GeoQuant Seeks to Make Sense (and Shekels) of our Insane Political Situation

Reality TV star and all-around embarrassment to the human race Donald Trump is president of the United States, it seems the Russian government may have helped make it so, and this poor American kid was just evacuated from a North Korean jail in a coma after being sentenced to 15 years hard labor for taking down a poster. It’s unclear when this episode of Black Mirror that we’re evidently living in will be over, so we might as well make the most of it. That’s exactly what Israeli startup GeoQuant seeks to do. The company, which just raised $4 million in seed funding from Aleph, measures political risk in real-time, giving investors proprietary insight into how relatively unpredictable political situations around the world may affect markets.

Aleph VC’s Michael Eisenberg will join the board at GeoQuant. As Eisenberg explained to The Times of Israel, “Globalization of business and foreign direct investment is increasing while at the same time the world is becoming less stable. It is critical that businesses understand these risks and opportunities and prepare for them with real data, not punditry.”

GeoQuant’s software generates daily country scores and other indexes by scraping vast amounts of data, news, and content shared via social media content, which is combined with insight from leading political scientists and regional experts. Its Political Risk Scores and data streams for G20 countries have already been integrated into the Bloomberg terminal, and with this new funding from Aleph, you can expect to see their software popping up elsewhere as their backend grows.

As the world bursts into flames in the great garbage fire that is our crazy global political situation, the least you can do is make a little money out of it.

For Science!

I’d like to think of myself as a somewhat intelligent person– bold assumption I know. Say the word quantum though, and you’ve officially lost me. I’ve tried, I really have, to wrap my head around these things. No joke I went through a phase in high school when I checked out every book on the Higgs Boson from the library and read obsessively about it online. Sure, that may have had more to do with the fact that I was in love with my physics teacher than any genuine scientific interest, but admittedly, I found this was pretty cool stuff. Now I actually have no idea if this is tied to quantum computing (as my foray into the physical sciences was clearly short-lived), but the recent good news from Hebrew U’s Quantum Information Science Center reminded me of it, so LET ME LIVE!

Yesterday, the QISC (if this acronym’s not a thing, now it is) secured 7.5 million NIS from the Ministry of Defense to develop a brand new quantum communications technology. According to Globes, “The goal of this project is to develop homegrown Israeli expertise and technology for a national quantum communications system that will prevent eavesdropping, protect data privacy and secure national infrastructure.” Basically, they’re gonna science the shit out of anyone who tries to spy on Israel. Rather than using today’s encryption methods for protecting communications data, quantum communications systems rely on quantum bits and the laws of physics, ensuring greater privacy and security for the data being transferred. What exactly is a quantum bit? No clue, but let me Google that for you.

Bottom line: money, for science, for cybersecurity, for Israel. For science.

New Investment in “Digital Israel” Initiative

This morning, the Ministry of Social Equality announced a 1.3 billion NIS investment in “Digital Israel”, a program aimed at:

  1. Reducing wealth disparities by decreasing living costs and promoting healthcare and welfare in more rural areas.
  2. Promote digital industry and businesses while building a stronger employment infrastructure for the industry.
  3. Increase the usability of government ministries and local governments, making them more accessible to citizens.

Because as it currently stands, if there’s one thing Israeli government bureaucracy is not, it’s user friendly. Although still early in the development phase, you can get a slightly more specific sense for what the initiative entails here. To me, this seems like a pretty smart investment. Increasingly, digital literacy is the key to economic mobility, so making education and government services a priority for the working class is a huge growth opportunity. Because this initiative spans everything from healthcare to user experience for government sites, it seems like they still need to take some time to define their own goals before they can start affecting change. That being said, this early stage investment is a great start.

Protocols of the Techies of Zion

The best class I took at Tel Aviv University was called Cybersecurity Law and Policy: Global and Israeli Perspectives. My professor was Deborah Housen-Couriel, who is a super smart lawyer, cybersecurity consultant, researcher, etc. and major contributor to NATO’s The Tallinn Manual 2.0 aka the working Bible on all things cyber. Deborah was responsible for (among other things) all of Israel’s part in Tallinn. Anyway, somewhere between doing all this and running her own cyber regulation consulting firm she manages to find the time to teach a class at Tel Aviv University that I was lucky enough to take. She, and apparently anyone else who’s anyone, from Bibi to well… a lot of other people, will be speaking at Tel Aviv University’s Cyber Week later this month. If I were in the country June 25th-29th I would be there, so can someone go for me and take good notes? I promise I’ll let you copy my homework next time.

Seriously! Do you really want to miss out on this clearly evil scheme for complete global tech domination?!

 

 

A nation by any other name would smell as lucrative

Startup Nation has grown into Tech Nation, Intel Israel R&D chief says

At Tel Aviv’s Technovation Conference Tuesday, Ran Senderovitz suggested a language tweak for reshaping how the world sees Israel’s role in tech. “We must define Israel not as Startup Nation but as Tech Nation. To define Israel as a Startup Nation is like saying we are Peter Pan — we are this kid that never grows up; we are eternally young. The fact that multinational companies invest in Israel is proof that we can not only create technologies but also grow them in the longer term.”

