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Waze could spark Israeli Internet growth

JERUSALEM (AP) -- The billion-dollar sale of navigation company Waze to Google may finally be putting Israel on the map as a major player in consumer Internet innovation.

Israel's high-tech sector has been dominated by firms that made products for other businesses, like computer chips or communications gear. But in recent years Internet and mobile companies have emerged as the majority of Israeli startups, and many have found success in the global market.

The focus might be changing now.

"There's definitely a shift that Waze has done a great deal of emphasizing," said Nir Zohar, the president and chief operating officer of Wix. "I would assume that we will find more foreign investors coming to Israel to invest in Israeli entrepreneurs." Wix, a personal website company, filed last month for a $75 million initial public offering the United States, just as Google was wrapping up its $1.03 billion purchase of Waze.

Foreign investors are beginning to take notice.

Israeli consumer firms myheritage.com, a genealogy site, and Fiverr.com, an online marketplace for creative services, received major backing last year from Accel Partners and Bessemer, two leading American venture firms.

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