Employees of ICQ founders' new co want liquidator

Workers at KnockaTV have not been paid their January salaries.

Employees of Israeli start-up company KnockaTV Ltd. have petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court to appoint a provisional liquidator to the company. The employees claim that the company is insolvent, and that if a provisional liquidator is not appointed quickly, there is a real fear that its creditors will act to realize its few assets. The 21 employees, who have not received their January salaries and fear that they will not receive salaries for February either, estimate the company's debts at NIS 1.2 million.

KnockaTV, which is a network of interactive TV channels on the Internet, was founded in 2006 by founders of Mirabilis, the Israeli start-up that invented the world's first instant messaging program, ICQ. Mirabilis was sold in 1998 to US Internet giant AOL for $407 million. The then youngsters who set up Mirabilis were Dr. Sefi Vigiser, Yair Goldfinger, and Arik Vardi. They shared the big money with Arik's father Yossi Vardi, who invested in Mirabilis and mentored it.

Yossi Vardi was not associated with the founding of KnockaTV. The main player was Sefi Visiger, who teamed up with Nir Erlich, a high-tech entrepreneur whom he met on an overseas skiing trip. Erlich became CEO of Knocka TV and a partner in the company. Arik Vardi and Yair Goldfinger invested in the company but were less actively involved in it. They were joined by venture capital fund Evergreen, and angel investor Eilon Tirosh., one of the founders of Exalink, which was sold to Comverse Technology (Nasdaq: CMVT) for $550 million. Real estate tycoon Igal Ahouvi also invested.

The company is held by US company I See U Inc, and so far some $3.6 million have been invested in it.

KnockaTV offers television services over the Internet. Each KnockaTV channel offers a range of programs produced by both surfers and professionals. The idea behind the enterprise is to offer non-mainstream televisual content through cooperation with viewers in selecting the content.

The employees claim that it would take an investment of another $3 million to make the product available on the Internet to any user. They say the company suffers from a lack of resources and cannot raise money or be sold because of its complicated ownership structure and disagreements among the shareholders. The company was originally located in Ramat Hahayal in Tel Aviv, but later moved to Hasadna'ot Street in Herzliya Pituah.

According to the employees, the company is in crisis after the shareholders refused to invest more money. Three weeks ago, its board of directors met and decided to halt activity and dismiss the employees.

The employees say they have great confidence in the company's products and in its chances of becoming profitable, if urgent steps are taken to save it through the appointment of a provisional liquidator to operate it.

KnockaTV CEO Nir Erlich declined to comment on the report, and said that explanations for the refusal of the company's owners to at least pay the employees' salaries would be furnished later.

Goldfinger, who is overseas, was not aware today of the petition filed in the court, and said he was not involved in the company's activity.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on February 13, 2008

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2008

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