Whenever a cybersecurity startup seeks capital from venture capital firms in Israel, whose military trains an outsize number of security software entrepreneurs, the first thing prospective investors usually do is check whether Gili Raanan has invested in it. If he hasn’t, there had better be a good reason, said Shlomo Kramer, co-founder of Check Point, the biggest Israel-based security software firm.
“In cybersecurity, every good idea has five startups and three of them are from Israel,” Kramer, who is now founder and CEO of Cato Networks, said. If Raanan isn’t an investor in one of them, he probably “already has a startup like that”—and that startup holds an advantage, said Kramer, who is an investor in Cyberstarts, Raanan’s cybersecurity fund.
Since founding Cyberstarts in 2018, Raanan has rapidly become a force. His broad connections with cybersecurity investors and potential customers propelled his portfolio companies, including cloud security firm Wiz and crypto-wallet security developer Fireblocks, to eye-popping valuations during the recent startup boom. The 53-year-old Raanan has effectively dominated the market for companies founded by vets of an elite military hacking unit in Israel, which despite its tiny population captured more than a third of the $18 billion security startups raised globally last year.