“During the past two years we have began looking more closely at Israeli companies, including early-stage technology investments,” says Ruzgar Barisik, Senior Investment Officer at the International Financial Corporation (IFC), the private sector investment arm of the World Bank.
IFC is participating in a current investment round in Israeli seed and breeding-technology company Kaiima. “We work exclusively with private sector companies that are going into or working with emerging markets, and this is why we are expressing interest in Kaiima” says Barisik. Kaiima is one of the first Israeli companies to receive an investment from IFC. Israel NewTech, the program for the advancement of Israel’s Cleantech companies in the Ministry of the Economy, originally brought Kaiima and IFC together.
Founded in 2006, Kaiima focuses on developing strains of plants that are more resilient and yield more grain. The company started out developing crops for bio-fuel production but realized early on that its technology was capable of much broader applications and is now focusing on food crops. The company claims to provide bigger plants that are richer in nutrients, able to photosynthesize faster, survive better in marginal and drought conditions, and generate more grain for higher overall productivity, as well as conserve resources such as water. The Company has recently been listed on the Global Cleantech 100 list.
“The current investment round is expected to surpass $66M, and IFC is set to become a major investor in the company,” says Kaiima CEO Dr. Doron Gal. “We first met with the IFC delegation shortly after completing a $20M round in 2011 with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Mitsui (Greentechmedia), under the guidance of Israel NewTech. Our shared ethical values and vision for developing countries led us to stay in touch and now we will be partnering,” concludes Gal.
Kaiima has thus far raised $30M from a diverse set of investors including Mitsui Ventures and Musea Ventures, the US venture funds Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Draper Fisher Jurvetson and its Israeli affiliate Tamir Fishman Ventures. “These partnerships contribute valuable experience and wisdom to Kaiima in fields such as technology scaling and financing, and will aid in developing business in emerging markets, all of which will help the company grow,” says Gal.
Barisik also cited the tremendous support he and the IFC have received from Israel’s government institutions and programs. “Israel NewTech, the Ministry of Economy including Israel’s Foreign Trade Administrationand the commercial attaché’s office in Washington and the Bank of Israel, have been extremely helpful to us, proactively introducing us to relevant Israeli companies and giving their perspective on the market,” says Barisik.
‘The International Financing Department at the Foreign Trade Administration together with the commercial attaché’s office in Washington functions in order to support Israeli companies in securing World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) sponsored projects. Today, projects secured by Israeli companies by these organizations are few and far between, and success stories such as the IFC’s investment in Kaiima, who have the capability to increase the presence of Israeli industry in developing countries, are testimony to the enormous potential for support that Israeli companies can gain from international financing organizations’ says Noa Asher, Director of the International Financing Department at the Ministry of Economy.
With the current investment round the company hopes to scale-up its R&D and commercial activities globally. “Our operations are quite diverse,” says Gal, “So naturally we are looking at a wide geographic space. In China we have already began operations, and are looking to establish operations in India as well. Additionally we are looking at countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Russia, Kazakhstan, Philippines and others in South East Asia, Spain, Italy, and the US.”