Galili tells Gentry that UpWest Labs is “a pre-seed fund, as opposed to an accelerator. We make between 6 and 10 investments per year, and are essentially writing these companies their first check.” This approach has enabled fledgling stage start-ups to tap crucial venture capital funds, broaden their customer base, and experience rapid market share growth.
UpWest Labs’ many success stories include its early backing of SentinelOne. The Mountain View outfit brings a behavioral-based Artificial Intelligence approach to traditional cyber security, a field in which Israel has long specialized. Netflix quickly signed on with the company, and SentinelOne now counts more than 2,500 customers. In 2015 UpWest Labs also presciently invested in the autonomous drone outfit Airobotics, whose corporate headquarters are located near Tel Aviv.
Galili’s background, both personally and professionally, is every bit as impressive as her client list. In her early 20s she served as an artillery instructor in the Israeli Defense Forces, before moving to San Francisco to study international relations. She has been in the Bay Area for more than two decades and currently lives in Los Altos Hills with her husband Mark, who is in the tech industry.
After working in fundraising for the nonprofit sector earlier in her career, Galili was appointed Executive Director of the California Israel Chamber of Commerce during the first Dotcom boom. Being at the nexus of Silicon Valley and its Israeli equivalents enabled Galili to “be a bridge between these two exciting ecosystems,” she recalls. “There is something to learn from both sides. We can match the business know-how of the U.S. with top Israeli technology talent.”
Galili emphasizes the importance of “having strong domain expertise, backing the right team, and hiring high-conviction people. The question we constantly ask ourselves is, ‘Where can we have the most impact?’” For some six years now, UpWest Labs has been coming up with all the right answers.