Fusion LA accelerator for Israeli startups raises $5m

Simon Legziel, Guy Katsovich and Yair Vardi Photo: Cory Sherwood

Cofounder Yair Vardi: The potential for Israeli companies in Los Angeles is far from being realized.

The Fusion LA accelerator program founded in Los Angeles for Israeli startups by Guy Katsovich and Yair Vardi, has announced its completion of a $5 million financing round. The investor is the Legziel family, which specialized in real estate and diamonds for years, and only entered venture capital investment in the past two years. Simon Legzliel, who manages the family's venture capital business, has joined the accelerator as a partner. The first group of six companies, which entered the accelerator in August, completed the program earlier this month, and a second group is scheduled to begin in February.

Vardi and Katsovich met during their service together in IDF intelligence Unit 8200, and have both worked with Israeli technology in recent years. Katsovich was managing director of the EISP entrepreneurship program for Unit 8200 alumni until recently. He is also a member of the board of directors of The Social Program, a Unit 8200 social accelerator; a cofounder of the Hybrid accelerator program for Arab, Druze, and Bedouin entrepreneurs; and a cofounder and chairperson of Wize, which organizes evening events with interesting people and content at bars and pubs (he also presents a podcast on the "Globes" Hebrew-language website). In recent years, Vardi, who was demobilized from the IDF with officer rank in 2012, has been a Jewish Agency emissary in Los Angeles; a program coordinator for Hillel at UCLA, where he studied; and a representative of EISP in California.

According to Vardi, the first six companies in the Fusion LA program were selected from 200 who submitted their candidacy. The main requirement for acceptance to the program is an initial product for which business development can be promoted. The accelerator provides its startups with a $20,000 cash investment, offices, subsidized accommodations, accompanying services, and training and meetings with senior executives and parties at interest in the local industry. Companies that have not raised substantial amounts allocate 5% of their shares to the accelerator, and companies that have already raised money allocate holdings worth $80,000 according to the value at which they raised money.

Vardi says, "The first six weeks of the program are more structured. They include 3-4 people who come each day to talk to the companies, funds, investors, and senior managers. The aim is to provide feedback as quickly as possible about the ability to attain their objectives. The second half consists more of our personal work with each company." He explains the choice of Los Angeles by calling it a "blue ocean" that is far from reaching its potential, even though Israeli companies are already operating there. $5.3 billion in venture capital was raised in the city in 2016, six times as much as in 2011. The number of venture capital funds there has grown accordingly.

Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on November 29, 2017

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2017

Simon Legziel, Guy Katsovich and Yair Vardi Photo: Cory Sherwood
Simon Legziel, Guy Katsovich and Yair Vardi Photo: Cory Sherwood
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