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Ment.io wants to help your team make decisions

By Frederic Lardinois

Getting even the most well-organized team to agree on anything can be hard. Tel Aviv’s Ment.io, formerly known as Epistema, wants to make this process easier by applying smart design and a dose of machine learning to streamline the decision-making process.

Like with so many Israeli startups, Ment.io’s co-founders Joab Rosenberg and Tzvika Katzenelson got their start in Israel’s intelligence service. Indeed, Rosenberg spent 25 years in the intelligence service, where his final role was that of the deputy head analyst. “Our story starts from there, because we had the responsibility of gathering the knowledge of a thousand analysts, surrounded by tens of thousands of collection unit soldiers,” Katzenelson, who is Ment.io’s CRO, told me. He noted that the army had turned decision making into a form of art. But when the founders started looking at the tech industry, they found a very different approach to decision making — and one that they thought needed to change.

If there’s one thing the software industry has, it’s data and analytics. These days, the obvious thing to do with all of that information is to build machine learning models, but Katzenelson (rightly) argues that these models are essentially black boxes. “Data does not speak for itself. Correlations that you may find in the data are certainly not causations,” he said. “Every time you send analysts into the data, they will come up with some patterns that may mislead you.”

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So Ment.io is trying to take a very different approach. It uses data and machine learning, but it starts with questions and people. The service actually measures the level of expertise and credibility every team member has around a given topic. “One of the crazy things we’re doing is that for every person, we’re creating their cognitive matrix. We’re able to tell you within the context of your organization how believable you are, how balanced you are, how clearly you are being perceived by your counterparts, because we are gathering all of your clarification requests and every time a person challenges you with something.”Ment1

At its core, Ment.io is basically an internal Q&A service. Anybody can pose questions and anybody can answer them with any data source or supporting argument they may have.

“We’re doing structuring,” Katzenelson explained. “And that’s basically our philosophy: knowledge is just arguments and counterarguments. And the more structure you can put in place, the more logic you can apply.”

In a sense, the company is doing this because natural language processing (NLP) technology isn’t yet able to understand the nuances of a discussion.Ment6If you’re anything like me, though, the last thing you want is to have to use yet another SaaS product at work. The Ment.io team is quite aware of that and has built a deep integration with Slack already and is about to launch support for Microsoft Teams in the next few days, which doesn’t come as a surprise, given that the team has participated in the Microsoft ScaleUp accelerator program.

The overall idea here, Katzenelson explained, is to provide a kind of intelligence layer on top of tools like Slack and Teams that can capture a lot of the institutional knowledge that is now often shared in relatively ephemeral chats.

Ment.io is the first Israeli company to raise funding from Peter Thiel’s late-stage fund, as well as from the Slack Fund, which surely creates some interesting friction, given the company’s involvement with both Slack and Microsoft, but Katzenelson argues that this is not actually a problem.

Microsoft is also a current Ment.io customer, together with the likes of Intel, Citibank and Fiverr.

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Cybereason raises $200 million for its enterprise security platform

By Jonathan Shieber

Cybereason, which uses machine learning to increase the number of endpoints a single analyst can manage across a network of distributed resources, has raised $200 million in new financing from SoftBank Group and its affiliates. 

It’s a sign of the belief that SoftBank has in the technology, since the Japanese investment firm is basically doubling down on commitments it made to the Boston-based company four years ago.

The company first came to our attention five years ago when it raised a $25 million financing from investors including CRV, Spark Capital and Lockheed Martin.

Cybereason’s technology processes and analyzes data in real-time across an organization’s daily operations and relationships. It looks for anomalies in behavior across nodes on networks and uses those anomalies to flag suspicious activity.

The company also provides reporting tools to inform customers of the root cause, the timeline, the person involved in the breach or breaches, what tools they use and what information was being disseminated within and outside of the organization.

For founder Lior Div, Cybereason’s work is the continuation of the six years of training and service he spent working with the Israeli army’s 8200 Unit, the military incubator for half of the security startups pitching their wares today. After his time in the military, Div worked for the Israei government as a private contractor reverse engineering hacking operations.

