Deep within the ancient city of Jerusalem, a tech-savvy investment firm is working on the latest modern-day tools to delight consumers and thwart cybercrime.
The striking headquarters of Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), a stop on the Technion World Tour, is located in a historic compound that draws visitors from around the world. Since 1993, JVP has shown a stellar talent for finding, nurturing — and cashing in quite nicely — on promising startups.
And once again JVP has been way ahead of the pack as it expands its focus from digital media infrastructure into the booming area of cybersecurity, a growing concern for consumers, businesses and governments worldwide.
“The big thing is changing the equation between the attacker and the defender,” says Managing Partner Kobi Rozengarten, a Technion Industrial Engineering and Management graduate who has been with the firm since 1997.
“We are in the business of defending. Securing the cloud, securing your devices, securing your wi-fi, even securing your business from employees or impostors who might mean harm.”
One of Israel’s leading venture capital funds, JVP was recently ranked by the investment data firm Preqin among the top 10 consistently performing funds in the world. With more than $1 billion raised to date, JVP has helped build over 120 companies and orchestrated about 30 major “exits” — investor lingo for a successful industry sale or stock-market IPO.
How do they do it? Kobi explains that Israel’s VC community is largely clustered around Tel Aviv, “So when you’re outside the center you have to think differently.”
JVP thus took the unusually proactive step of creating its own start-up incubator, in league with an Israeli government early-stage start-up program — a unique public-private strategy in the venture capital world.
“At JVP this is a great model for building companies, ” Kobi says. “And we’re proud to see other investors emulating our model.”
Looking for ideas that can have international impact, JVP will audition about 1,000 startups yearly — but invest in perhaps just 10. If your startup is among that lucky 1 percent, you’ll benefit not just from seed money but from the JVP team’s many combined years of hands-on high-tech industry experience.
“We are company builders, not financial investors,” emphasizes Kobi, who learned the ropes leading his own successful semiconductor startup. “We also have a deeper commitment to our companies. It can take a decade or more to ready a firm for a successful exit.”
Ehud Rokach, a Technion alumnus and Co-founder of XtremIO, says “JVP did an impeccable job helping us grow our startup, and they have been such a valuable partner for other tech companies sprouting from the Technion. It also helps that Kobi really gets us. As an alumnus, he knows how we think, and that the sky’s the limit for us given the training we received at the Tehnion.” XtremIO is the leading all-flash array on the market, and another stop on the Technion World Tour.
Serving on the Technion Board of Governors, Kobi also helps run a scholarship fund for Jerusalem residents hoping to study at the university, and says JVP stands ready to lend its expertise as the Technion continues to enhance its own emphasis on entrepreneurship.
Along with its impressive return on investment, JVP might be the only VC firm that is also a must-see on any tourist itinerary.
Housed in the renovated national Mint of the British Empire and the Ottoman warehouses next door, its headquarters — known as the JVP Media Quarter — has been a driving force in the revitalization that has swept the area surrounding Jerusalem’s old train station.
The Media Quarter is the brainchild of company founder Erel Margalit, who in 2006 envisioned a new life for the Mint, built by the British in 1937 and abandoned by the Israeli government in the 1980’s.
After two years of painstaking preservation, in moved JVP’s venture capital team, its Media Labs incubator and about a dozen of its leading portfolio companies. The compound houses 300-plus employees as well as the fund’s own busy performing arts hub and its philanthropic community outreach organization.
Architecture buffs will especially appreciate the Mint building’s landmark Bauhaus style. But any visitor will appreciate the spark of creativity and innovation running through the complex with its mix of engineers, artists, authors, filmmakers and cultural figures.
“Our headquarters is a unique place,” Kobi says, “right in front of Mt. Zion, site of King David‘s Tomb and Jesus‘ last supper. Jerusalem is becoming more active and more a part of the “Start-Up Nation.” We regularly welcome business and government delegations from around the world who come to study our business model.”
Changing the Equation
That model got an additional boost last year as JVP sealed a major partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba — the Amazon of Asia — to support promising tech startups.
JVP’s start-up portfolio is attractive to companies such as Alibaba because of its focus on enterprise security software — vital technology as Alibaba grows beyond e-commerce into cloud computing, data management, online payments and credit scoring.
“When a 14-year-old hacker somewhere in Iran can get into a company’s system and cause many millions of dollars worth of damage,” Kobi says, “you must change that equation. You must make that attack much more difficult.”
“As the ferocity, scope and sophistication of cyber-attacks continue to grow, so must our capacity to defend our critical assets,” comments Gadi Tirosh, a fellow managing partner at JVP, in a recent report. “As part of our investment process, we review about 90 percent of the Israeli cyber startups, and we are very excited by the level of creativity, know-how and innovation that we are seeing.”
Technion World Tour
The JVP headquarters is just one of the many exciting stops on the Technion World Tour. To learn more, register or request more information, please visit www.technionworldtour.org.