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March 1, 2019 1:02 pm

Global Shipping Giant’s Investment Arm Sets Sights on Israel’s Tech Ecosystem

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CTech – Danish shipping conglomerate A.P. Moller–Maersk Group is turning its eyes to Israel and its tech scene, according to Sune Stilling, head of Maersk’s venture arm Maersk Growth.

The world’s largest container ship and supply vessel operator, Maersk has around 80,000 employees. The shipping company reported revenues of $39 billion for 2018.

Maersk Growth was set up as in early 2017, when Stilling was tapped for the position from his previous position as CEO of Egyptian Drilling Company. Since April 2018, the venture arm made eight investments, with some more to be announced in the coming weeks, Stilling said in an interview with Calcalist Tuesday.

The fund focuses on three main domains: technologies that help fight food waste; smart logistics; and technologies that can impact the future of the global trading industry, especially in relation to small and medium businesses. Carbon neutrality is a fourth domain Maersk is branching into.

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Maersk Growth currently seeks to participate mainly in seed and series A rounds, with investments in the range of $1 million to $2 million, and also in larger investments deals in the range of $10 million to $50 million. The fund also intends on making follow-up investments in portfolio companies, Stilling said. The fund intends to make between 12 and 18 investments overall in 2019.

Maersk Growth also operates a one-month long, no equity accelerator program called Food Track by Maersk, which offers tools, help with a business plan, and financial training to startups.

17 startups have already participated in the program, including Tel Aviv-based Saillog Ltd., a company using artificial intelligence algorithms to help farmers identify and treat agricultural diseases and pests.

Maersk intends to announce the first investment in one of its accelerator companies next week, Stilling said, and has also penned “soft” partnerships with two companies.

To tap innovation coming from Israel, the fund has recently appointed venture partner Tobias Elmquist to head investments in the country.

In March 2018, Maersk announced a partnership with Israel-based maritime startup accelerator The Dock Innovation Hub. The fund now seeks to partner with additional local incubators, accelerators and venture capital firms.

“This is a model that has worked for us in the U.S. and is also working for us in Europe,” Stilling said.

Earlier this month, Stilling and three of his Growth colleagues visited Israel for a week, meeting with 30-40 different venture firms, accelerators and incubators, and also with a handful of startups. “We kept very very busy,” Stilling said.

Tel Aviv-based non-profit organization Start-Up Nation Central (SNC) was of particular assistance to them, Stilling said, helping them to know the local scene better.

They also met with Tel Aviv-based startup commercialization program The Bridge, the local branch of global startup community Startup Grind, and the Kitchen Foodtech Hub.

“I had the sense that it would be a very closed ecosystem that didn’t want to talk to anyone else, but as first timers we were made very welcome,” he said.

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