Horizons Israel shopping spree creates synergy for Li Ka-shing

January 19, 2015 09:10
Ofer Vilenski (right), founder and chief executive of Hola, says he once declined an investment from Solina Chau (left) because he did not know who she or Li Ka-shing was. Photo: EJ Insight

Horizons Ventures, a venture capital company controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, will continue to seek out technology companies to help support his core businesses.

The company has decided to invest in two Israeli firms from more than 20 that made a presentation during a shopping trip to Israel last week, person-in-charge Solina Chau told reporters.

Both companies provide data services and trend analysis.

In future, Horizons Ventures will target a wider range of businesses that own irreplaceable technologies, Chau said. 

She said Horizons Ventures has invested in about 50 companies, including 27 in Israel, for a combined US$420 million.

But Chau said it is not easy to do these deals. She said she chased Hola, a virtual private network service provider, halfway around the world.

Hola founder and chief executive Ofer Vilenski said he gave a presentation about his company to Chau in Israel two years ago and was told Horizons Ventures was interested in a stake.

“At that time, I said to them that I did not need funding... I did not know who Solina Chau or Li Ka-shing was,” Vilenski said.

Yehoshua Zeevi, co-founder of Cortica, which provides photo recognition services, said he knew about Horizons Ventures through his connections with business partners related to Hutchison Whampoa, Li's flagship company.

Zeevi said the company received an investment from Horizons Ventures after his first meeting with Chau.

He is confident his company’s valuation will surpass that of traffic and navigation app maker Waze.

After selling his company to Google in 2013, Uri Levine, a co-founder of Waze, founded FeeX which helps users minimize their financial expenses such as late charges for debt payment.

FeeX received an investment from Horizons Ventures last year.

On Jan. 8, Horizons Ventures and the Li Ka Shing Foundation took 50 Hong Kong students on a six-day visit to Israel to meet local startups.

The students also made mock presentations to investors.

Chau, who is also a director of the Li Ka Shing Foundation, said the charity fund is considering a mentorship program to link up startup entrepreneurs and students.

Avi Hasson, chief scientist of Israel's economy ministry, said innovation alone does not guarantee success for technology startups.

At any one time, more than 10 companies build their business on the same idea, he said.

Hasson said the ability to execute these ideas is the most essential element of the business.

About 10 percent of Israel's working population are in the technology and innovation sectors thanks to government support, he said.

The Israeli government offers incentives to startups, mostly funding, helping create jobs and encouraging growth in the intellectual property industry.

-- Contact us at [email protected]


Execution makes the difference as startups usually build their business on the same ideas, says Avi Hasson, chief scientist of the Israeli government  Photo: EJ Insight

Chief reporter at EJ Insight