Israel’s attractiveness to foreign tech companies continues with the news that France-based network operator Orange is to open its latest accelerator in Tel Aviv.
Called Orange Fab, the program, Orange’s first accelerator in Israel, will be housed in SOSA, a new joint workspace for tech start-ups in the south of the city.
SOSA (short for south of Salame, a major Tel Aviv street), was created by partners at two of Israeli’s leading venture firms: Pitango Venture Partners’ Rami Beracha and Genesis Partners’ Jonathan Saacks as well as several other veterans of Israel’s tech scene. The building, a former industrial space that now offers meeting rooms, a roof overlooking the city and a lounge bar, is aiming to become a popular spot for Israeli start-ups, entrepreneurs and investors to convene. Microsoft Ventures, SAP and PayPal have also taken office space at SOSA.
Mari-Noelle Jego-Laveissière, Orange’s senior vice president of innovation, marketing and technologies, and Nathalie Boulanger, director of the Orange Start-Up Ecosystem, will travel to Tel Aviv for the opening. The DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival will include an invitation-only launch party to mark the opening.
The opening of an accelerator in Israel will deepen Orange’s interactions with Israeli start-ups, says Jacky Abitbol, the director of Orange Fab Israel and Orange’s vice-president of corporate development in charge of relations with the investment community and international alliances. The first cohort in Israel will comprise sixstart-ups. The names of the start-ups had not been announced at press time.
Potential Customer Reach Of 500 Million
Fab Israel (along with Orange Fabs set up in Silicon Valley, France, Poland, Japan and Ivory Coast) uses strict criteria to determine which companies get selected, including whether it is a product fit for Orange, product readiness, team background and ease of integration into the Orange business/infrastructure. Those that make the cut get free office space for three months and mentoring. Orange has the option of investing up to $20,000 in a start-up or becoming a shareholder if the company raises outside capital.
In addition, thanks to a new joint venture agreement between Orange and Deutsche Telekom, selected startups from Orange Fab and the German operator’s hub:raum accelerator program will be connected to the innovation teams and business units of both operators to see if it makes sense to distribute a start-up’s products to the operators’ customers in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Combined, the German and French operators reach a potential customer base of some 500 million people. Start-ups in the Fab program in the fields of Internet of Things, network optimization/access technology, mobile payment, cybersecurity and big data may additionally have access to the investment vehicles which have been set up by Orange and Deutsche Telekom.
Orange invests in start-ups through Iris Capital, a joint fund set up by Orange and global ad agency Publicis.
Orange’s First Foray Into Israel Was In 2008
Abitbol took part in the 2011 launch of Iris Capital (which was then called Orange Capital), and was behind the fund’s first investment: Israel’s myThings, which specializes in retargeting technology.
The new Fab Israel accelerator program “will help start-ups to scale up while bringing innovation to our customers around the world,” says Abitbol.
The number of co-working spaces, incubators and accelerators in Tel Aviv has mushroomed in recent years. But the presence of big companies that look to Israel as a font of innovation is by no means a new phenomenon. Israel has been particularly successful in attracting big U.S. tech giants like Microsoft, Intel, Cisco and IBM to invest fortunes in fostering innovation through some 250 research and development centers in Israel. BigEuropean companies like Orange also have long-established ties with Israel. Orange’s first foray into Israel was in 2008, with the purchase of Orca, an Israeli company that helped pioneer Internet TV. (The company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Orange, is now called Viaccess-Orca or VO and provides both a service delivery platform and a security solution for TV over IP.)
Roseline Kalifa, the Orange executive behind the Orca deal, is also credited with pushing for the opening of a development center in Israel in 2008. At the now defunct center developers carried out testing of mobile content and applications and connected with Orange around a variety of communication technologies. The collaboration led to partnerships with several startups to offer new services to Orange’s customers around the globe, such as Orange Maps.