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Meet The Israeli VC Still Bullish On WeWork, Lemonade And The Old Testament

Jacob Scott

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Aleph cofounder Michael Eisenberg, right, is moving up the Midas List Europe from his firm’s offices … [+] in Tel Aviv. Aleph Partners

Before a startup has gained widespread popular appeal, you can count on its venture capitalists to promote it as the next big thing. Its rarer for those early investors to be talking up the company at the other end, months and years after it’s gone public.

But at Israel-based early-stage firm Aleph, cofounder Michael Eisenberg remains a bull about not one, but two controversial stocks. And one such investment, seemingly left for dead by some public market investors, is helping Eisenberg rise to a higher-than-ever spot on the 2021 Midas List Europe.

Eisenberg, 50, has built a career investing portfolio that includes two recently-public companies: coworking company WeWork and insurer Lemonade. The former went public in October via special purpose acquisition vehicle; the latter through a traditional IPO in July 2020. Both stocks trade below where they opened trading on their first day on the market, with WeWork’s market cap standing at about $6 billion today, a fraction of its peak $47 billion private valuation, and Lemonade’s market cap of $3 billion less than half of where it started the year.

As an early-stage investor, Eisenberg and his firm have made out well all the same. Those investments have returned tens of millions of dollars to Aleph’s backers over the years. But despite opportunities to cash out both positions altogether – either through expired restrictions on trading with Lemonade, or in a private placement with lead WeWork shareholder SoftBank –Eisenberg says his firm still owns about half of each position.

IF he’d unloaded his WeWork shares at first chance, Eisenberg wouldn’t sit at No. 8 on Midas Europe, up from No. 11 last year. The reason to hold, he says, has nothing to do with short-term stock prices, but a simple question: do you believe in a company’s long-term secular trends? “If you have a long-term believe in these businesses, you stick with them,” he says.

MIchael Eisenberg sees a small partnership approach as one way to stay aligned against potential … [+] portfolio conflicts. Aleph

Alignment is a theme for Eisenberg, and a big part of Aleph’s pitch. With startups increasingly global in their aspirations, the chance of large-sized, multi-geography firms backing competitors is getting higher, the investor believes. Back competitors is no longer uniformly the forbidden tactic it was in the dotcom boom and bust. But committing to one company as the potentially global winner is better for a VC’s reputation with their “customer,” the entrepreneur, Eisenberg argues.

The investor cautions about firms that look to back the DoorDash of Pakistan alongside the DoorDash of Turkey, or look for multiple local versions of other successful U.S. unicorns like Plaid. To take another approach, however, means a local firm like Aleph must build its talent network not just in its hometown of Tel Aviv, but in other geographies, simultaneously. “We spend a ton of time automating our internal systems,” Eisenberg says. “How you attract and retain talent is becoming more challenging and more expensive.”

To help make sense of the world for his own children, but also his entrepreneurs and collaborators, Eisenberg has been working on a book series that draws lessons and modern-day extrapolations in economics and company-building from each book of the Old Testament of the Bible. He’s written three so far in Hebrew; one, “The Tree of Life and Prosperity,” has been translated into English so far. “The world is in search right now, because things are so upside-down, for timeless principles that can guide our decision-making,” he adds.

Asked what the lesson would be from WeWork and Lemonade’s journeys to the markets and their roller coaster rides since, Eisenberg warns that comparisons between startups don’t get founders very far. Of course, those investments alone aren’t why he’s on the Midas List Europe, either; he’s an early investor in Healthy.io, which tests for kidney disease, as well as Melio, a business-to-business payments solution valued by private investors at $4 billion. (Both started out in Israel before opening U.S. offices, as well.)

Still, he offers up one lesson loaded with subtext, depending on from where in the price chart you’re looking. “Disrupting traditional industries is really hard, really really hard,” he says. “It takes especially ambitious entrepreneurs to do it.”

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‘Moon Knight’ Took Marvel in a Different Orbit, but It Didn’t Rise to the Occasion

Jacob Scott

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Before anyone writes that off as an anomaly, “Eternals” tackled a similar introduction of a dense mythology on the bigger screen, with equally mixed results. It’s a reminder that while film-goers have had more than a decade to get to know characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, introducing some of these lesser-known heroes can pose a more formidable challenge beyond catering to the most ardent fans.
For Marvel, there are warning signs in that, since “Moon Knight” will be followed by several series based on second-tier characters, although the next two on the horizon, “Ms. Marvel” (which is due in June) and “She-Hulk,” at least have the benefit of sharing franchises and name recognition with existing Avengers.
Ultimately, “Moon Knight’s” murky storytelling appeared to squander its principal assets, which included the cool look of the character — a costume that was too seldom used — and the presence of Isaac, who possesses additional genre credentials via the “Star Wars” sequels.

Taking its time in peeling back the layers of the character’s complicated backstory, “Moon Knight” took a weird plunge into the Egyptian mythology behind it, in ways that became increasingly confounding and surreal.

By the time the protagonist’s two halves, Steven Grant and Marc Spector, wound up in a psychiatric hospital talking to an anthropomorphic hippo in the penultimate chapter, the question wasn’t so much being able to keep up with the story as whether bothering to do so was worth the effort.

The sixth and final episode brought the plot to a messy close, seeking to stop the goddess Ammit from proceeding to “purify the souls of Cairo, and then the world.” In the customary credit sequence, the producers capped that off by introducing a third personality, Jake Lockley, also rooted in the comics. While that seemingly spelled the end for the show’s villain (Ethan Hawke), the finish — giving the god Khonshu the protégé he sought — paved the way for further adventures should Marvel so choose.

