Paul-René Albertini & Shahar Namer from Sushi Venture Partners are co-founders of Startupbootcamp Israel. In this post they discuss how the accelerator project came about and their plans going forward.
1. Please tell us briefly about your backgrounds
Shahar (SN): My expertise is in tech startup investment, business development, product licensing and advisory services in the Israeli-European tech industry. After moving to London from Israel a few years ago I met Paul-René and we started collaborating on a number of startup deals before setting up SushiVP. Paul-René (PRA): I’ve had a extensive career in the media industry which included major stints at Sony Entertainment and Warner Music Group. Started in this business almost thirty years ago as an independent record producer, worked up the ladder and most recently served as Chair & CEO of Warner Music International. In the last few years the main focus has been on digital media companies which is how I ended up meeting and working with Shahar.
2. You both were originally based in the UK. What brought you to Israel?
SN: Israel has been on our radar for some time. I grew up here and whilst in the UK, was also a part time resident of Haifa & Tel Aviv. Links to the universities and tech scene here have been key to helping us establish dealflow and partnerships. PRA: We set up Sushi Venture Partners in 2010 to target investments in Israel and Europe. Along with growing levels of startup activity, the quality of startup dealflow improved significantly in the last couple of years with consumer facing product themes becoming more prominent – this was coupled with some notable Israeli acquisitions by leading tech players such as Facebook, Google, Qualcomm, Akamai & Apple (see: Snaptu, Face.com, Quiksee, Labpixies, Anobit, DesignArt etc) which reinforced our investment case for Israel. The opportunity to partner with Startupbootcamp came up last year. The decision to proceed and set up a local accelerator program fit in perfectly with SushiVP’s plans.
3. Why Haifa?
SN: The abundance of engineering talent combined with the universities and strong links to industry, eg Matam, make Haifa a very attractive choice. PRA: Actually, we also considered Tel Aviv and it seemed a bit crowded for us. Given what we’ve seen with emerging tech clusters in Europe & the UK, we felt this proximity to strong technology universities and the industry are going to be critical to the longevity of the startup ecosystem we are inserting ourselves into. We were genuinely surprised there weren’t more accelerators in Haifa and worked hard with Startupbootcamp to be operational in Haifa by the middle of this year.
4. What companies are you expecting to invest in?
SN: Broadly speaking we focus on digital products and the tech behind them – we’re keeping a close watching brief on mobile, web and digital media applications as there is strong demand for them – both from consumers & acquisitive tech corporates.
5. Can prospective startups speak to you before applying?
6. How frequently will this program run?
PRA: We’re still in execution mode for the first one! SN: We’re quite thrilled to be here and have already started thinking of a further three month program in 2013. At this stage, we’re tentatively planning to have at least two a year – this could increase.
7. What happens after the three months?
PRA: There will be an Investor Demo Day where the teams will present to an invited audience of international & local investors. SBC has a good track record, over 50% of their startup teams have gone on to receive further funding. SN: We set up SushiVP for Israeli investments so we’ll also be wearing a slighty different hat on the day and looking to support the startup teams.
8. What led SushiVP to partner with Startupbootcamp?
PRA: Good pedigree, their connection with Techstars and well organised programs to name a few. SN: We also like the team. One of the key points in the startup space is to have a good balance between the structured + unstructured nature of startup investing & nurturing. Startupbootcamp’s program has this at its core. Actually this could be something we discuss in more depth in a follow up, it’s an important issue given the number of accelerators (and incubators) that are popping up. PRA: Yes, there’s also the network effect of having an interconnected grouping of entrepreneurs, mentors and industry connections which we feel is critical for startup success – ie the fluid exchange of ideas and opportunities that emerge from this, not forgetting the benefits of having teams that are building products in close proximity to each other. All of this really improves outcomes, and makes for a great startup environment.
9. So what’s next for you guys?
SN: The Jewish new year kicks off this weekend. We hope to attract many more applications by our deadline in mid October – so far it’s looking good. We shall be ramping up with more events and announcements in the coming weeks, and finalising a workspace location asap. PRA: Yes, the deadline for applications is coming up. We would advise any interested startups to get in touch asap with Shahar, Shai who runs operations or via @SBCIsrael – even if you just have preliminary questions. We very much look forward to speaking with all of you!