Exclusive: SoftBank taps ex-Mossad chief to head Israel office

Yossi Cohen  credit: Reuters

Sources inform "Globes" that SoftBank, the world's biggest VC firm, is opening an office in Israel. Managing partner EMEA Yanni Pipilis: We believe massively in the ecosystem that exists in the country.

Exclusive: From head of the Mossad to the biggest venture capital firm in the world: Sources inform "Globes" that Japanese investor Masayoshi Son's SoftBank is appointing former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen as manager of its activity in Israel. SoftBank is considered the world's leading technology fund, with huge investments in companies such as Uber, Alibaba, TikTok, and Didi. This is the second investment giant within three months to open a representative office in Israel, after Blackstone appointed Yifat Oron as a Senior Managing Director and head of its Tel Aviv office.

One of the reasons for the choice of Cohen is the fact that he is a well-known and popular figure in Israel, even though he does not have a background in investment. Cohen has the ability to connect to Israeli entrepreneurs and technology and to open doors for them in any company, government or public authority in any territory.

Cohen will manage SoftBank's activity in Israel, will scout companies for investment, and will help those companies find global markets, with an emphasis on Asia. Cohen will work with SoftBank's Europe and Middle East team, managed from London by SoftBank Vision Fund managing partner Yanni Pipilis. He will be a member of SoftBank's second fund, amounting to $30 billion, and will not make investments from the firm's first fund, among the investors in which is the Saudi Arabia sovereign wealth fund.

"Globes" has learned that SoftBank intends to write a check of a minimum of $50 million for growth companies with valuations of at least $250 million that have proven AI technology at a high level, whether it is technology for finding the right price for the right customer, or enterprise software that serves other enterprises. Companies that could benefit from investment by SoftBank are growth companies at late fund raising stages, from the second, third or fourth round. SoftBank will require companies to have annual revenue of at least $10 million, with a rapid growth record and numbers that point towards profitability, even if in the medium term.

"SoftBank has pioneered a new approach to technology investing and created the world’s largest ecosystem of emerging technology champions," said Cohen. "Israel’s advanced technology and entrepreneurial culture make it a natural fit for SoftBank’s investment vision and I look forward to helping fast-moving companies scale in the region and globally."

"We’re very interested in expanding our presence in Israel. We believe massively in the ecosystem that exists in the country, because we are investors in technology and AI, and Israel has amazing entrepreneurs and founders in this technology space," Pipilis told "Globes". "We felt that increasing our focus in the area would make sense. We’ve recently completed multiple investments in Israel, and see many other compelling opportunities.

"When we met Mr. Cohen, we immediately got excited about the opportunity to work together. He is very well connected in the Israeli industry at large, he is someone that entrepreneurs and founders can recognize and can be a central focal point for us.

"Clearly, his relationship across Israeli industry, and the ability to traverse international relations are effective to be able to essentially help connect these entrepreneurs globally with the AI ecosystem.

"When we invest in a company, we seek to introduce them to SoftBank’s network of more than 200 companies, helping them expand to new geographies, like Asia, Japan, and the Middle East. Mr Cohen’s experience in dealing internationally is a huge asset."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on July 9, 2021

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2021

Yossi Cohen  credit: Reuters
Yossi Cohen credit: Reuters
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