“This discovery, this theory of physics, this understanding of the atomic structure… it is primed for Israel’s technological takeover of the world!”
“Whichever nation takes GUTCP and puts its best and brightest minds to work with it… they’ll be unstoppable for the next century or two… there is no doubt in my mind at all”
OurCrowd held its biggest-yet annual Global Investor Summit at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on Thursday, welcoming some 18,000 guests from over 180 countries across the world, including tech entrepreneurs, government officials, and representatives from some 400 multinationals.
The focus of the fifth annual event was on startups with a world-changing social impact and investment in tech and innovation that seeks to solve global challenges in fields such as healthcare, public safety, environment, mobility, cybersecurity, food, and agriculture.
“We need to do good, and make money,” said OurCrowd CEO and co-founder Jon Medved at the event. “That’s what impact investing is all about. We need to attack global challenges.”
“Israel has an explosion of entrepreneurial talent. And we’re just beginning,” Medved said at a press conference ahead of the start of the event.
OurCrowd says impact investing is a rapidly growing market in Israel, a market that although in its early stages, doubled from $130M in 2016 to $260M in 2018. And according to research by the IVC Research Center, further growth in the industry appears imminent with $1.6 billion raised by Israeli companies in “impact related” sectors across 234 deals in 2018. These sectors are aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Just ahead of the conference, OurCrowd announced the launch of a $30 million impact fund in partnership with Social Finance Israel, an initiative that promotes the flow of capital towards solving social issues in Israel. Companies pre-selected for investment will be assessed according to three dimensions, OurCrowd said: alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, impact practice and intentionality, and impact risk.
At Jerusalem’s International Convention Center on Thursday, the summit was a grand affair, drawing a who’s who from Israel’s tech and innovation ecosystem as well as thousands of guests and investors from abroad.
The event hosted a comprehensive exhibition of companies showcasing their tech, including many OurCrowd portfolio startups, as well as foreign ones. The exhibit halls had “pavilions” and “plazas” from Australia, India, Italy, and South Korea.
And with some 250 speakers in 80 sessions, the summit was a whirlwind of activity: from a welcoming speech by Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion, to a bevy of sessions and roundtables on Israel’s rich tech ecosystem, and a filled-to-capacity “masterclass” on branding and video content hosted by prominent Israeli tech columnist Hillel Fuld and Nuseir (NAS) Yassin, one of the most successful content creators on social media in recent years.
Guest speakers included Dr. Kira Radinsky, eBay’s chief scientist and director of Data Science, who spoke about the future of science, Professor Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and author, who spoke about the behavior of impact entrepreneurs, Ron Fisher, the president of Softbank Holdings and vice chairman of Sprint, who gave a talk on how mature startups can solve global challenges, and David Bonderman, the founding partner of private equity firm TPG.
OurCrowd also made some major announcements on the sidelines of the conference, including that it surpassed $1 billion in venture capital raised for its 170 portfolio companies and 18 funds since its founding in 2013, and oversaw 29 company exits.
OurCrowd said that in 2018 alone, 11 of OurCrowd’s portfolio companies achieved exits, notably Corephotonics’ acquisition by Samsung; Jump Bikes’ acquisition by Uber; Invertex’s acquisition by Nike; BriefCam’s acquisition by Canon; MST’s acquisition by TransEnterix; and NooBaa’s acquisition by Red Hat Inc./IBM.
“We’ve built a model for the investor community that democratizes access to incredible companies, and it’s working – to the tune of $1 billion in just six short years,” Medved said. “The synergy we’ve created between investors, companies and venture funds has allowed us to play an instrumental role in building Israel’s reputation as a global leader in innovation and technology.”
The company also announced the launch of a new $50 million fund focused exclusively on disruptive medical technologies, and a hub for innovative pet health technology called Pet Health Innovation Labs (PHIL) in partnership with PETstock, a leading operator of integrated pet retail stores and veterinary hospitals in Australia, and Qure Ventures, an Israeli digital health fund.
Medved said the conference “embodies what OurCrowd is all about: bringing people with different strengths together so they can make an impact on the world stage.”
“Watching our entrepreneurs rubbing shoulders with tech giants and major investors today at our conference tells me that we have truly leveled the playing field in Israel’s tech ecosystem, enabling promising startups to flourish,” he added.
