Silvertech Ventures Is Committed To The Active Cultivation Of Entrepreneurs
New York is undoubtedly a concrete jungle where dreams come true, but even the famous song doesn’t promise it is going to be simple. Thousands of startups joining the Big Apple crowd every year; although motivated and confident, they have little experience and only a small network of connections.
These key components of success usually take years (and multiple failures along the way) to develop. Unless you are lucky enough to grab the attention of Silvertech Ventures. If they believe in you, not just your idea, they will work to open every door for you, support you in every crisis and make sure you make the very best of your time in the crowded NY arena. Their approach is founder focused. “Companies change, sometimes rapidly,” they explain. “We care about people.”
An accelerator and venture capital firm, Silvertech Ventures supports entrepreneurs as they grow their companies, offers them, what seems to be, an incomparable network of connections and experience and most importantly, makes sure to be there when needed.
“Being the CEO of a technology startup is lonely,” says Silvertech’s co-founder, Tal Kerret. The 49 -year-old native Israeli started his tech career in the late 1990’s after completing a bachelor’s degree in computer science and math from Tel Aviv University. His first startup, the e-commerce technology company RichFX Inc., formerly Webglide, brought him to New York. It was acquired by NYSE-listed ChannelAdvisor Corp. in 2002, the same year Kerret married Lisa, daughter of Silverstein Properties founder and chairman Larry Silverstein. A year later, Kerret co-founded another startup, a game developer called Oberon Media and in 2011, he joined the family business as president, working to rebuild the legendary World Trade Center.
“My father-in-law repeatedly invited me to join the firm, telling me he was getting old and wanted me on board,” Kerret said. “I told him I wanted my own company to first reach the $1 billion mark. At the time, his company had 11 offices employing 750 people. In response, Silverstein told him that almost every single Silverstein Properties project was worth more than $1 billion. Kerret took the job.
With an entrepreneurial mindset, Kerret is leading as the president of Silverstein Properties (SPI). After a random encounter with an old acquaintance, Charlie Federman, at 7 World Trade, he suggested they join forces and use their knowledge and years of experience to create Silvertech. They wanted to create a unique platform and offer exciting new startups an efficient path to success; some might even call it a shortcut.
Federman is considered a brand name in the Israeli and New York high-tech world. In the ‘90s, he was the Chairman of Broadview, an investment bank that was involved in a quarter of the high-tech mergers and acquisitions in the U.S. After leaving Broadview, Federman joined Nir and Eli Barkat, who founded BRM Technologies, which invested in high-tech startups such as Check Point Software Technologies. Federman invested in Payoneer and earned a tidy profit.
Silvertech is now managed by three people; Federman, who is considered the spiritual leader, Larry Wagenberg, a veteran venture capitalist, and Kerret.
Hand In Hand
25 thriving startups – 16 of which Israeli and 9 of which are run by women – have been working out of the 10th and 46th floors of the new World Trade building. “You get advice from all directions, investors are constantly putting on the pressure, and you’re mostly unsure of what to do. Over the years, I’ve seen the tremendous sacrifices made by CEOs and entrepreneurs along the way and we wanted to eliminate this obstacle in the process,” says Charlie.
As opposed to many accelerators that support startups for a period of 10-12 weeks, Silvertech companies stay for a year and often more. After a ‘no commitment’ period of three months, the companies can stay in their offices, enjoy the support and networking that Silvertech provides; in return, they commit a single digit percentage of their equity to the accelerator.
“Most of our portfolio companies join Silvertech after they have already raised capital and have a product in the market; some join us earlier and others have joined after raising substantial capital. People are more important than stages,” Federman reminds us.
Silvertech is presently collaborating with startups such as Aquant Inc., a company that developed artificial intelligence platform giving enterprise service professionals twenty years of experience in twenty seconds and Rentigo Ltd. which developed an app to help landlords and rental management companies manage and track tenant payments. Both companies were founded by Israelis.
Beyond space, a supportive shoulder and expert advice, entrepreneurs receive concrete financial help from Silvertech. “They get access to capital: in 2018 alone, the companies raised $110 million and in 2019 over $150 million,” says Kerret. “They also benefit from our contacts. For us, the most important thing is to come to work every day and ask them how we can help, in any way.”
Gil Eyal, founder of Hypr, one of Silvertech’s first companies, says, “What they established here is really cool, and what is unique is that there is no structured plan. They are with you during the hard times and that is what’s important. Many don’t understand this, but the first years of a startup is a search for the self. You have an idea, you are sure the market will go crazy over it but as it turns out, it doesn’t work like that. At the beginning you raise money from people who are far from being professionals, like family and friends, and promise them you will be using their money for a certain project. But then you discover that the best thing that you can do with their money is — in the best case scenario — something a bit different, and in the worst case, something else altogether. They don’t understand this, and a lot of them are hung up on the first promise, are in love with the idea and can’t give it up. Then along comes Silvertech; there they understand that the first years are a search and they back you until you find your path. Tal even accompanies you to meetings if you need him to. I once missed a tender and Tal picked up the phone and reopened it up for us. We also won that tender in the end. They are here for us, and we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. Period.”
Michal Alter, CEO of Visit.org, stops to chat with us on her way to a meeting and after being briefed by Charlie. “We have been here for two years, she tells us, Charlie is king of the floor, and I stay close to his side. They help with everything, including raising capital and business opportunities, and are always there to help and advise like good friends. There are people here with experience, knowledge and connections and we have their attention.”
“Having an idea is not enough, “says Tal. “Google was the 18th search engine to the market , but today who remembers the other 17? Many companies are in love with their excellent technology and solutions, but you must be open to learning. Americans understand that the problem is what’s important and the solution comes after. Others are in love with their product and then they find out that it isn’t a real solution to the current market problems.” He concludes, “It’s critical that companies move fast. First-time entrepreneurs come here with brilliant ideas, and everyone thinks his or her idea is the ultimate one. Moving forward quickly, with people who can help you adopt the right perspective, set the right objectives and make the right moves, gives you a real chance.”