Benchmark closes Israeli fund

Benchmark Capital has closed its Benchmark Israel fund at $220 million. This continues Benchmark’s expansion after it raised a fund of $750 million last year to invest exclusively in Europe.

Benchmark’s sixth fund will apply the US investment strategy to Israel. The fund is looking to make approximately 20 early stage investments of up to $15 million. Harnessing the experience of its partners the fund will target enterprise applications, infrastructure systems and software, networking equipment and software, semiconductors and optical devices. The fund will focus on companies from these sectors that have the potential to succeed in US markets. Alan Vagenshi, Benchmark’s spokesperson in Tel Aviv, said: “With this fund, Benchmark is acknowledging the maturity of the Israeli high tech sector.”

The idea for the fund was conceived when Nachman Shelef and Alex Balkanski of Benchmark met as board members of an investee company, Atrica. Now a Benchmark partner himself, Nachman Shelef is joined by Arad Naveh in Tel Aviv and Mark Kremer in Menlo Park. Together the team will manage the new fund’s investments.

Although the majority of the fund’s capital has come from the US, investors in Europe and Israel have also made commitments. Benchmark’s LPs contributed and were joined by corporate investors Cisco Systems, Infineon Technologies, Mercury Interactive and Rational Software.

Five investments have already been made from the fund. Those announced include a $2 million investment made last month in Lycium Networks, a company developing voice and data convergence technology over next generation networks.