Speaking to a group of journalists at the event, the charismatic Medved said at the venture capital world has traditionally been esoteric and rather exclusive.
“It’s really been the stuff of movies, where you see all these people making things happen,” he said.
Identifying two key issues in the business world today – that companies take longer to go public these days, and that private investors who make money are the ones that get in early is comprised of a “group of people that doesn’t include most of us” – Medved said OurCrowd was founded to “open this world up.”
“We want to look for deals where we are co-investing [in companies] on the same terms as Bill Gates and Richard Branson,” he explained.
“We want to open this world up to an intelligent and successful dentist in Bangkok with $10,000 to invest, or a real estate agent in Singapore, or farmers in Africa,” he added.
The approach also works for the startups and companies who may not have wide access to funds. “The distribution of capital available to these companies is unfair, and OurCrowd wants to democratize and globalize investments.”
The company says it has built a network of 30,000 registered investors from over 150 countries currently.
Its focus on Israeli companies has reaped benefits, as “Israel is a world leader in absolute terms in artificial intelligence, mobility, autonomous driving, agriculture tech, digital health and so on; it’s not just cybersecurity,” Medved emphasized.
Guests listen at the Jerusalem at the OurCrowd summit March 7, 2019. Noam Moskowitz photography
The event wrapped up with an awards ceremony honoring venerable Israeli scientists Professor Raphael Mechoulam, the “father” on the Israeli medical cannabis research and the head of the Medicinal Chemistry Lab at Hebrew University, and Professor Avraham Baniel, the co-founder of DouxMatok, a startup that developed a patented sugar reduction solution. They each received the Maimonides Award for Lifetime Achievement in Science, Leadership and Menschlichkeit (properties that make a “mensch,” or person of integrity).
“We made history today in Jerusalem,” said Medved in a closing statement. “We are proud that this huge crowd of investors, multinationals, VCs and entrepreneurs gathered and focused tremendous energies on building a global impact investment ecosystem.”
“This summit will create waves that will reach out from here in the coming months and years as we address the serious challenges facing humanity and the planet,” he concluded.
For those who couldn’t get enough, OurCrowd also organized an after-hours networking event at Jerusalem’s iconic Machane Yehuda Market called ShukTech, hosting meetings over food and craft beer, and music.
Jerusalem-based global investment platform launches social-impact fund at annual global summit and makes the case for its worthy causes.
Doing good is a noble thing, but it’s not the most lucrative business model out there, right? Jerusalem-based global investment platform OurCrowd put the lie to that assumption at its annual Global Investor Summit on March 7, 2019.
“We truly believe in this double bottom line. We are absolutely convinced that we can do this — that we can do good and make money,” said OurCrowd founder and CEO Jon Medved.
This conviction was exemplified at the conference’s opening plenary, which brought to the fore OurCrowd-backed companies making a difference across varied fields.
The international audience – some 18,000 guests from 187 countries at the Jerusalem International Conference Center and online via livestreaming – learned about new technologies guaranteeing clean air, innovative weather forecasting and big-data and artificial-intelligence solutions in the medical world. All promise to make a real difference in the world, as well as real money.
During the conference, OurCrowd announced it’s partnering with Social Finance Israel of Tel Aviv, an enterprise promoting the flow of capital toward solving social issues, to launch an impact fund that will focus on venture-backed businesses attempting to solve such challenges.
“OurCrowd has a long history of making impact-driven investments and a wealth of expertise in fund creation,” says Richard Norman, OurCrowd co-head of funds. “Today we are proud to bring these two hallmarks of OurCrowd together and offer investors a dedicated, diversified vehicle of VC-backed businesses striving to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges.”
Impact investing is rapidly growing
One striking example of harnessing business and tech to do good was the personal story of wheelchair-bound Adir Simantov, who managed to stand under his wedding canopy with the aid of the UPnRIDE mobility device.
Appearing onstage with his wife, Liat, Simantov told the audience of this life-changing moment.
According to OurCrowd, impact investing is a rapidly growing market in Israel. Though still in its early stages, it has doubled from $130 million in 2016 to $260 million in 2018. The booths featuring their wares at the conference showed just how diverse these impacts can be.
