Startup nations | New monthly column! High-tech news from Israel and Silicon Valley

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Israel has gained international recognition as one of the great hubs of innovation — second only to Silicon Valley — with more startups per capita than anywhere else in the world. Many Israeli startups also have Bay Area pedigrees and Silicon Valley headquarters, enjoying the benefits of San Francisco’s great ecosystem of entrepreneurs and investors. Waze, Hello Doctor, Magisto and other companies have established their base in the area, with tens of thousands of Israelis living and working as entrepreneurs or executives in tech companies in and around Palo Alto.

This monthly column will take an inside look at some of the tech highlights coming out of this mix, from Israel’s “Silicon Wadi” and California’s Silicon Valley, including the latest about Israeli-owned businesses in the San Francisco area, Bay Area investments in Israeli companies, and more.

Making miracles happen

One exciting development has been in the field of regenerative technology, where science and technology based in varying degrees on stem cell research help create synthetic organs to save human lives.

This breakthrough technology is set to take a huge leap forward following the agreement recently signed between the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the Israeli Industry Center for R&D (MATIMOP) to develop the transplant miracles of the future. This R&D collaboration also holds the promise of stimulating the body’s own repair mechanisms to heal previously unsalvageable tissues or organs, much the same way that our own skin repairs itself.

Israeli companies have long excelled in stem cell technologies, with global leaders such as BrainStorm developing breakthrough solutions for diseases such as ALS, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. American companies came a little later to the game once the Obama administration lifted strict limits on stem cell research. This collaboration holds the potential to help countless lives.

The agreement is part of a larger memorandum of understanding signed last March by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Gov. Jerry Brown, ushering in a highly strategic partnership between two great centers of research and innovation. The Israel-California relationship promises a future of collaborative scientific developments and information sharing, academic exchanges and expanded academic bilateral working groups, all for the purpose of devising global solutions.

This mutually beneficial relationship aims at disrupting a number of fields, including alternative energy, environmental technology and business innovation.

Startup of the month

To give you a taste of some of the dozens of Israeli startups based in Silicon Valley, we’ll shine our spotlight on one each month.

This month’s featured startup: Artbit. This mobile app enables users to interact directly with a work of art simply by pointing their smart device’s camera at it. Users then get a wealth of information about the piece, including information about the artist, as well as the work’s cultural and historical significance, kind of like the Shazam of the art world. You can use the app in your favorite art museums and galleries with Artbit’s logo.

Exit of the month

In November, Israeli cybersecurity startup Aorato was acquired by Microsoft in a deal reportedly worth $200 million. Aorato’s focus is on enterprise services in the cloud, using machine learning to detect suspicious patterns. Microsoft Corporate VP Takeshi Numoto wrote in his blog post, “We are making this acquisition to give customers a new level of protection against threats through better visibility into their identity infrastructure.”

Aorato previously raised $11 million, including a $10 million round last year from investors including Palo Alto–based Accel Partners, Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors and Israel-based Glilot Capital Partners. The company was founded in 2012 by a group of entrepreneurs who served in a special IDF cybersecurity unit.

Microsoft has been making other moves in Israel of late to bolster its worldwide security services. Last year, the tech giant joined forces with Akamai and Israeli VC Jerusalem Venture Partners to found the first cybersecurity-focused accelerator.

We’ll be back next month with more tech talk.

Gili Ovadia is the S.F.-based Israeli consul for economic affairs to the West Coast.