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'Emirates excels in real estate, and we want to bring the innovation'

Israeli PropTech fund head Oded Eliashiv says becoming the funnel of innovation technology between Israel and the UAE is at the top of his agenda



By Eliana Rudee

Published: Thu 28 Jan 2021, 3:53 PM

As the ratification of the Abraham Accords normalisation agreement between Israel and the UAE has opened the door to a wider range of economic cooperation between the two countries, business leaders in each country are now looking to expand tech cooperation and formal investments with the other, and to see how such partnerships might bring about prosperity and advancement for each country.

Business and investment heads in Israel, a country that has been coined the 'Start-Up nation' for the disproportionate number of start-ups that the country sees per capita (and more recently deemed the 'Scale-Up nation referring to the ability to scale and mature its startups) are hoping that the normalisation deal will result in new innovation and investment opportunities between the two countries, which were not possible until recently.

"The emirates excels in real estate, and we want to bring the innovation," said Oded Eliashiv, Founding Managing Partner of BuiltUp Ventures, an Israeli-American investment fund that identifies, chooses and supports the most promising Israeli property technology (PropTech) and construction technology (ConTech) startup companies on their road to success, paving the building blocks of the Start Up nation's success in real estate technology (RealTech).

"We see our role as building the ecosystem and not just investing in the various required pieces of this puzzle," added Eliashiv.

Israel is known for its startups and exits - the country has 8,300+ startups, 14x the concentration of startups compared to Europe. Israel also sees the most venture capital dollars per capita globally and spends the highest percentage of GDP on R&D globally.

PropTech's New Eye for Innovation

The RealTech sector has only recently adopted an eye for innovation. As a relatively conservative sector, 2019 saw a surge in investments reaching $7.7 billion. Looking toward 2021, global emergence from the Covid-19 pandemic will undeniably accelerate the entrance of more innovation, with new business models, to provide solutions to the market that has struggled with economic repercussions of the pandemic.

The PropTech market is also showing signs of maturation, as the number of deals decline, the ticket size of those deals are increasing. Further trends show investors shifting dollars into later stage deals. As the market matures, Israel, a global innovation and deals powerhouse, has emerged in this arena as a prominent destination for investment.

Companies in the PropTech Arena backed by BuiltUp Ventures

After close to 10 years, almost 2,000 investors from the Israeli market and an impressive number of exits, leading Israeli American investment company Besadno Investment Group launched BuiltUp Ventures, the first dedicated PropTech fund to bring vetted deal flows from Israel to global markets. BuiltUp Ventures boasts a strong track record of value creation for early-stage companies in RealTech, with active involvement, hand in hand with entrepreneurs.

With deep roots in the RealTech sector, a worldwide network, years of experience, and a strong presence in the US as well as Israel, the fund has both driven the local ecosystem, as well as expanded its global reach in the RealTech network. As its team in the US works to support entrepreneurs on the ground, the US market penetration has proven fruitful in driving the BuiltUp's portfolio companies to success.

Solidblock, for example, is a cutting-edge property-backed securities issuance and trading platform that eliminates roadblocks to digital markets and investing. Current projects include tokenisation of residential, commercial and hospitality properties in the US, UK, Europe and Asia - and in the context of the Abraham Accords, SolidBlock has begun working with several UAE-based partners and clients in order to provide a solution for the local market, as well as setting up the appropriate regulatory framework in the UAE.

Another BuiltUp portfolio company, Everflow, set its mission to revolutionise the private financial market. Its technology allows businesses and investors worldwide to expand their investment portfolio in a safe, transparent and liquid environment while reducing the usage of mediators. Everflow makes their technology accessible in such a way that a customer will save significant time and expenses in integration and setup operations. After participating at the GITEX conference in Dubai, Everflow recognised the great potential of the UAE's domestic private market - in particular, the willingness of the government to support and promote fintech companies backed by a friendly regulatory environment.

