The Mer Group considering the acquisition of a Cyber Company
18 January, 2017
Exclusive for techtime: The Mer group is restructuring: founding the Mer Global division, rearranging its systems division as part of Smart Mer, and planning the acquisition of a cyber company
The Mer Group is planning the acquisition of a cyber company. The acquired company will be integrated into the solutions offered by the division. At the same time, the company transformed its subsidiary Athena into a security and intelligence solutions provider. The Group is now planning to recruit new employees in order to complete the development of a line of products. Techtime has learned of these developments in a meeting with the groups new CEO Omer Laviv in its Holon, Israel offices.
Omer Laviv was appointed CEO of the Mer Group 3 months ago. Laviv served as CEO of Athena, founded by former head of Shin-Bet shabtai Shavit, for 8 years. Athena was acquired by Mer in 2005, becoming part of the group’s homeland security solutions array. Laviv came to Athena straight from the Israeli airport authority, where he served as a manager in the field of security.
The Mer group has more than 1,000 employees in Israel and abroad, and it has three major divisions: Telecom, Security and Cleantech. The Groups revenues in the first 9 months of 2016 totaled more than 90$ million, 71% from telecommunication systems, 19% from security solutions and 3% from the cleantech sector.
In your last quarterly report, you reported a major restructuring. What happened?
Laviv: “during last year, the company has undergone a restructuring process, in order to focus on the company’s core activities. This included the closing or selling of activities which were outside our scope. At the same time. Alls the sales and implementation activities were transferred to our global subsidiaries, which were brought together, under a new division dubbed Mer global. This is in fact a new business division responsible for global sales of all the Groups products around the world. The Mer group has more than 30 offices and subsidiaries worldwide.
“Our idea was to harness this wide deployment in order to increase the sales of the Mer Group as a whole. Until recently, each office or subsidiary was dedicated to a specific division, dealing only with this divisions products. Now, all offices and subsidiaries belong to Mer global, which takes care of sales. When we approach a customer, we send him a Mer Global salesman, joined by a professional from the relevant division, who provides the professional solutions needed”.
How does the restructuring affect the systems division?
“After being appointed CEO, we changed the divisions name into Smart Mer. Behind this cosmetic change stands our outlook on the trends in the field of security, and about our place in this changing world. We are moving from the classic world of security solutions and smart city, which includes solutions such as electronic fences, security cameras, gate management and so on, to a more complex world, in which the layers of communication and connectivity are augmented by new data analytic, data fusion and insight creation functions. In these new fields, we plan to be technology producers. This is the frame of mind which led to changing of Athena’s status within the Mer group as well”.
Athena becomes a software company
As said, Athena was founded by former head of shin-Bet shabtai shavit, following the events of 9/11, and dealt mainly in consulting and project management of security and intelligence projects. By 2010, the company entered the field of software – developing intelligence and analytics systems. The company’s systems are based on deep learning in the field of Natural language processing (NLP) and Media processing in big data technology. These intelligence systems are used by leading intelligence and investigation authorities around the world – amongst them a leading western European financial fraud investigation authority, as well as the Israel Tax Authority.
Many of Athena’s employees have rich backgrounds in Israel’s various security branches. The company’s founder was head of the legendary Shin-Bet; Nir Lempert, Mer Gropu’s CEO was the Lieutenant Commander of the acclaimed 8200 unit in the IDF and Yoram Cohen, the former head of Israel’s internal security service has recently joined the Groups board of directors. Athena is now changing course – all the company’s consulting and project management activities were integrated into the Smart Mer division – and Athena has become a “pure” software company, focusing on the development of software applications in the fields of national and business intelligence, for the Smart Mer division.
What are your software products for security and intelligence applications?
“We have a control center operation software dubbed Secure-M. We are currently working on a new version of the system, some of our customers already received the new version, and we plan to officially launch it under the name SmartM in a few months’ time. In the field of cyber, we have a product dubbed Threat Actionable Intelligence. This is a unique program we developed, which scans the social media as well as the dark net, in order to produce pre-intelligence and alerts of possible cyber-attacks. As a company dealing with security, we cannot allow ourselves to ignore the cyber world. It is only natural for us to deal with cyber security. We understood that we don’t have a shelf product in this field, and that is why we decided to define it ourselves”.
“When we supply customers with a solution, we normally function as integrators and advisors. Our strategy is to make sure that the systems “brain” will be created by us. This is why we developed the Secure-M system for the field of homeland security, the Strategic Actionable Intelligence (SAIP) in the world of intelligence, and CATI for the cyber arena.
A further Intelligence product we develop is called Oper Source Collection and Respose (OSCAR). This is a software aimed to handle OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) collected from the web and social media. OSCAR enables the collection and ongoing monitoring of a wide range of sources in different formats and languages, including managing and operating multiple online identities.
“The intelligence field in the global security market is growing rapidly. This growth is based thems such as insight gathering based on big data analytics and cyber security. We are considering to make an acquisition in the cyber field in order to grow in this field. It’s a fairly new terrain for us, and in order to rapidly expand our cyber activities, we are considering the acquisition of a cyber security company. I believe that the field of Cyber will become Smart Mer’s growth engine.
You do not produce defense software. What do you mean by “cyber”?
“In the world of cyber, we are a service and integration company: be conduct risk surveys, penetration testing and so on. In addition, we supply intelligence services such as periodic reports, Saas CATI systmes supply. We are Mer Group’s main knowledge body in the fields of security, intelligence, cyber and smart cities. Most of our employees are intelligence persons and have former experience in these fields”.
“80% of our sales are outside Israel. Most of our customer are national and municipal bodies, although we have some private customers in the cyber field. The Mer Group has more than 1,000 employees, 600 of wich in Israel. We plan to employ further software, integration and cyber experts in 2017.”