We are happy to host Barak Singer, CEO of the Trendlines Incubator in the Galilee, in the “Five with ור” section. Trendlines has 60 companies in its portfolio and it invests mainly in the fields of medical equipment and agripod (agriculture and podtech). In an exclusive interview Barak tells Chiportal: “Fortunately, more than a third of our portfolio companies have raised funds during the current year, and one company was sold to an American company at the height of the crisis. Yes, it is possible to raise money and make exits even during the corona period! ” Here is the full interview with Barak Singer:
1. How are your portfolio companies coping with the corona crisis? (Did you fire employees, reduce activity, etc.)
We have about 60 portfolio companies. Very soon after the onset of the crisis we realized that this was an event that required redeployment. Our portfolio companies have reviewed with us the work plans and budgets, in order to make updates and changes on both the operational and budgetary side. At the same time, we have continued our fundraising efforts for portfolio companies, both from outside investors and from us, and fortunately more than a third of our portfolio companies have raised funds during the current year, and one of our companies was sold to an American company at the height of the crisis. Yes, it is possible to raise money and make exits even during the corona period!
2. What management tip for dealing with the crisis can you give to the managers of these companies?
Act fast and not wait, choose a member or two from the board who will closely accompany the company’s thinking process, and finally, a crisis is also a good opportunity – to streamline, examine and challenge work plans, think outside the box, shrink (if necessary) and prepare for post-crisis growth.
3. It seems that now everything can be done through the computer screen. Will you also invest in the company after meeting the developers only in zoom meetings?
That’s the million dollar question. The investments we make are in companies at very young stages, right near the establishment of the company, and therefore I think the answer can certainly be yes. Will this also be true for more advanced companies, with sales, and with equipment and activities that can be examined in the field and in front of foreign investors whose very nature requires more proper testing in overseas investments – hard to know – time will tell. It should be remembered that investors will indeed utilize a large part of their resources to support their portfolio companies, but on the other hand in a crisis there are also opportunities and investors who adapt to the spirit of the period will be able to find attractive investment opportunities.
4. What do you think will happen after the corona crisis ends? Will everything return to normal or has the business environment changed forever?
The world needs innovation, so I anticipate that the high-tech locomotive will continue to operate and also strengthen after the crisis. In the context of Trendlines, we focus on investments in medical devices and agri-food (agriculture and podtech) two industries that are gaining in importance due to the corona (e.g. the need to allow remote medicine or out-of-hospital surgeries, as well as increasing agricultural and food crops). These areas, which have historically received the least investment compared to other sectors (especially in Israel), will receive much stronger support during and after the crisis.
In terms of the business environment, there will be changes, such as moving from work from home in different hybrid models, as well as increasing the use of video calling as a substitute for international meetings and conferences. Restrictions on international flights are one of the most worrying issues, and I hope that soon a model will be found that will allow the renewal of international flights from Israel and Israel.
5. General conclusions and insights from the Corona crisis (what should you have done differently, what should the Israeli government do for the industry, what are your expectations of suppliers, customers, employees?)
In the context of supporting local high-tech, there is room for praise for the Innovation Authority. At the beginning of the crisis, the Innovation Authority faced the fact that it operated without an approved budget from the state, which delayed its support for local high-tech, but they managed to get an emergency budget and have since launched many corporate support programs during the Corona crisis. The effects of the crisis will continue to accompany us in the coming years, so it is important that additional follow-up plans are presented, which alongside the current plans that helped overcome the short-term crisis, will anchor long-term plans to grow local high-tech investments.