Next-generation solution for construction site management Trusstor, also hopes to engage in new partnerships with the UAE to expand its creation of a more productive, safer working environment using construction intelligence. Trusstor displays a real-time status of construction projects using a 'command and control' dashboard, enabling quality data gathering - conveying insights, alerts and resource locations for management to monitor site personnel and enforce health and safety regulations. Real-time alerts notify managers of fall detection, working in an unauthorised location, unauthorised work at heights and during the Covid-19 pandemic, Trusstor developed features and specific abilities enabling social distancing and epidemiological inquiry.

Augmind has designed and built immersive and hyper-realistic virtual content for Mixed Reality and Holograms in a fast and intuitive way, accessible by smartphone. Relevant for real estate, retail, travel and entertainment, Augmind helps individuals, real estate agents and architects design a space from their phone, tour London from their couch, bring PC-level games to mobile and turn imagination into reality. Augmind's platform addresses the time and cost involved in the production of these kinds of content and apps, and built a platform that enables quick and easy content creation. During Covid-19, AugMind built a system for a jewellery company so their customers could try on diamond rings remotely from home, in real-time, just as if they were trying it on in the store.

MyTower's all-in-one, innovative platform for next-level property intelligence management turns buildings into 'smart buildings' that utilise software for concierge assistance, mobile facial recognition for check in, connect tenants to community services, manage residents, visitors, vehicles and deliveries, and improve tenant communication that enables easy payments and maintenance reporting. Operating in more than 300 luxury towers worldwide, MyTower's platform connects and enhances property and service management, bringing the entire ecosystem under one virtual roof with their horizontally integrated solution for the real estate industry.

Last, SkySaver designs and manufactures innovative portable emergency evacuation kits for the residential, commercial and industrial markets.

At the core of all SkySaver products is the patented, Controlled Descent Device (CDD) technology, which enables users to self-evacuate during emergency situations. As the only solution in the market that is certified to be used in extreme conditions, SkySaver's safe and intuitive emergency self-evacuation solutions are easy to use and do not require advanced training or a learning curve - evacuation is as easy as attaching the unit, connecting the carabiner to a pre-installed anchor and starting the descent. Once the descent is started the devices are hands free, reducing the risk of human error during an evacuation.

About Oded Eliashiv

Founding Managing Partner

BuiltUp

Identifying, choosing and supporting such promising Israeli PropTech startup companies on their road to success, Eliashiv brings to the table a 360 degree view, both an entrepreneur that successfully built companies from the ground up through the life cycle of the startup, as well as leading investments and managing them from the perspective of an early stage investment firm.

As a longtime entrepreneur, he has founded and led 35 startups including EPOS, a provider of advanced digital positioning technology. He is also Managing Partner of sister company B-Seed, the investment arm of the Besadno Group (of which he is CIO), that invests in innovative ventures, commercial companies, and real estate in Israel and around the world.

Since the second half of the 1990s, Eliashiv has started various tech ventures in the related markets, and has mentored various startups with the crystallisation of their value proposition, understanding the market and value chain, building the team, raising the capital with clear milestones, development processing and achieving market access and recognition.

Interview with Oded Eliashiv

What inspired you to enter this industry?

From 12 years old, I've been an entrepreneur. I studied law, and after, I had several startups and exits, so it's in my DNA. I've served as CEO to my company, and to others' companies. I have been an entrepreneur resident and mentor and have been in the ecosystem for 30-40 years. As someone who understands investment and technology, I, together with Besadno Group chairman Eliezer Gross, launched the fund.

Tell us about this new opportunity, in the context of the Abraham Accords and normalisation between Israel and the UAE?

It is amazing to truly understand how much has come into play in forming this relationship. My father was a diplomat - he was the Israeli Ambassador to Singapore from 1987-1990 as well as to the United Nations in New York from 1993-1996. As a foreign diplomat, he was trying to foster relationships, and talking to leaders of Arab countries in the 90s, but they could never come to a political or business reality. Seeing this diplomatic development is very exciting for me on a personal level, and now that there is an amazing opportunity to bring innovation to real estate for both countries, I want to be a part of it. There are amazing opportunities to think together, build upon the relationship and be a bridge for peace through RealTech. Recently, I have been speaking to companies in the Emirates and beyond. They have told me "I would have never imagined I could be talking to you, smiling at you and talking business! You are my friend." We are a part of history and that is where I want to be.

