Daily Kickoff

Jewish Insider Kickoff

Obama calls Netanyahu and Abbas as peace talks continue: “President Obama called Palestinian and Israeli leaders on Thursday, as the two sides resume peace negotiations in Israel. The White House said that Obama separately called both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, just days after representatives on both sides of the conflict flew to Washington for the first talks in five years. “The President underscored that while the parties have much work to do in the days and months ahead, the United States will support them fully in their efforts to achieve peace,” the White House said in a statement.” [TheHill]

Netanyahu: Rouhani reveals truce face sooner than expected – “Iranian President Hasan Rouhani “has revealed his true face sooner than expected,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, in response to the Iranian leader’s comments earlier that Israel was an “old wound” that should be removed. Rouhani spoke in Tehran Friday — just two days ahead of his inauguration — after attending International Quds Day events in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency quoted Rouhani as saying: “The Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound should be removed.” “Even if others hasten to deny his claims, this is what the man thinks and this is the point of departure of the Iranian regime,” said Netanyahu, adding, “his statements should shake the world from the reverie some have found themselves in since the [June 14 presidential] elections. There’s a new president, but the intentions of Iran remain the same — to obtain nuclear weapons that will threaten Israel, the Middle East and the entire world.” [Times of Israel]

Iran Assails House Sanctions Bill: “Iran reacted angrily on Thursday to the overwhelming approval of harsh legislation on sanctions by the House of Representatives, saying the action would further complicate stalled negotiations aimed at resolving the protracted dispute over the Iranian nuclear energy program.” [NYTimes]

How Putin’s Kremlin Views U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East: “Putin sees the United States as having lost its way, and the European Union as not having found one. He now views America and Russia as culturally opposite to each other and Russia as more European in terms of its core values than present-day E.U.-land. Surprisingly, he still seems to harbor respect, howwver, for Israel and the Jewish people generally—even when he disagrees with their leaders, as on the actual danger posed by Iran, or thinks they are running too high risks, as in Syria.” [TabletMag]

Congress Considers Gold Medal Honoring Shimon Peres On 90th Birthday: “To honor the 90th birthday of Israel’s president Friday, members of the House and Senate are to vote on whether to honor long-serving politician and diplomat Shimon Peres with the Congressional Gold Medal. Peres, who presided over a celebrity studded conference in Jerusalem in June to mark his upcoming nonacentennial, was already awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama this year.

The House bill was introduced by Rep. Joseph Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican, while the Senate version was introduced by Sens. Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, and Kelly Ayotte a New Hampshire Republican. “Shimon Peres has honorably served Israel for over 70 years, during which he has significantly contributed to United States interests and has played a pivotal role in forging the strong and unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel,” the House bill proclaims.” [TheJewishWeek]

SCHUMER REINTRODUCES HOLOCAUST BILL: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has reintroduced the Holocaust Rail Justice Act – a proposal that would allow Holocaust survivors a chance to bring claims against a French rail company for war crimes. The bill has been a top priority for the Coalition for Holocaust Rail Justice – a coalition of survivors, family members, historians and volunteers. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has been representing the coalition pro-bono on the issue.

Lieberman Gives $219K to Scholarship Fund: “Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., has contributed $219,252 in leftover campaign and PAC funds to establish a scholarship fund for Connecticut students. Lieberman reported yesterday that he closed his leadership PAC, Reuniting Our Country PAC, on July 22 and donated $19,252 in leftover funds to the Joe Lieberman Connecticut Scholarship Program, based in Saint Peter, Minn. The program will help five Connecticut students with tuition each year. Lieberman indicated to WTNH-TV that the fund had raised $840,000 and he was aiming at $1 million by the end of the year. In its midyear report, Friends of Joe Lieberman, Lieberman’s campaign committee, reported it contributed $200,000 on May 21 to Scholarship America of Saint Peter, Minn., which will handle his scholarship fund. His campaign committee still has $524,909 cash on hand as of June 30.” [Roll Call]

