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Israeli-Dutch Partnership Financing Solar Plant in Rwanda

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February 18, 2014
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Rwanda

JNS.org - An Israeli company is partnering with a Dutch solar developer to finance the building of an 8.5 megawatt solar photovoltaic power plant in Rwanda. The plant would increase Rwanda’s power generation capacity by about 8 percent.

Israel’s Energiya Global Capital provided the initial funding and strategic consultation to Dutch company Gigawatt Global Coöperatief, which has closed on $23.7 million in financing for the plant. Other investors and funders include Norwegian development finance institution Norfund, Norwegian-headquartered Scatec Solar, Dutch development bank FMO, and the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund.

The plant will be built about 60 kilometers from Kigali, Rwanda, on land belonging to the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village for youths orphaned due to the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Rwanda will receive electricity from the plant through its national grid, via the Rwanda Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority. Construction on the plant has started, and the plant is expected to begin operating by this summer.

“It takes a global village to raise a solar revolution,” said American-Israeli entrepreneur and human rights activist Yosef Abramowitz, president of Gigawatt Global and CEO of Energiya Global Capital. “There are 550 million people in Africa without electricity. Economic growth in developing markets depends on access to affordable, green power. Environmentally-friendly solar energy is far less expensive than diesel-generated power. This first-ever utility-scale solar field in Rwanda—and all of East Africa—represents the future of energy for developing countries and for island nations. It is a game-changer for humanity and the environment.”

The government of Rwanda is working to get access to electricity for 50 percent of its population by 2017.

“As a pioneer in its sector and region, the solar field to be established in the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village is an important stride in our mission for Tikkun Olam—making the world a better place. This wonderful initiative will serve as a shining beacon of hope and progress for humanity, and as an example of what Israel can contribute to the developing world. In the hope that Israeli renewable energy expertise can continue to serve developing communities around the world, I wish the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village much success on behalf of the State of Israel,” said Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Israeli start-up seeks end to computer viruses by predicting them

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February 18, 2014
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Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 9.47.58 PM

CyActive says its engine is able to anticipate malware and hacking attacks.

An Israeli start-up claims to be able to combat viruses and hackers by predicting them – that is, anticipating, in the company’s words, “how hackers will evolve today’s malware into tomorrow’s advanced threats.”

CyActive, a 10-member company who boasts the slogan “Stay ahead of your attacker and place the unfair advantage in your hands,” says its engine is capable of predicting “hundreds of thousands of future malware derivatives… in mere hours,” then generating “future-proof detectors” which prevent malware attacks.

“When a threat is exposed, we predict that malware’s evolution to protect an organization before the black-hat hackers even write it,” Danny Levy, the company’s chief marketing officer, told Foxnews.com. “We have the ability to see the future and prepare for it.”

Source: Haaretz.com

Twitter Trends Expands to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa

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February 16, 2014
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Innovation
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Twitter

Social media company Twitter announced on Friday that it has expanded its Twitter Trends feature to include the Israeli cities of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa.

In a blog post, Twitter said, “Twitter Trends capture the pulse of the planet. We want to make it easy for anyone in any part of the world to find out what is happening around them, and Trends make that possible.”

The decision to include the three Israeli cities came as Twitter added another 50 urban locations to the Trends feature, accessible by entering #Jerusalem, #TelAviv or #Haifa in Twitter’s search bar or re-setting your location to reflect your favorite of the three Israeli cities.

In its online help section Twitter explains the Trends feature: “Trends are determined by an algorithm and, by default, are tailored for you based on who you follow and your location. This algorithm identifies topics that are immediately popular, rather than topics that have been popular for a while or on a daily basis, to help you discover the hottest emerging topics of discussion on Twitter that matter most to you.”

“You can choose to see Trends that are not tailored for you by selecting a specific Trends location on Twitter.com,” it says. “Location Trends identify popular topics among users in a specific geographic location.”

To use Twitter Trends in posts, the social media company says, “Just post a Tweet including the exact word or phrase as it appears in the Trends list (with the hashtag, if you see one). Due to the large number of users tweeting about these specific Trends, you may not always be able to find your particular Tweet in search, but your followers will always see your Tweets.”

Source: Algemeiner.com

The Israeli Army: the next great tech incubator?