What makes BuiltUp Ventures the right partner to foster partnerships in real estate innovation between Israel and the UAE?

Real estate is a conservative sector globally, and we were one of the early adopters to advocate for innovation in the field in Israel. As PropTech and ConTech are relatively new, the technology and methodology that we see in the field of PropTech deal flow today were largely developed in Israel, the Startup nation, and now those technologies are being used globally in PropTech startups to bring the required innovation to the real estate sector.

For example, our portfolio company Trusstor uses software that allows a construction company to know where every construction worker is, to improve efficiency and safety. It was then just a matter of understanding that we already excel in these technologies and finding the right entrepreneurs to market it.

So, we understood that we have the tools to set up funds that will find the best deal flow in RealTech, and early on, we wanted to find these investment opportunities and take part in building the ecosystem. We act as the bridge between the Israeli technology and startups to the real estate market, as we understand both worlds, and by having access to the best deal flow and portfolio, we serve as a strategic player for those real estate stakeholders who want innovation brought to them with the right kind of strategy.

Understanding the start-up ecosystem here and knowing how to get companies into a market were key. Then, we have the experience in joining companies in their early stages and quickly accelerating their value equation, seizing an opportunity early on and thereby decreasing the risks for the investor. We know where the risks lie, and we have the ability to understand the needs of the global markets. Our knowledge of the markets, experience and reach will enable us to become the funnel of innovation technology between Israel and the UAE. We recently brought six of our portfolio companies to the GITEX technology week in Dubai and are seeing amazing engagement, not just from the UAE but also from the wider gulf region - that is the highest on our agenda and we already have requests from construction companies, developers and other real estate stakeholders there, to open a hub in the UAE, and more.

What is the greatest challenge for companies in the RealTech and ConTech industries, and how do you help your portfolio companies meet these challenges?

Construction has been inefficient for decades, so innovating in this arena is in its infancy. The greatest challenge is for the companies to understand how they are going to innovate, and we are the bridge to that innovation. We are not just a capital contributor; we help companies in the stage between seed stage and round A (also known as the Valley of Death) develop their strategy for innovation, because sometimes they don't understand what they need.

And then we help manage their challenges, with nurture and strategic management.

Towards those ends, we make sure that innovation is brought to the company in an effective and successful manner that will realise the enormous potential of their product, to deliver on and expand their sales.

Besadno founder: 'With God's help, we will succeed'

In his close to 40 years as a businessman, Besadno founder and chairman Eliezer Gross has accumulated experience in multiple markets across North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

Leveraging his expertise and network of thousands of partners and investors, Gross and his Group assists their portfolio companies in reaching their full potential and has invested in (and taken an active role in) close to 50 companies.

But Gross maintains that he is not the one who should receive all the credit. The name Besadno comes from the initials of the Aramaic and Hebrew words "With God's help, we will succeed.

"While some businessmen swear by an inspirational course they took in school, or hard life lessons they learned in the early days of starting their enterprise," explained Gross, "I turn to the most trustworthy authority of all - God, and live by the adherence to ethics and morals to govern every aspect of my business practices.

"It is with special help from above that Besadno's dedicated team of experts locate high-potential investment opportunities, partner with them and work towards a common goal of achieving significant financial success," he explained.

"I believe full-heartedly that combining a commitment to ethical values with an uncompromised business acumen will bring about good things, in Israel, in the UAE, and beyond - inshallah."

Eliana Rudee is an Israeli American journalist. Often writing about technology and the Start-Up Nation, she has seen her byline in the likes of Forbes, USA Today, and countless other global news outlets.

 


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