of both the company value and the amount raised. Meanwhile, digital analytics firm SimilarWeb held an intitial public offering of shares in New York IPO at a valuation of $1.6 billion.
Also this month, Walmart announced it would buy Israeli startup Zeekit, a maker of an app that allows users to virtually try on clothes when they shop online, for an undisclosed amount, and Cisco Systems Inc., a US maker of networking software and hardware, said it would acquire Israel’s Sedona Systems, a maker of communication technologies, for a reported $100 million.
“Everybody understands that the need for technological innovation is much larger now,” post-COVID, said Yifat Oron, the newly appointed head of Israel operations for Blackstone, a New York City-based investment giant that manages $649 billion in assets, last month. “Everyone around the world is doubling down on tech. Companies that are not working on accelerating technology adoption are at risk of becoming irrelevant.”
Blackstone said last month it was setting up an office in Tel Aviv to tap into the nation’s growing tech firms, which are now “ripe enough” to be recipients of the New York firm’s large investments.
Let’s look at the numbers
Private tech firms globally and in Israel have raised records amount of money from investors. In the first quarter of 2021, global venture investments hit an all-time high, surging to $125 billion in a “whopping” 94 percent increase year over year, according to data compiled by Crunchbase. Valuations of VC-backed companies in the US were at or near record highs in the first quarter of the year, according to a May 24 report by data firm Pitchbook. The venture capital market was buoyed by strong initial public offering exits, the participation of money-rich nontraditional investors, and the prospect for a broader economic recovery on the horizon.
In parallel to the investment boom, new unicorn companies — privately held firms valued at $1 billion or more — flourished in the first quarter, creating worldwide “an average of close to two new unicorns per working day, well above all previous quarter counts,” the data firm said. In the first quarter of this year, a total of 112 companies joined the Crunchbase unicorn club, whereas for the whole of 2020, a total of 159 companies, or roughly one per two working days, became unicorns.
There are between 662 and 820 global unicorns, according to data compiled by Crunchbase and New York data firm CB Insights.
Stock shares of innovation firms have also been on a roll. Four of the world’s largest tech giants — Apple, Alphabet’s Google, Microsoft and Facebook — reported strong results in April as a result of the technology rush.
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