Not a bad idea– after all, what happens to someone who specializes in start-ups once the start-up is no longer a start-up? Welp, maybe a layoff. Or what about the start-up co-founder who sells their share 40 years too early and loses out on tens of billions of dollars? No one wants to be that guy.

Israel is undeniably young in every sense of the world, which we’ve seen has been a huge advantage in innovation, entrepreneurship and tech. Organizations are lean, people work hard, play hard, and bright new ideas flow like milk and honey. How then, will the tech workforce have to adapt and grow in the decades to come now that the first few rounds of Israeli startups clearly have global staying power? If there’s one thing Israelis generally have, it’s the clear conviction that their ideas are right. As a rule. Meaning tech entrepreneurs should hold on to their billion dollar ideas, not sell to soon, and work on developing a culture where start-ups want to stay in Israel as they grow into established tech companies. As Senderovitz suggests, maybe this starts with a language change.

 

$100 Million Baby

Tel Aviv-based cybersecurity company Hexadite sold to Microsoft for $100 million today, June 8th. To date, Hexadite had raised $10.5M. A leader in the cybersecurity space, the company’s Automated Incident Response Solution set it apart, harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to decrease response time on smaller-scale penetrations. According to the good people of Hexadite, they’re working to “optimize overtaxed security resources for increased productivity, reduced costs and stronger overall security.” TechCrunch’s take on the acquisition? “The idea is to expand Microsoft’s existing security portfolio with an infusion of new technology based around new innovations in areas like AI and machine learning.” You know, so the real security experts will have time for more important things like cruising Dizengoff Center on their segways.

When Americans Try Teaching Israelis About Bootcamp

500 Startups launches a short marketing ramp-up bootcamp for startups in Israel

TLDR; 9 Israeli B2B startups are part of a bootcamp from American venture fund and seed incubator 500 Startups (https://500.co/). The startups get a 4-week training program on marketing and growth in exchange for 1% of the company for every $25k attributed to the new marketing tactics. Because if there’s one thing Jews love, it’s summer camp.

Mehutz LeStartup Nation

Upon finishing Dan Senor and Saul Singer’s book Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle I remember being deeply impressed and deeply critical- did I finally understand just what made this country and its people uniquely positioned to dominate the tech industry for the foreseeable future? Or did I just fall for a well-argued piece of propaganda? Seeing as it was the first book you see on every shelf in every bookstore in Ben Gurion I was leaning a bit towards a (very persuasive) piece of propaganda. But what Senor and Singer were saying wasn’t wrong: Israel is uniquely positioned in the tech market, second only to Silicon Valley and Israelis do seem uniquely suited to this kind of work. I buy it too. After living in Tel Aviv for four months I can confidently say at least 90% of the people I met under the age of 35 were working in tech.

How did that story go again? Moses went to Pharaoh and said “Let my people go, that they may work for Intel?” Something like that. Whatever it was– it must’ve worked! Today’s Israelis are clearly gifted from birth with an elevator pitch, seed funding from Aleph, and a team of round-the-clock Indian programmers. Hmm… maybe not. What they do have though, is compulsory military service, some of which (i.e. cyber security) is highly related to the types of lean startup tech jobs these after-army Israelis are getting (and creating!) in the private sector.

Check this out: 8200 Graduates are not like 23 year olds in Texas or Norway

In the article, Nadav Zafrir (Team8 CEO and former 8200 commander Brigadier General) explains, “In general, military service, beyond its necessity for the nation’s security, and I’m not being cynical, makes a significant contribution to the Israeli economy.” True, this makes a lot of sense, and probably also means that even if one day- in a highly hypothetical future- there were deemed to be no more existential threat to the state of Israel, service would likely continue to be compulsory in some capacity. Even today, does every kid in Israel really need to be drafted into the army? Need is a strong word, but if you look at it in part as a training program for civilian life and the private sector, it likely does help Israel’s economy continue to run smoothly. Later, Zafrir continues, “If anything is very lacking it the cyber security industry, it’s very talented and experienced people. In Israel, thanks to Unit 8200, there is a wellspring of talents joining the industry at a very young age.”

Not everyone, of course is 8200 material. But surely there are undiscovered entrepreneurs with the next billion dollar idea out there who happen to live somewhere where rather than being drafted to the military at 18 they go to college and take modern dance credits and The Philosophical Origins of Seinfeld. Ok, so not exactly a sob story (and no offense to Seinfeld, sounds like a great class), but it begs the question- how can other countries in literally any other geopolitical situation create an innovation hub and technical talent pool that mirrors Israel’s? As my Ulpan teacher would say, we can’t know. I’ll think about it and get back to you, but maybe it’s time we Americans rethink the way we fork over hundreds of thousands of dollars for undergraduate education that often has little to do with what we end up doing. But hey, at least it’s fun.