Japan's Softbank to Open Israel VC Office Headed By Former Mossad Head Yossi Cohen

Published July 12th, 2021 - 02:00 GMT
Japan's Softbank to Open Israel VC Office Headed By Former Mossad Head Yossi Cohen
SoftBank has pioneered a new approach to technology investing and created the world’s largest ecosystem of emerging technology champions. (Shutterstock)
Highlights
SoftBank's Vision Fund has more than $100 billion in committed capital, and has backed such global powerhouses as Alibaba, TikTok and Uber.
SoftBank, the Japanese firm that runs the largest venture capital fund in the world, is preparing to open an office in Israel that will be headed by former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, according to reports in the Hebrew press.
 
SoftBank's Vision Fund has more than $100 billion in committed capital, and has backed such global powerhouses as Alibaba, TikTok and Uber. The multinational conglomerate is coming off one of the most successful years in world business history after it reported a net profit of $45.88 billion for the year ended March 31.
 
The entry of such a powerful investor into the Israeli market is expected to accelerate activity in a red-hot Israeli tech environment that is already experiencing unprecedented hypergrowth. Israeli tech companies have already raised some $12 billion in the first six months of the year, when its previous high was $10.5 billion during the entire span of 2020. SoftBank generally makes investments of no less than $50 million in promising late-stage growth companies, and it will find no shortage of promising candidates in Israel.
 
SoftBank already has investments in numerous Israeli companies, including facial recognition company AnyVision, which said it raised $235 million last week. SoftBank also has holdings in retail analytics company Trax Image Recognition and database software firm Redis Labs, which raised a combined $950 million in early April.

Facial recognition is currently being used to cross borders and even enter hospitals. To ensure AI systems aren't biased, AnyVision researcher Dr. Eduard Vazquez told the Post, you must have excellent data.
 
Cohen doesn't have a background in business, but his successes as the head of Israel's national intelligence agency have made him a very respected and well-connected personality in Israel. One of the architects of Israel's recent normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Cohen will likely find it easy serving as the intermediary between Israeli companies and SoftBank's investment team.
 
“SoftBank has pioneered a new approach to technology investing and created the world’s largest ecosystem of emerging technology champions,” Cohen told the Globes financial daily. “Israel’s advanced technology and entrepreneurial culture make it a natural fit for SoftBank’s investment vision and I look forward to helping fast-moving companies scale in the region and globally.”
 
Cohen, age 59, has been nicknamed "the model" for his good looks, and he has maintained a surprisingly high public profile for the head of an organization that is shrouded in secrecy. Cohen stepped down as the head of the Mossad on June 1 after five years on the job, and has been touted as a future prime ministerial candidate.
 
Large overseas investment funds have been flocking to Israel in recent years, and the trend has been escalating. In April Blackstone, one of the world’s largest investment firms with $649 billion in assets under management, said it was setting up an office in Israel, led by former LeumiTech CEO Yifat Oron. SoftBank's entry into the market adds another mark of strength.

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