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Monday.com celebrates its IPO at the Nasdaq, June 10, 2021.
Source: Nasdaq

In April, Insight Partners’ Jeff Horing hopped on a flight to Israel for a breakfast with tech CEOs. It was also an opportunity to pay a visit to his firm’s first international office, which had opened less than two years before.

Now, CEOs from two of those companies are visiting him in New York. They’re actually coming to ring the bell on the Nasdaq, as Israel’s high-growth companies line up to hit the public markets.

Last week, collaboration software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor Monday.com held its IPO and closed on Friday with a market cap of $8.2 billion. This week, fellow Israeli software company WalkMe, whose technology is designed to simplify enterprise software and applications, is scheduled to go public with a valuation of up to $2.6 billion

Insight is the biggest investor in both. The firm owns a 43% stake in Monday.com and controls 32% of WalkMe. Its combined ownership in the two companies is currently worth about $3.9 billion.

“For a long time, Israel has been the start-up hub, a hive of activity,” Horing wrote in an email, in response to written questions. “But these start-ups are scaling successfully at a more rapid pace.”

Money is flooding into Israeli tech. The country’s start-ups raised $5.37 billion in the first quarter, more than double the amount a year earlier and 89% above the fourth quarter, which was a record period, according to a report from IVC and law firm Meitar.

Game developer Playtika, based in Herzliya, went public in January and has a market cap of $10.6 billion, making it the fourth most-valuable publicly traded tech company in Israel, according to FactSet. Monday.com ranks fifth and WalkMe is poised to crack the top 10.

For Insight, the launch of an Israeli operation in late 2019 marked the firm’s first office opening outside the U.S. since its founding in 1995. But Insight had been investing in and around Tel Aviv for over two decades.

Horing said the firm did its first deal in Israel in 2000. He highlighted Enigma, a developer of software to manufacturers, and Shunra, a network virtualization company that was acquired by Hewlett-Packard, as two early investments.

“I’ve always loved visiting Israel and have many memories at tiny market restaurants eating incredible food, arguing for hours over different technologies and SaaS strategies,” Horing said. “My team and I spent countless hours flying back and forth to Israel, often spending weeks at a time getting to know entrepreneurs and working alongside our portfolio companies.”

Prior to Monday.com, Insight’s marquee investment had been in website creation software company Wix, which went public in 2013. Insight co-led a $40 million round in 2011 and had a 12% stake at the time of the IPO.

Wix’s stock price has since multiplied 17-fold, giving the company a $15 billion market cap, second only to Check Point Software among Israeli tech companies.

“Wix was a foundational investment for Insight in Israel,” Horing said. Wix co-founder Avishai Abrahami is also on Monday.com’s board. Along with Abrahami and Nir Zohar, Wix’s operating chief, “we’ve co-invested in many Israeli deals over the years,” Horing said.

Acquiring an Israeli firm’s portfolio

The most glaring detail on Monday.com’s cap table is the size of Insight’s stake.

Typically when a venture-backed company goes public with a multibillion-dollar valuation, the top firm would hold no more than 30% of the outstanding shares, often much less.

Insight took a unique approach to get to 43%. In February 2019, seven months before opening its Tel Aviv office, Insight purchased the majority of a fund portfolio held by an Israeli firm called Genesis Partners, whose partners were leaving for other ventures.

Within that fund, which closed in 2009, Genesis had invested in Monday.com’s seed and Series A financing rounds. Insight first came in as part of the $25 million Series B in 2017.

After acquiring the contents of the Genesis fund, Insight was able to merge the two firms’ holdings, building a stake that’s now worth $3.1 billion. Genesis was also an early investor in two other Insight-backed companies: online music learning company JoyTunes and business intelligence company Sisense.

Monday.com co-founder and co-CEO Roy Mann told CNBC that Insight was tapping into a big change happening in Israeli tech.

“They had a very strong conviction in Israel and the Israeli ecosystem,” Mann said in an interview after the IPO. “The whole industry matured to a level where entrepreneurs want to build big companies and want to hold them for a long time. Insight was early on to recognize that and really go and back a lot of amazing Israeli companies.”

Horing joined co-founders Mann and Eran Zinman in ringing the Nasdaq’s opening bell on Thursday. The company also had 250 employees come in from cities across the U.S.

Horing will have the opportunity to do it again this week for the WalkMe IPO. In 2017, Insight led a $75 million investment in WalkMe. By following on over the course of two more financing rounds, Insight built up a 32% stake that’s worth $750 million at the top end of WalkMe’s IPO range.

Horing said Insight now has 80 “operating experts” in Israel working with portfolio companies and has expanded in Tel Aviv to take over the space formerly occupied by JFrog, which went public on the Nasdaq last year.