Over the last two years, Cybereason has expanded the scope of its service to a network that spans 6 million endpoints tracked by 500 employees with offices in Boston, Tel Aviv, Tokyo and London.

“Cybereason’s big data analytics approach to mitigating cyber risk has fueled explosive expansion at the leading edge of the EDR domain, disrupting the EPP market. We are leading the wave, becoming the world’s most reliable and effective endpoint prevention and detection solution because of our technology, our people and our partners,” said Div, in a statement. “We help all security teams prevent more attacks, sooner, in ways that enable understanding and taking decisive action faster.”

The company said it will use the new funding to accelerate its sales and marketing efforts across all geographies and push further ahead with research and development to make more of its security operations autonomous.

“Today, there is a shortage of more than three million level 1-3 analysts,” said Yonatan Striem-Amit, chief technology officer and Co-founder, Cybereason, in a statement. “The new autonomous SOC enables SOC teams of the future to harness technology where manual work is being relied on today and it will elevate  L1 analysts to spend time on higher value tasks and accelerate the advanced analysis L3 analysts do.”

Most recently the company was behind the discovery of Operation SoftCell, the largest nation-state cyber espionage attack on telecommunications companies. 

That attack, which was either conducted by Chinese-backed actors or made to look like it was conducted by Chinese-backed actors, according to Cybereason targeted a select group of users in an effort to acquire cell phone records.

As we wrote at the time:

… hackers have systematically broken in to more than 10 cell networks around the world to date over the past seven years to obtain massive amounts of call records — including times and dates of calls, and their cell-based locations — on at least 20 individuals.

Researchers at Boston-based Cybereason, who discovered the operationand shared their findings with TechCrunch, said the hackers could track the physical location of any customer of the hacked telcos — including spies and politicians — using the call records.

Lior Div, Cybereason’s co-founder and chief executive, told TechCrunch it’s “massive-scale” espionage.

Call detail records — or CDRs — are the crown jewels of any intelligence agency’s collection efforts. These call records are highly detailed metadata logs generated by a phone provider to connect calls and messages from one person to another. Although they don’t include the recordings of calls or the contents of messages, they can offer detailed insight into a person’s life. The National Security Agency  has for years controversially collected the call records of Americans from cell providers like AT&T and Verizon (which owns TechCrunch), despite the questionable legality.

It’s not the first time that Cybereason has uncovered major security threats.

Back when it had just raised capital from CRV and Spark, Cybereason’s chief executive was touting its work with a defense contractor who’d been hacked. Again, the suspected culprit was the Chinese government.

As we reported, during one of the early product demos for a private defense contractor, Cybereason identified a full-blown attack by the Chinese — ten thousand usernames and passwords were leaked, and the attackers had access to nearly half of the organization on a daily basis.

The security breach was too sensitive to be shared with the press, but Div says that the FBI was involved and that the company had no indication that they were being hacked until Cybereason detected it.

Amazon acquires flash-based cloud storage startup E8 Storage

By Darrell Etherington

Amazon has reportedly acquired Isreali storage tech startup E8 Storage, according to Reuters, CNBC and Globes. The acquisition will bring the team and technology from E8 in to Amazon’s existing Amazon Web Services center in Tel Aviv, per reports.

E8 Storage’s particular focus was on building storage hardware that employs flash-based memory to deliver faster performance than competing offerings, according to its own claims. How exactly AWS intends to use the company’s talent or assets isn’t yet known, and Amazon did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

AWS acquisitions this year include TSO Logic, a Vancouver-based startup that optimizes data center workload operating efficiency, and Israel-based CloudEndure, which provides data recovery services in the event of a disaster.

Porsche Digital expands US presence beyond Silicon Valley with new Atlanta office

By Darrell Etherington

Porsche Digital, the subsidiary of car maker Porsche, is opening its second U.S. location after launching its first in 2017 in Silicon Valley. The second North American office for this software and digital product-focused wing of Porsche will open in Atlanta, which is also the seat of Porsche’s North American car business. Porsche Digital cited proximity to their auto business headquarters as one reason they picked Atlanta, but also pointed to Atlanta’s “local tech talent” and “robust and constantly growing startup and tech sector” as key factors in its selection.