Chris Christie finds a reason to visit Las Vegas in the dead of summer: “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited Las Vegas last night for a private fundraiser hosted by Sheldon and Miriam Adelson at the Palazzo. The event was technically for Christie’s gubernatorial re-election campaign this year, but it’s never too early for a potential presidential contender to visit an early caucus state. The potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate’s visit comes a few years after he derided the No. 1 gambling mecca in America in an effort to promote Atlantic City, the country’s No. 2 gambling destination. “There is no reason people should go to Las Vegas in the summer,” Christie said in September 2011. “Why would you go to the middle of the desert in the summer? You’d have to be stupid to do that.” There appears to be a reason that people should go to Las Vegas in the summer: It’s a lucrative stop for a presidential contender.” [Las Vegas Sun]


Israeli Startup Chips Away at Venture Capital’s Ivory Tower: “Jon Medved knows the inside of Israel’s exclusive venture-capital circle. He’s been on both sides of the table in pitch meetings, as a co-founder of a mobile-video app maker called Vringo and an early investor in Shopping.com before it was sold to EBay for about $620 million. Medved’s latest mission is to blow up the exclusivity around tech fundraising. He started OurCrowd as a way for entrepreneurs to raise capital online from a diverse group of investors. Since the site’s debut about six months ago, 25 startups have raised $18.6 million, and a few have already returned to seek additional financing.

Lending Club, which Medved has also backed, inspired him to start OurCrowd. He watched the value of that peer-to-peer lender rise to $1.55 billion after an investment by Google in May. “I saw this, and I said to myself, ‘Why isn’t this going to happen for venture capital, where nothing has changed in 50 years?'” Medved said in an interview. “Venture capital was an agent of disruption for everyone else’s business, but no one has disrupted venture capital.” Investors must register on OurCrowd’s website before they can browse offerings and receive alerts about top deals. While the company is capitalizing on the buzz around crowdfunding, OurCrowd limits its investor membership to those who fit the legal definition for accreditation, which varies by country but is generally limited to high-income professionals. Crowdfunding rules in the U.S. and other countries have yet to be fully defined. “We are very careful to abide by the current laws,” Medved said. “We understand we are cutting new ground with the use of the Web.”

In addition to legal cover, keeping the investor base tight-knit means entrepreneurs can get access to a high-quality group of mentors. That’s certainly a benefit, said Bob Rosenschein, who used OurCrowd to raise $550,000 for his startup Curiyo. “The hope is that we will also get business benefits from the network of investors,” said Rosenschein, who sold his last company Answers.com for $127 million in 2011. “Otherwise, this is no different from working with a traditional fund.” Medved is tapping his connections with successful Israeli entrepreneurs to find mentors for startups on OurCrowd. He brought in Ron Moritz, the former chief technology officer at Symantec, to advise a Web-security company called FireBlade after it raised money on OurCrowd. The combination of Web-based fundraising with the kind of mentoring that comes from traditional venture capitalists is helping OurCrowd stand out, said Jeff Pulver, an early investor in Twitter. He used OurCrowd to raise $345,000 for his startup Zula, which makes software for mobile communications in companies. “This is a great example of how Israeli innovation is changing the status quo,” Pulver said.

As it grows, maintaining the quality of investors and advisors on OurCrowd could be difficult. And while the model helps attract a new breed of investors who wouldn’t typically think of putting their money into tech startups, it’s unclear whether it’ll become more than a niche industry, said Koby Simana, who runs IVC Research Center, which monitors Israel’s venture-capital and technology industries. “I’m not sure if those investors will see a real return on investment,” Simana said. “The model is very young and there haven’t been many home-runs or exits.” OurCrowd launched at a time when Israeli venture-capital firms started running into trouble. Fundraising for funds there fell 30 percent last year to $607 million, according to IVC Research Center. While 10 percent of OurCrowd’s investors are based in Israel, nearly 40 percent are from the U.S. The company recently opened an office in San Diego, California, and plans to recruit more companies outside of Israel to use the site for fundraising this year, Medved said. “Our intent from here going forward is to be the largest site in the world doing this kind of investing,” he said.” [BusinessWeek]