As for what Horing finds most exciting coming out of Israel these days, he said there’s no shortage of opportunities to put money to work.

“Israel is firing on all cylinders,” he said. “Of course cyber is a strong sector but it is much broader to a wide group of SaaS, infrastructure, fintech, gaming, and ad tech.”

WATCH: JFrog CEO on the company’s public debut and outlook

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DOJ asks for independent probe into FTX bankruptcy, a likely tactic to gather evidence on alleged fraud

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DOJ asks for independent probe into FTX bankruptcy, a likely tactic to gather evidence on alleged fraud

John Ray, chief executive officer of FTX Cryptocurrency Derivatives Exchange, arrives at bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Delaware, US, on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022.

Eric Lee | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Department of Justice has requested that an independent examiner be appointed to review “substantial and serious allegations of fraud, dishonesty” and “incompetence” after the implosion of Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto empire. It could be one way for the DOJ to gather evidence of alleged fraud.

In a filing in Delaware federal bankruptcy court, Andrew Vara, a U.S. bankruptcy trustee, told the court that the allegations of corporate misconduct and complete failure merited an immediate and speedy examination of the events leading up to FTX’s stunning collapse three weeks ago.

Vara said there’s a substantial basis to believe that Bankman-Fried and other managers mismanaged FTX or engaged in fraudulent conduct.

“It seems to me that the DOJ is trying to use the bankruptcy process as a way of getting evidence,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti told CNBC.

“Many times, the Department of Justice and bankruptcy estates in fraud cases work together in compiling potential restitution or other types of actions to make victims whole,” he said. The DOJ “will likely be part of the asset recovery and potentially having a Victims Fund with money going to those that lost money and what the Department of Justice potentially will view as a fraud.”

“It just shows a level of interest and attention that they’re paying to this that should be troubling to Mr. Bankman-Fried.”

Vara said an examination is preferable to an internal investigation because of the wider implications the company’s collapse may have on the crypto industry.

Another legal expert said that there could be other factors at play too, including the extensive political donations that FTX executives were involved in on both sides of the aisle.

There have been “campaign donations on both sides of the aisle from FTX and there have been political overtones and undertones in this case,” said Braden Perry, former senior trial attorney at the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and Kennyhertz Perry partner.

“I think that this is just out of prudence and out of caution to make sure that whatever is happening is done at an independent level,” Perry continued.

It’s not unusual to appoint a bankruptcy examiner. There was one to oversee the crypto bankruptcy process of Celsius Network, for example.

Bankruptcies above a certain size require an examiner. In this case, the U.S. Trustee said that an examiner is mandatory because FTX’s fixed, liquidated and unsecured debts to customers exceed the $5 million threshold.

FTX’s November collapse left creditors reeling over the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars, in some cases, and has rocked the wider crypto world. BlockFi, a crypto lender, filed for bankruptcy protection in New Jersey last week.

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Tech layoffs send visa holders on frantic search for employment to avoid deportation

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Tech layoffs send visa holders on frantic search for employment to avoid deportation

After years of seemingly boundless expansion, the U.S. tech industry has hit a wall. Companies are in cash preservation mode, leading to thousands of job cuts a month and a surge of layoffs in November.

While the sudden loss of a paycheck can be devastating for anyone, especially during the holiday season, the recent wave of reductions is having an outsized impact on skilled workers who are living in the U.S. on temporary visas and are at risk of being sent home if they can’t secure a new job in short order.

Tech companies are among the employers with the most approvals for H-1B visas, which are granted to people in specialty occupations that often require a college degree and extra training. Silicon Valley has for years leaned on temporary visas issued by the government to employ thousands of foreign workers in technical fields such as engineering, biotech and computer science. That’s a big reason tech companies have been outspoken in their defense of immigrants’ rights.

Workers on temporary visas often have 60 to 90 days to find a new gig so they can avoid being deported.

“It’s this amazing talent pool that the U.S. is fortunate to attract, and they’re always living on the edge,” said Sophie Alcorn, an immigration lawyer based in Mountain View, California, who specializes in securing visas for tech workers. “Many of them up are up against this 60-day grace period deadline. They have a chance to find a new job to sponsor them, and if they can’t do that, they have to leave the U.S. So it’s a stressful time for everybody.”

The already grim situation worsened in November, when Meta, Amazon, Twitter, Lyft, Salesforce, HP and DoorDash announced significant cuts to their workforces. More than 50,000 tech workers were let go from their jobs in November, according to data collected by the website Layoffs.fyi.

