Colorado-based ven­ture cap­i­tal fund to bring in Is­raeli startups

Firms that fo­cus on en­ergy, wa­ter and trans­porta­tion will re­ceive grants to­tal­ing $1.5M.

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Erin Dou­glas

In a unique in­ter­na­tional part­ner­ship, the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment and a Colorado-based ven­ture cap­i­tal fund will start a new pro­gram to bring to Colorado Is­raeli startups that fo­cus on wa­ter, en­ergy and trans­porta­tion.

The Is­rael-Colorado In­no­va­tion Fund is a ven­ture cap­i­tal firm es­tab­lished in April by Gili Elkin, an Is­raeli cit­i­zen but a na­tive of Berke­ley, Calif., who worked in Sil­i­con Val­ley rep­re­sent­ing ven­ture cap­i­tal firms. Af­ter mov­ing back to Is­rael for a short pe­riod of time, she de­cided to try her hand in Colorado, a place she be­lieves is fer­tile ground for new com­pa­nies.

“I moved here be­cause of the fast-grow­ing startup ecosys­tem here in Colorado,” Elkin said. “Be­cause it’s not as crowded as Sil­i­con Val­ley, I be­lieve startups have a bet­ter chance to stand out here.”

The fund, which was spear­headed by some of Colorado’s lead­ing en­ergy and wa­ter ex­ec­u­tives and backed by In­no­sphere, a Colorado startup ac­cel­er­a­tor, has a an­nual bud­get of $4 mil­lion. This year, six com­pa­nies are be­ing given grants to­tal­ing $1.5 mil­lion.

The Is­raeli In­no­va­tion Au­thor­ity will match funds put up by Elkin’s firm, an agree­ment that is the first of its kind, she said. Pre­vi­ously, the in­no­va­tion au­thor­ity has not part­nered with an agency or firm out­side Is­rael. Elkin at­trib­uted the part­ner­ship to Gov. John Hicken-

looper’s sup­port for the idea.

Dur­ing a launch event Mon­day, Kath­leen Staks, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Colorado En­ergy Of­fice, dis­cussed the part­ner­ship, ac­cord­ing to a tran­script of her com­ments sent by Elkins. Staks said the part­ner­ship builds on the wa­ter in­dus­try ef­forts Hick­en­looper started in 2015 with the Colorado Wa­ter Plan and his ex­ec­u­tive or­der com­mit­ting the state to cli­mate ac­tion.

“As Colorado’s pop­u­la­tion con­tin­ues to grow, ef­fec­tive means of man­ag­ing and treat­ing wa­ter will be­come in­creas­ingly vi­tal,” Staks said Mon­day. “Our state is al­ways ea­ger to ad­vance its po­si­tion in the sec­tors (of en­ergy, wa­ter, and trans­porta­tion) through in­no­va­tion and part­ner­ship.”

Each se­lected startup re­ceives be­tween $500,000 and $1 mil­lion. Elkin said the ven­ture is still rais­ing funds, but it has sev­eral com­mit­ments and ex­pect to reach its tar­get soon.

Beyond fund­ing, the pro­gram also supports the startups af­ter mov­ing to Colorado by help­ing to con­nect them with the U.S. mar­ket.

Is­rael is a world leader in startups; the coun­try has the most per capita and the sec­ond high­est con­cen­tra­tion of startups in the world, be­hind Sil­i­con Val­ley.

The Is­rael-Colorado In­no­va­tion Fund will in­vest in 10 to 15 com­pa­nies dur­ing four-year in­vest­ment pe­ri­ods, but the com­mit­ment ex­tends to a decade. Af­ter fund­ing, com­pa­nies re­ceive net­work­ing sup­port to help ini­ti­ate growth in the U.S.

“Our vi­sion is to turn Colorado into the ‘Sil­i­con Moun­tain’ of wa­ter, en­ergy and trans­porta­tion (WET) sec­tors,” Elkin said. “By grow­ing here, we will at­tract global lead­ers and play­ers in the U.S. to come to Colorado to look at the in­no­va­tion from Is­rael.”

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