Citi to open Israel accelerator for financial start ups: “Citi announced that it is establishing its first accelerator in Israel for start ups in the financial technology sector. The program is designed for newly established start ups. The accelerator will be headed by Ornit Schneur and will operate in Citi’s Technology Innovation Center in Israel headed by Lyron Wahrmann. The accelerator program will last four months. During the program start ups will have access to Citi’s activities and know-how and will get to meet senior executives worldwide. The first program will begin towards the end of 2013 and candidate companies have several more weeks left to apply.” [Globes]

Datorama picks up $3M from Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s fund: “Datorama, the Israel and US founded marketing analytics platform recently announced the securing of $3M in series A funding from Cedar Fund and Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors. The company states that the funding will be used to support the continued development and marketing of Datorama’s self-service cross-channel marketing analytics platform.” [GeekTime]

Onavo 2.0: Helping appoholics use data responsibly – “Onavo is not for everybody, but if you’re one of those appoholics living on your mobile and constantly flirting with the limits of your data plan, the new Onavo Count 2.0 is like having your own app sponsor holding up a mirror to your usage and giving you perspective on what you use, what you need and where you can cut. Founded in 2010 by Guy Rosen and Roi Tiger, the Israeli startup has since become one of the leading providers of mobile data intelligence services for businesses and private users. Onavo Count is a consumer facing app released in 2011 to help mobile users mitigate the strain on their mobile budget by tracking the flow of third party app data to and from their mobile device. Used in conjunction with data compressor Onavo Extend, users can save on power and data plans upwards of 500%, according to the company.” [Infoxicate]


American Dream finally gets the keys to the project formerly known as Xanadu: ” Two years after emerging as the new developer for the project once known as Xanadu, Triple Five has finally gotten the keys to the long-idle worksite at the Meadowlands Sports Complex — a key step both for a restart of construction and for the company’s bid for up to $500 million in financing through various public agencies. Alan Marcus, a Triple Five spokesman, confirmed that a deal was signed Wednesday with the consortium of lenders for the failed Xanadu project. He declined to provide further details, but in recent legal filings, Triple Five said it had agreed in May 2011 to a “purchase-sale agreement” with the lenders valued at $550 million. Work could not begin again on the shopping and entertainment project until Triple Five had possession, and state officials said it was also important to show that Triple Five had committed significant funds to the project itself before seeking public financing.” [North Jersey]

Nakash family to buy 1301 New York Ave. NW, DC building for $135 million: “The family that owns Jordache Enterprises Inc., yes, of Jordache jeans fame, has reached a contract to buy 1301 New York Ave. NW from Boston Properties Inc. for $135 million, according to sources familiar with the deal. The sale would be the second multimillion-dollar D.C. deal for the Nakash family and its affiliate, Nakash Holdings LLC, which paid $102.8 million for the nearby Bond Building nearby at 1400 New York Ave. NW in March. Sources tell me the company is also seeking out other investment opportunities in the D.C. area and that the Nakash family was attracted to 1301 New York given its stability. The Justice Department recently renewed its lease there through 2029.” [Washington Business Journal]

Office Building Stuck in Typo Controversy Now for Sale: “A gutted office building at 315 West 35th Street has hit the market for $36 million, and if that doesn’t sound all that exciting, well, that’s because it isn’t. The building’s recent history, on the other hand, is a tale of intrigue, shady business dealings, and … spelling errors. The building was purchased, via an LLC, by Aaron Chitrik in 2006 for $16 million. Chitrik was in the process of converting it when he was stalled by the financial crisis. In 2010, the $10.75 million mortgage was purchased by Isaac Chetrit (a cousin of real estate giant Joseph Chetrit). But Chetrit managed to accidentally misspell the name of his company on the mortgage documents, which was when things got interesting.