Amazon gave staffers who were laid off 60 days to search for a new role inside the company, after which they’d be offered severance, according to a former Amazon Web Services employee who lost his job. The person spoke to CNBC on the condition of anonymity.

In fiscal 2021, Amazon had the most approved petitions for H-1B visas, with 6,182, according to a National Foundation for American Policy review of U.S. immigration data. Google, IBM and Microsoft also ranked near the top of the list.

The former AWS employee has been in the country for two years on student and employment visas. He said he was unexpectedly laid off at the beginning of November, just months after joining the company as an engineer. Despite Amazon informing him that he had 60 days to find another position internally, the person said his manager advised him to apply for jobs elsewhere due the company’s pullback in hiring. Amazon said in November it’s pausing hiring for its corporate workforce.

An Amazon spokesperson didn’t provide a comment beyond what CEO Andy Jassy said last month, when he told those affected by the layoffs that the company would help them find new roles.

Companies generally aren’t specifying what percentage of the people being laid off are on visas. A search for “layoffs H1B” on LinkedIn surfaces a stream of posts from workers who recently lost their jobs and are expressing concern about the 60-day unemployment window. Visa holders have been sharing resources on Discord servers, the anonymous professional network Blind and in WhatsApp groups, the former AWS employee said.

It had already been a frenetic few years for foreign workers in the U.S. well before surging inflation and concerns of a recession sparked the latest round of job cuts.

The Trump administration’s hostile posture toward immigration put the H-1B program at risk. As president in 2020, Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending work visas, including those with H-1B status, claiming they hurt employment prospects for Americans. The move drew a strong rebuke from tech executives, who said the program serves as a pipeline for talented individuals and strengthens American companies. President Joe Biden allowed the Trump-era ban to expire last year.

Whatever relief the Biden presidency provided is of limited value to those who are now jobless. An engineer who was recently laid off by gene-sequencing technology company Illumina said he hoped his employer would sponsor his transfer to an H-1B visa. He’s here on a different visa, known as Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to work in the U.S. for up to three years after graduation.

The former Illumina employee, who spoke on condition that he not be named, not only has to find a new job within 90 days from the layoff date, but his OPT visa expires in August. Any company that hires him must be willing to sponsor his visa transfer and pay the related fees. He’s considering going back to school in order to extend his stay in the U.S., but he’s anxious about taking on student loans.

Illumina said in November it was cutting about 5% of its global workforce. A company spokesperson told CNBC that less than 10% of impacted employees were here on H-1B or related visas.

“We are engaging with each employee individually so that they understand the impact to their employment eligibility and options to remain in the U.S.,” the spokesperson said by email. “We are working to review each and every situation to ensure great care for those impacted, and to ensure compliance with immigration law.”

The ex-employee said he had dreams of working for Illumina, planting roots in the U.S. and buying a house. Now, he said, he’s just trying to find a way to stay in the country without going deep into debt. In just a matter of months, it’s “like a night and day difference,” he said.

WATCH: Tech layoffs double from October to November

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Elon Musk suspends Ye’s Twitter account after swastika post

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Elon Musk suspends Ye's Twitter account after swastika post

Ye suspended from Twitter again after antisemitic post

Ye’s Twitter account was suspended again Friday for violating the social media platform’s rules on “incitement to violence,” CEO Elon Musk said.

The rapper, formerly known as Kanye West, appeared to post an image of a swastika, a symbol synonymous with the Nazis, inside a Star of David, a prominent symbol of Judaism.

Musk said he “tried his best” in response to Ye’s tweet, which can no longer be viewed. “Despite that, he again violated our rule against incitement to violence. Account will be suspended.”

Ye’s tweet came after he made antisemetic comments in an interview with the controversial radio host Alex Jones on Thursday. Ye referred to “the Jewish media” and said he saw “good things about Hitler” in an hourlong conversation with the conspiracy theorist.

In October, Twitter locked Ye’s account for an unspecified amount of time following a string of antisemitic remarks which escalated into threatening and hateful comments about Jewish people. He returned to Twitter in November.

Deals off

Elon Musk is the bravest, most creative person on the planet, says Netflix's Reed Hastings

The billionaire Tesla CEO, who has called himself a “free speech absolutist,” is finding the limits of that tested in his early days of owning Twitter.

‘Verified’ service

Musk has attempted to make sweeping changes in his first few days in charge, including gutting a huge swathe of Twitter’s workforce and launching an $8 per month “Verified” service that allows users to buy the coveted blue check mark.

Twitter was forced to pause its subscription service however after users abused it by paying the fee to get a blue check then impersonating celebrities.

Musk said last week that the “Verified” service would be relaunched on Friday with different colored check marks, but there has been no update on whether this is still the case.

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