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February 16, 2014
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Army Israel

A crop of successful new entrepreneurs is coming out of Israel and they credit military schooling for their success.

A whole crop of successful new entrepreneurs is coming out of Israel. The latest wave started last summer, with the news that Google paid $1.1 billion for the cutesy mapping-and-traffic app Waze. There’s the Israeli-Canadian team that just won the Global Startup Challenge. There’s the rise of Israeli venture firms, from Tel Aviv to Palo Alto. There’s an incubator just for Israeli entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley. And there’s the 52 percent spike in demand for web developers that Israel — and its $243 billion economy — saw in 2013.

Move aside, MIT, Stanford and Y Combinator — even IT and Tsinghua. It looks like the best entrepreneurial incubator in the world might actually be created via conscription … the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

What’s behind this budding startup and consumer-facing product industry? One guess, posited in the 2009 book Startup Nation by authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer, is the chutzpah explanation: Maybe there’s just something about the Israeli people and their scrappy survivors’ anything-is-possible mentality that makes the startup boom in their backyard anything but surprising.

Still, it’s got to be more than that.

SMALL COUNTRY, BIG MONEY

There’s about “one degree of separation” between people in the country of 8 million, says Yaron Galai, CEO of New York-based media company Outbrain.

“There’s definitely a great entrepreneurial spirit … and one success story means a lot. When people heard I had sold one company, they think, ‘I can do this.’” (Galai sold his previous company to AOL for $363 million.)

Plus, the military is a powerful networking tool. Especially when it’s mandatory.

Compared with the U.S., where less than 1 percent of the population serves in the military, or even India, where only around 3 percent join the military, about 50% of Israel’s population joins up, and they find an organization that prides itself on being tech-driven. The experience delivers all the obvious byproducts: loyalty; a tough-as-nails attitude, instilled at a young age; a strong alumni network; and future partnerships aplenty.

“You see a lot of founding teams coming out of the same army unit,” says Galai. In fact, Galai and his co-founder met during their younger days, in the navy.

DATA MINE EARLY AND OFTEN

Think what you will about the IDF, but from a skills standpoint, it’s hard to find a better training ground than a war room. Forget hackathons: If you can code and decrypt with the fate of a nation dripping from your sweaty pores, you’ll barely have to wipe your brow in a job interview.

The IDF hopped on the data train well before the rest of us: and those same skills they use to gather the data to track down al-Qaida are being used by savvy new Israeli entrepreneurs to tell you what to read online, what clothes to buy, what your tastes should be.

One Israeli success story is New York-based Adam Singolda, CEO of content-distribution company Taboola (one of those data-driven companies). He’s soon to become an American citizen, but only after having spent six years in an intelligence unit of the IDF.

“The Israeli Army is unique because it actually has an ‘HR function,’” Singolda said. “The whole concept of recruiting is very advanced.”

Which might sound counterintuitive in a country where so much of its population winds up in the military anyway — but there’s enormous competition leading up to the moment when teenagers are assigned to their specific unit. So from the very beginning, future CEOs are groomed and grown through a process that could make the Harvard admissions department shudder. Proving yourself early means proving yourself often is not such a big deal — it’s a habit that’s tough to break.

Getting accepted into the high-pressure units like intelligence also means being among the most impressive scientific or mathematical minds in the country.

Perhaps the bar is a little easier to reach in a nation where state-funded schools (with strong math programs) are the norm, and where you can “major” in engineering (much like Asian schools) as a teenager. Picture then, if you will, a bigger, more driven pool of STEM-savvy talent coming through the Israeli system earlier than their peer countries — and emerging army-strong to put their finely honed skills to use.

NO ROOM FOR TEARS: A NEW KIND OF EDUCATIONAL DISRUPTION

To hear Singolda describe what he values in a new hire is to hear the new mantra of tech culture — and perhaps the next wave of mainstream corporate hiring culture.

“For me, experience is a much more important part of thinking about hiring than education.”

Sure, that’s not exactly new thinking. But contrast it to the last wave of engineers to power the tech boom: IT-trained Indian immigrants and Stanford stop-outs. Previously, universities offered smart, hungry students a kind of cushy (often Ivy-clad) home to try things out. And sure, the University of Tel Aviv is well and good, but Singolda, Galai and others swear their military time — rather than classroom time — mattered much more: the army was a better incubator and a better network driver. It’s how they grew up.

