IVA chairman avoids content and services start-up companies

The hi-tech industry may be experiencing strong growth but not all companies are created equal and Israel Venture Association chairman Yoram Oran avoids investing in those that make consumer goods and run e-commerce sights.

By YIGAL GRAYEFF
November 2, 2005 07:20
4 minute read.

 
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The hi-tech industry may be experiencing strong growth but not all companies are created equal and Israel Venture Association chairman Yoram Oran avoids investing in those that make consumer goods and run e-commerce sights. "We don't do consumer products and we don't do content and services companies, although this doesn't mean that there is no place for them," said Oran, who believes Israel has less to offer in content and services. Oran, who is also the founder and managing director of Vertex Venture Capital, spoke to The Jerusalem Post ahead of an Israel Venture Association (IVA) venture capital conference in California next Thursday. "Shopping.com is an excellent company but it's an exception. It went through many crises before it reached its position," he said, citing one of the most high profile Israeli successes in the services sector. Earlier this year, eBay bought the company for $620 million, although Oran said the story is not a common one. "Shopping.com is a services company, an e-commerce web site. There are content Web sites and there are e-commerce sites. This isn't our natural strength." However, by listing on Nasdaq before being bought by a large foreign company, Shopping.com did follow a route taken by many other Israeli companies, and Oran expects at least six more to list on Nasdaq in the coming months. He declined to provide names other than to say that some are companies that have already published their intentions to list in the US, such as Saifun Semiconductors. Passave, another company that develops micro-chips, also said recently that it plans an initial public offering on Nasdaq. Oran believes that the number of Israeli companies listing in the US would be even higher if it was not so expensive, especially because of the costs associated with complying with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The law was passed after the Enron scandal and increased companies' disclosure requirements. Nevertheless, Oran believes it is still preferable to list on Nasdaq rather than on the Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchange, which has also attracted a lot of Israeli companies this year, such as satellite services provider Gilat Satcom and Ex Libris, a developer of software for libraries. "Nasdaq without a doubt is better [because] with AIM there is a problem of liquidity," he said. "Everything begins and ends with the liquidity of the stock, as this ensures everybody's interest." One way to maintain interest is to be a successful telecommunications company, such as Orckit Communications, whose shares rocketed on Monday after it swung to a third-quarter net profit and said it expects strong growth over the next year or so. "Communications and its derivatives are the strongest part of the Israeli hi-tech industry, while there is also a strengthening in medical devices," said Oran. Another area, he said, that is attracting great interest at the moment is energy and water, "where I see little investment, but it will of course be a huge area." He called Ormat an example of this but said there are many more: "Everything to do with water desalination and water quality testing." Other areas that are becoming stronger are data protection, homeland security and consumer related technologies, such as those for television screens and components for the DVD and digital technologies, Oran added. The strength of Israeli technological innovation is something Oran will promote at next week's IVA conference, which will be attended by three of the world's largest investors in venture capital funds - HarbourVest, GIC (Singapore) and Grove Street. Senior executives from multi-national companies such as Microsoft, Computer Associates and Yahoo! also will participate. Israeli companies due to attend include Mercury Interactive, which sells software that helps companies test, manage and integrate business applications, and printing technology company Electronics For Imaging.

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