While trying to take control of the building after Chitrik defaulted, Chetrit and his attorney realized that someone had taken the city records that showed a nonexistent company as the owner and written in the name “Yospeh Levin,” as principal, effectively staking claim to the mortgage. Chetrit eventually tracked down Levin and found he was associated with Chitrik, according to a report from Real Estate Weekly at the time. “It’s as if you bought a house and your lawyer made a mistake spelling your name and then someone with that name showed up and claimed that the house was theirs,” Chetrit’s attorney, Stephen Meister of Meister Seelig & Fein, told Real Estate Weekly.

Besides the wasted time (and money) in court, Chetrit’s spelling mistake didn’t prove to be especially costly, as the mortgage was transferred back to him. And now the building, located near Hudson Yards, has appreciated enough in value for Chitrik to sell it and pay off the mortgage, so everything seems to have more or less worked out okay for him, too. The moral of the story is that you should definitely know how to spell the name of your own company.” [CurbedNY]

Albumatic Raises $4.2 Million: Albumatic is a Los Angeles based startup that has developed a photo sharing application.  Albumatic has raised $4.2 million in funding.  This round of funding was provided by RRE Ventures, Thrive Capital, SV Angel, CrunchFund, Highline Venture Partners, Betaworks, and Box Group.  Albumatic was founded by Adam Ludwin and Devon Gundry. Albumatic started out this past February as a way for friends at the same event to share photos with each other.  The co-founders took their app to SXSW this past March and offered people free food in exchange for downloading the app. What they discovered was that there was a lot of steps involved in downloading the app and setting up an album, according to GigaOM.  The company went from a location-based photo sharing app that focused on being in the moment to an app where photo albums can be shared with friends and family for collaboration purposes.” [Pulse]

Up Next: The man who wants electric cars to be art – “The worlds of the art dealer and the car dealer may seem very different – but one man wants to bring them together. Kenny Schachter is an art dealer and gallery owner, who also has a passion for cars. With the slow rise of electric cars and 3D printing, he sees a future where cars are more like works of art: created in small numbers, rather than being mass-produced and all looking broadly the same. At his lock-up garage in east London, he showed off his two “concept vehicles”, designed by his friend and associate, internationally-renowned architect Zaha Hadid.

A three-wheeler model designed for city and motorway travel has been abandoned as “impractical”, said Mr Schachter. Instead, he is concentrating on a four-wheel concept, which is solely designed as a city car – range being a perennial problem for the electric vehicle. Road safety regulations are another problem for his project, he admits, though he and Zaha Hadid are willing to make concessions in their designs in order to meet them. Mr Schachter is still in talks with potential manufacturers about his concept car. Meanwhile, a boat that he designed with Hadid has begun a production run of 12 in Germany, with two already sold.” [BBC]

DESSERT – WSJ: Kosher Comic Has Fun in the Sun: “The modern Orthodox comedian Elon Gold performed at a benefit at the home of Ben and Yael Ringel here to raise money for the Chabad Lubavitch for the Hamptons, a philanthropic organization under the guidance of Rabbi Leibel Baumgarten and his wife, Goldie, that provides religious services year round, kosher food, challah for Shabbat and offers the only state-of-the-art mikvah for women in the area.

There was a lot of food—what party hosted by Jews would happen without that?—thanks to the glatt kosher Prestige Caterers, and Mr. Gold took some good-natured pot shots at the hosts’ house. “This is an expensive home and all I get is this $13 microphone from Radio Shack?” And, of course, he made several jokes about Judaism. “How many not-fun holidays can we have in one year?” he asked about the religion. “We are probably the only group who actually has a miserable New Years.” Yom Kippur, which is part of the celebration of the Jewish New Year and starts sundown of Sept. 13, involves a day of atoning and fasting.” [Wall Street Journal]

Thats all folks, have a great Friday! 

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