The need for a second office is specifically about serving the U.S. market, Porsche Digital notes, and the company expects to have 45 employees total in the U.S. across both offices within the next year. The subsidiary overall has 120 employees worldwide, with offices in Berlin, Shanghai and Tel Aviv, as well as the U.S.

Porsche Digital focuses on creating software and digital products for the automaker’s customers, but it’s actually probably more valuable to its parent company as a sort of distributed tech talent scouting and business development arm of the company. Its offices definitely occupy global hotspots when it comes to startup tech companies, and having a permanent presence in these locations has got to come in handy when looking to attract engineering talent and potential acquisitions of complementary early-stage companies.

Techstars Detroit announces first class after major refocus

By Matt Burns

At the beginning of 2019, Techstars Mobility turned into Techstars Detroit. At the time of the announcement, Managing Director Ted Serbinski penned “the word mobility was becoming too limiting. We knew we needed to reach a broader audience of entrepreneurs who may not label themselves as mobility but are great candidates for the program.”

I always called it Techstars Detroit anyway.

With Techstars Detroit, the program is looking for startups transforming the intersection of the physical and digital worlds that can leverage the strengths of Detroit to succeed. It’s a mouthful, but makes sense. Mobility is baked into Detroit, but Detroit is more than mobility.

Today the program took the wraps off the first class of startups under the new direction.

Techstars has operated in Detroit since 2015 and has been a critical partner in helping the city rebuild. Since its launch, Serbinski and the Techstars Mobility (now Detroit) mentors have helped bring talented engineers and founders to the city.

Serbinski summed up Detroit nicely for me, saying, “No longer is Detroit telling the world how to move. The world is telling Detroit how it wants to move.” He added the incoming class represents the new Detroit, with 60% international and 40% female founders.


Airspace Link (Detroit, MI)
Providing highways in the sky for safer drone operations.

Alpha Drive (New York, NY)
Platform for the validation of autonomous vehicle AI.

Le Car (Novi, MI)
An AI-powered personal car concierge that matches you to your perfect vehicle fit.

Octane (Fremont, CA)
Octane is a mobile app that connects car enthusiasts to automotive events and to each other out on the road.

PPAP Manager (Chihuahua, Mexico)
A platform to streamline the approval of packets of documents required in the automotive industry, known as PPAP, to validate production parts.

Ruksack (Toronto, Canada)
Connecting travelers with local travel experts to help them plan a perfect trip.

Soundtrack AI (Tel Aviv, Israel)
Acoustics-based and AI-enabled Predictive Maintenance Platform.

Teporto (Tel Aviv, Israel)
Teporto is enabling a new commute modality with its one-click smart platform for transportation companies that seamlessly adapts commuter service to commuters’ needs.

Unlimited Engineering (Barcelona, Spain)
Unlimited develops modular Light Electric Vehicles as a fun, cheap and convenient solution to last-mile trips that are overserved by cars and public transportation.

Zown (Toronto, Canada)
Open up your real estate property to the new mobility marketplace.

MyndYou partners with Mizuho to expand senior care services assessing cognitive degeneration

By Jonathan Shieber

MyndYou, which has developed a technology to assess cognitive degeneration in senior citizens, has partnered with the Japanese company Mizuho Information & Research Institute to test the company’s product for a potential nationwide rollout later in 2019. 

Starting with five cities in Japan over the course of May, MyndYou’s technology will be deployed in homes around Japan to provide remote care and analyze for changes in cognitive function.

The company has a downloadable app that passively tracks movement and monitors conversations for any signs of diminishing brain function.

“What we market today is anomaly detection and this allows us to go into the market without detecting specific anomalies,” says Ruth Poliakine, the company’s chief executive and co-founder. “As we grow and progress we see this going into more specific conditions and early conditions… first we have senior adults getting service.”

