US Army fund seeks Israeli water tech

A private equity fund looks for solutions "to meet needs that arise in wartime".

The US Army makes heavy venture capital investments, albeit not for the profit motive, but to discover and support energy and technology companies and programs that will meet the military's needs. One of these private equity investors is Onpoint Technologies. Onpoint parallels Milcom Technologies. Both Onpoint and Milcom are managed by Arsenal Venture Partners Inc.

Both Onpoint and Milcom are seeking water technologies in Israel, and, if all goes well, plan to make investments here. Arsenal managing partner and Onpoint director Christopher Fountas is making a lightening visit to Israel to examine water technologies companies.

In an exclusive interview with "Globes", Fountas said, "We manage investments in technologies for the US Army to meet needs that arise in wartime, such as during operations in Iraq, and for the government and industrial markets. We've come to Israel with the understanding that it’s a global leader in water technologies."

Milcom was launched in 2000 and Onpoint in 2003. The two funds currently manage more than $100 million, and the US Army is steadily increasing its investment in them. Onpoint describes itself as a "strategic private equity investor with a mission to discover, invest in and support companies at the intersection of Army and commercial marketing needs." Milcom says that it is a "seed-stage venture fund that conceives, creates and launches technology companies in partnership with defense contractors, federal laboratories, and other R&D sources."

Another visitor seeking water technology in Israel is South Florida Water Management District (SFWFD) governing board member Melissa Meeker. The SFWFD is considering investing in Opoint and Milcom money that Fountas would invest in water technologies.

Fountas and Meeker were invited to Israel by Gemini Israel Funds partner Dr. Orna Berry, a former Chief Scientist, and Kinarot-Jordan Valley Technology Incubator CEO Assaf Barnea.

Fountas says, "The water technologies that generally interest us are those that are synergetic to US Army and federal government needs. That's why we began our visit at Mekorot National Water Company, which can unquestionably serve as a model of a successful government water company. All the water sectors relevant to us for investment are found here, from water security through water treatment and management, to desalination."

Meeker added, "Our water in Florida, which is the largest water consumption area in the US, is of inadequate quality. We need to reduce the water pollution, which is why we need good technologies. The State of Florida needs good quality and effective desalination. We also want to create a state venture capital fund for cleantech needs, a subject now under review. This is one reason I'm here now."

"Globes": What stage companies do you want to invest in?

Fountas: "We're interested in early-stage companies. If it's a very big investment, we'll bring in a local partner, probably a local venture capital fund, although we might partner with a foreign venture capital fund."

Fountas and Meeker also met executives at Gemini, Evergreen Venture Partners, and Israel Cleantech Ventures Funds, as well as Baruch Oren, the head of Shari Arison's water venture. In short, the visitors have laid the groundwork for future collaborations.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on April 1, 2008

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

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