“It’s our college,” Galai said.

Certainly, the new emphasis on experience over education isn’t arising just thanks to Israelis or even Asian immigrants; indeed, it’s been a big factor for years in tech circles. But it’s one way the rise of Israeli business minds could be pushing their industry in new directions.

What’s ahead could be less obvious. Immigrants have a habit of influencing corporate culture in subtle ways. Once they’re so ubiquitous as to not be oddities anymore, their previously peculiar penchants become mainstream. Take the Polish and Irish influence on manufacturing to, more recently, the Indian impact on the tech boom (you can find tandoori chicken in any big tech company’s cafeteria, after all).

So what might be the fruits of this latest incarnation of globalization? Not just challah in the boardroom, we’re guessing.

Ozy.com is a USA TODAY content partner providing general news, commentary and coverage from around the Web. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY

Google acquires SlickLogin, Israeli start-up offering ‘military-grade security’

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February 16, 2014
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SlickLogin

Acquisition apparently comes in the form ‘acquhire’, allowing company founders – all IDF ‘cyber-warriors’ – to stay on at Google.

Another Israeli technology company has announced its move to a global giant: SlickLogin on Sunday posted a notice on its website that it has joined forces with Google, two days after news broke that Israeli-owned app Viber has been purchased by Japan’s Rakuten e-commerce colossus.

SlickLogin provides a revolutionary log-in identification that uses a smartphone to deliver an “ultrasonic frequency” to a nearby computer. The frequency is emitted after the user enters his or her password, thereby completing a two-stage process.

The statement from SlickLogin hails Google as “a company that shares our core beliefs that logging in should be easy instead of frustrating, and authentication should be effective without getting in the way.”

According to reports, the company will be absorbed into Google in an “acquhire”, rather than bought outright, in a deal worth “several million”. The company’s small staff – founders Or Zelig (CEO), Eran Galili (CTO) and Ori Kabeli (VP R&D) – will continue to work on their product as part of Google. All three served in the IDF’s cyber-security unit.

According to SlickLogin’s website, this system involves “unique patent-pending technologies and a fortified protocol model enable military-grade security.”

“Google was the first company to offer 2-step verification to everyone, for free – and they’re working on some great ideas that will make the internet safer for everyone,”said the statement from the Israeli company. “We couldn`t be more excited to join their efforts.”

Google has a history of acquiring Israeli start-ups. Most famously, it purchased the social media-driven GPS app Waze in 2013 for $966 million.

Source: Ynetnews.com

Japanese e-commerce giant buys Israeli messaging app Viber for $900 million

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February 14, 2014
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Viber

Rakuten says purchase will add 300 million users to its existing 200 million, sees ‘communication-based transaction’ future for online sales.

Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten Inc said Friday it will buy Israeli-owned instant messaging app provider Viber Media Ltd for $900 million, hoping to tap the company’s rapidly expanding business in emerging markets.

Rakuten said the purchase of Viber Media, run from Cyprus by Israeli entrepreneur Talmon Marco, will add 300 million users to its existing 200 million users.

Bloomberg quoted billionaire Rakuten owner Hiroshi Mikitani as saying that the acquisition is expected to be completed next month. According to Bloomberg, Mikitani believes that e-commerce will become “a more communication-based transaction.”

A statement from Mikitani on Friday praised Viber as “the most consistently high quality and convenient messaging and VoIP experience
available.”

“Simply put, Viber understands how people actually want to engage and have built the only service that truly delivers on all fronts,” he said. “This makes Viber the ideal total consumer engagement platform for Rakuten as we seek to bring our deep understanding of the consumer to vast new audiences through our dynamic ecosystem of Internet Services.”

A statement from Viber CEO Talmon Marco also highlighted the potential for instant messaging in the world of internet commerce

“This combination presents an amazing opportunity for Viber to enhance our rapid user growth in both existing and new markets,” Marco said. “Sharing similar aspirations with Rakuten, our vision is to be the world’s No.1 communications platform and our combination with Rakuten is an important step in that direction.”

Source: Ynetnews.com