MyndYou says it already has over ten occupational therapists that have incorporate use of the MyndYou app into treatment regimes for their patients. That means hundreds of patients are currently testing out MyndYou’s service, the company said.

Partnering with Mizuho opens MyndYou up to a market that is acutely aware of the need to develop services for an aging population.

Roughly one quarter of Japan’s working population will be 75 years-old by the year 2040, according to a recent report.  And dementia is on the rise in the country.

“The number of dementia patients in Japan has reached 4.62 million and is expected to increase even further to seven million, which equals to one in five seniors over 65, in 2025. The disease has become an important problem not only for medical field but also for the whole of Japanese society. As in many cases, patients of dementia receive the diagnosis after the symptom has progressed, making a diagnosis and providing adequate care in the early stage is necessary,” said Hitoshi Morio, Joint General Manager, Innovation & Strategy Division, Mizuho Information & Research, in a statement.

The company charges between $10 and $50 for its service, depending on the use case and the number of patients that are using the technology.

News of the new partnership with Mizuho follows an extension of the company’s seed round, which included Amplifyher Ventures, Female Founders Fund and the angel investor, Howard L. Morgan. To date the company has raised $2.1 million.

“As a New York-based company with proprietary technology developed in Tel Aviv, we have partnered with MHIR to further the global potential for MyndYou,” said Poliakine, in a statement. “Now, the senior adult population in Japan will have access to a technology that can not only reduce readmission rates, but also prolong independence of senior adults, while providing them with personalized, data-driven remote care.”

 

 

Hunters.ai raises $5.4M for its autonomous threat-hunting solution

By Frederic Lardinois

Hunters.ai, a Tel Aviv-based startup that built an AI-based threat-hunting solution, today announced that it has raised a $5.4 million seed funding round led by YL Ventures and Blumberg Capital.

Threat hunting has traditionally been a rather manual practice, where analysts try to actively identify potential threats to their systems. This has always been a very data-driven activity, though, so it’s no surprise that a number of startups are now looking to automate the process. Not all attacks are as easy to spot as an attacker who is trying to brute force a password, for example. Sometimes, a sophisticated attacker may have the credentials to get into a network, for example. It’s then up to the hunter and hunting tools to recognize that there is unusual activity, because, in the end, these attackers always leave a few breadcrumbs in their wake.

The Hunters team tells me that it did a lot of market validation before deciding on its focus. “The main gap we saw is the level of talent, experience and understanding of the attack side inside of organizations,” Hunters CEO Uri May told me. “This led us to develop what we call the autonomous threat hunting machine, which is taking our understanding of what threat hunting is and to take that to a lot of customers around the world in a scalable way.”

Similar solutions often rely on agents, scanners and other techniques that collect the data, but Hunters gathers its information by integrating with existing systems. The system then continuously analyzes this data and looks for abnormalities.

As May and Hunters CTO Tomer Kazaz stressed when I talked to them, the team wanted to provide users with more than just alerts, though. “We don’t call it alerts because it’s a full attack story because it’s more of a correlation of multiple alerts into an actionable attack story,” Kazaz said. “We always provide customers with some actionable action items.”

Over time, the company plans to integrate this dashboard with other security orchestration products.

“IT security teams must become faster and better at detecting and stopping attacks, and threat hunting is the obvious strategy of choice. But hiring the highly specialized and in-demand skills and knowledge needed is simply not possible,” said Ofer Schreiber, a partner at YL Ventures . “This leaves an attack detection gap and the cost of failure is a board-level concern. Deploying Hunters is like putting an army of highly skilled threat hunters to work to magnify your team’s power and close that gap.”

As is so often the case with Israeli security startups, May and Kazaz started their careers in the Israeli Defense Forces. The team also has Blumberg Capital’s Ehud Schneerson on its board. Schneerson is the former commander of Unit 8200, the Israeli equivalent of the NSA, an organization that has probably spawned more security startups in recent years than any university.

Hunters is now available to a limited set of customers, with general availability planned for late 2019.

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