That last twist might be cause for celebration in narrower confines of the Marvel fan universe, but “Moon Knight” too often felt like it was one long Easter-egg sequence, conspicuously preaching to that choir.

Granted, Marvel has made clear that Disney+ offers the chance to explore different kinds of stories, but “Moon Knight” feels at best like a quirky showcase for Isaac and at worst a failed experiment in terms of execution and tone.

That doesn’t mean this “Moon” won’t somehow rise again, if the closely held streaming data justifies it. But the promise that surrounded this property has faded, providing further evidence that even Marvel isn’t immune from setbacks as it moves into its next phase.

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Start-up Pony.ai says it’s the first self-driving company to get a taxi license in China

Jacob Scott

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Autonomous driving start-up Pony.ai can collect fares for robotaxi rides in parts of two major Chinese cities as of Sunday.

Pony.ai handout

BEIJING — Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced Sunday it received a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.

The license allows Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving cars as traditional taxis in the Nansha district of the southern city of Guangzhou, the company said.

The Chinese start-up, which is backed by Toyota, received approval from Beijing city late last year to charge fees to operate a commercial robotaxi business in a suburban district of the city. It is not the same as a taxi licence.

Baidu’s Apollo Go also received approval in the same Beijing district last year.

Pony.ai was valued at $8.5 billion in early March. The company said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.

The start-up said it plans to launch commercial robotaxi businesses in two other large Chinese cities next year. The company is already testing self-driving cars in those cities and in California. 

Robotaxis in China currently have a human driver present for safety.

— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.

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How to watch Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies: TV channel, NBA live stream info, start time

Jacob Scott

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Who’s Playing

Memphis @ Minnesota

Current Records: Memphis 2-1; Minnesota 1-2

What to Know

The Memphis Grizzlies’ road trip will continue as they head to Target Center at 10 p.m. ET this past Saturday to face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis will be strutting in after a win while Minnesota will be stumbling in from a loss.

The Grizzlies are hoping for another victory. They beat the Timberwolves 104-95 this past Thursday. The victory came about thanks to a strong surge after the first quarter to overcome a 39-21 deficit. Memphis’ success was spearheaded by the efforts of power forward Brandon Clarke, who had 20 points in addition to eight rebounds, and shooting guard Desmond Bane, who shot 7-for-15 from beyond the arc and finished with 26 points and six boards.

Barring any buzzer beaters, Memphis is expected to win a tight contest. They might be worth taking a chance on against the spread as they are currently on a two-game streak of ATS wins.

Memphis’ win brought them up to 2-1 while the Timberwolves’ defeat pulled them down to a reciprocal 1-2. A couple offensive stats to keep in the back of your head while watching: The Grizzlies come into the game boasting the second most points per game in the league at 115.6. But Minnesota is even better: they rank first in the league when it comes to points per game, with 115.9 on average. Tune in for what’s sure to be a high-scoring contest.

How To Watch

When: Saturday at 10 p.m. ET Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota TV: ESPN Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.) Follow: CBS Sports App Ticket Cost: $76.96

Odds

The Grizzlies are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Timberwolves, according to the latest NBA odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Grizzlies as a 3-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Memphis have won 19 out of their last 28 games against Minnesota.

Apr 21, 2022 – Memphis 104 vs. Minnesota 95 Apr 19, 2022 – Memphis 124 vs. Minnesota 96 Apr 16, 2022 – Minnesota 130 vs. Memphis 117 Feb 24, 2022 – Minnesota 119 vs. Memphis 114 Jan 13, 2022 – Memphis 116 vs. Minnesota 108 Nov 20, 2021 – Minnesota 138 vs. Memphis 95 Nov 08, 2021 – Memphis 125 vs. Minnesota 118 May 05, 2021 – Memphis 139 vs. Minnesota 135 Apr 02, 2021 – Memphis 120 vs. Minnesota 108 Jan 13, 2021 – Memphis 118 vs. Minnesota 107 Jan 07, 2020 – Memphis 119 vs. Minnesota 112 Dec 01, 2019 – Memphis 115 vs. Minnesota 107 Nov 06, 2019 – Memphis 137 vs. Minnesota 121 Mar 23, 2019 – Minnesota 112 vs. Memphis 99 Feb 05, 2019 – Memphis 108 vs. Minnesota 106 Jan 30, 2019 – Minnesota 99 vs. Memphis 97 Nov 18, 2018 – Memphis 100 vs. Minnesota 87 Apr 09, 2018 – Minnesota 113 vs. Memphis 94 Mar 26, 2018 – Memphis 101 vs. Minnesota 93 Dec 04, 2017 – Memphis 95 vs. Minnesota 92 Feb 04, 2017 – Memphis 107 vs. Minnesota 99 Nov 19, 2016 – Memphis 93 vs. Minnesota 71 Nov 01, 2016 – Minnesota 116 vs. Memphis 80 Oct 26, 2016 – Memphis 102 vs. Minnesota 98 Mar 16, 2016 – Minnesota 114 vs. Memphis 108 Feb 19, 2016 – Memphis 109 vs. Minnesota 104 Jan 23, 2016 – Minnesota 106 vs. Memphis 101 Nov 15, 2015 – Memphis 114 vs. Minnesota 106

Injury Report for Minnesota

No Injury Information

Injury Report for Memphis

Dillon Brooks: Game-Time Decision (Foot) Santi Aldama: Out (Knee) Killian Tillie: Out (Knee)

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