Indian billionaire hosts Israeli start-up targets

Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries has hosted Israeli companies including SimilarWeb and Perion.

As reported in Globes: One month after “Bloomberg” revealed that Mukesh Ambani, the richest man in India, was considering investments in startups in Israel, as well as in the UK and US, things appear to be moving rather quickly.

Sources inform “Globes” that a number of representatives of Israeli startups and technology companies left to visit India last week in order to participate in a conference organized by Ambani-owned Indian company Reliance Industries and present their technological capabilities.

Heading the list of the Israeli companies that participated in last week’s conference was SimilarWeb, which has developed a traffic monitoring and analysis tool for websites and applications. The company, which has raised $40 million to date, was represented by cofounder and CEO Or Offer.

Other Israeli companies making presentations to Ambani’s men included Celltick, a provider of medical services for mobile platforms, which has raised $42 million to date, and Israeli startup Winapp, which has developed technology linking the print world with the digital world.

Other participants included large Israeli technology companies, which are apparently looking for cooperation, rather than investments. One is Perion Network Ltd., which markets software and applications, and another is Outbrain Inc., which has developed an engine for recommending contents for websites.

Outbrain is still defined as a private company based on financing rounds, but it is well on the way to an IPO, so the company is probably aiming at cooperation with one of Ambani’s companies, rather than attracting investment.

The Indian market is considered one of the world’s hottest and fastest developing for Internet and technology. Beyond Ambani’s big money, the connections of Reliance, which operates in oil and telecoms, can be used to reach many users, making it attractive to quite a few Israel (and non-Israeli) entrepreneurs.

Reliance has an investment fund named GenNext Ventures, which “Bloomberg” has reported conducted talks with venture capital funds and private investors in Israel, the US, and the UK in order to help Ambani and his company find startups suitable for investment and cooperation.

GenNext managing partner Vivek Rai Gupta told Bloomberg that cooperation could be advantageous for both sides. “Startups can obtain opportunities for reaching a major market, such as India, and we can gain access to the best ideas around,” he said.

GenNext chairman Raghunath Anant Mashelkar told “Bloomberg” on the same occasion that his company planned to acquire minority holdings in startups operating it spheres related to Reliance’s diverse fields. “There is a broad range of business within the Reliance group, and we’ll look for startups with a natural link to this echosphere,” he noted.

GenNext operates a startup accelerator in India – part of a cooperative venture by Reliance, its parent company, with Microsoft Ventures. GenNext has invested to date in two companies, Videonetics Technologies, which deals in video technologies, and Covacsis, which offers analytics services for production plants.

According to “Bloomberg”, Reliance has $10.6 billion in available cash. In addition to its business in the oil and oil refining market, its Reliance Retail subsidiary owns marketing and lifestyle chains in India, and plans to enter the online commerce sector.

The Israeli Delegation to India was coordinated by the head of DLA Piper’s Israeli practice, Jeremy Lustman, who arrived in India along with a number of his colleagues from the US and Europe. The largest global law firm is currently working with a large number of local Israeli companies who are interested in further collaboration with India.

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