From Watergen, which produces clean drinking water from air and CropX, which helps farmers to better understand water usage across their fields, to SpinCare, nicast.com/spincare/product-description/ which allows healthcare professionals to dress burns with minimal damage, the possibilities to bring about change seemed endless.
“The OurCrowd Global Investor Summit embodies what OurCrowd is all about: bringing people with different strengths together so they can make an impact on the world stage,” said Medved.
“Watching our entrepreneurs rubbing shoulders with tech giants and major investors today at our conference tells me that we have truly leveled the playing field in Israel’s tech ecosystem, enabling promising startups to flourish.”
It’s not only startups and burning global issues that require flourishing, Medved noted. “We need to not only attack global challenges, but we here in Israel have to be more inclusive and bring under-represented groups into our ecosystems; whether they are Arabs, or Haredim or women, we need to bring them into the tent.”
AI is hot
During the summit, OurCrowd revealed new information about its activities, noting that its network consists of 30,000 registered investors from more than 150 countries. Most of these are based in the United States, followed by Asia.
As for the hottest investments, Medved was quite clear. “Right now, the most important trend in technology,” he said, “is artificial intelligence.”
“If you want to get a venture capitalist to start drooling, mention AI. In fact, if you don’t have AI as part of your pitch, you’re sort of in trouble. And that AI is going to affect everything from drones to education to ag-tech to medicine,” he added.
“Now, interesting about Israel, is that we are right now neck-and-neck with China as the second most important country in terms of AI startups,” he said, noting that the US remains the first such important country.
“The fact that Israel has almost as many AI startups as China is sort of unreal. It’s a little bit bizarre. But I think it’s indicative of the unbelievable nature of the Israeli ecosystem.”
The State of Israel is young, celebrating its 71st year in May, so it should come as little surprise that its technology sector, the second-largest tech hub in the world, is young as well. Israel’s tech sector, like many others, has thus far been dominated by men, but as it continues to grow, so does the number of female entrepreneurs entering it with promising start-ups.
Given the youthful energy and innovation of Israel’s thriving start-up scene, Forbes selected Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as the dual headquarters for its first Under 30 Summit Global, held May 6-9. The event brought together entrepreneurs and so-called game-changers from Africa, Asia, Europe and across the Middle East for a jam-packed schedule of networking, pitching and incubator events tapping into Israel’s $22 billion tech ecosystem.
This year, Forbes is blazing another trail with its first Under 30 Summit for Women, to be held March 31-April 4 in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The event couldn’t come soon enough for female entrepreneurs in Israel, a county that more than 40 years ago had a female prime minister but today tussles with a patriarchal, machismo-infused society deeply influenced by the religious right.
“There still aren’t enough women in prime investment roles, in Israel and in other parts of the world,” said Yonit Golub Serkin, managing director of MassChallenge Israel, the Jerusalem-based arm of the global tech accelerator MassChallenge. “Until there are more women able to open up a checkbook and invest, female-led companies will continue to be under-funded and undervalued.”
Serkin told Al-Monitor that MassChallenge — headquartered in the United States with offices in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Texas as well as Israel, Mexico and Switzerland — does not have quotas for supporting female-run start-ups, but she nevertheless works tirelessly to make sure innovative new companies founded by women are identified and nurtured. Why? Simple economics.
Serkin explained, “Recent reports are that women raise about 2% of venture capital in Israel, however, women led companies at MassChallenge in the country have raised nearly $50 million. While this is slightly less than their relative representation at the accelerator, it vastly outpaces the stats for non-MassChallenge companies.”
In short, when women have the support and infrastructure of an incubator like MassChallenge, they earn a lot of money, and their businesses flourish.
One start-up supported by MassChallenge is Strattic, which offers simple, fuss-free security options for WordPress users by converting their sites into a static version with a single click of a button. Strattic’s CEO and founder is Toronto-born, Jerusalem-based Miriam Schwab, a religious Jewish mother of seven. She decided to create her company after spending 12 years running a web development agency supporting WordPress and constantly finding herself frustrated by the vulnerabilities that a such a flexible open-source CMS, content management system, brings.
Working as a female start-up entrepreneur in Israel isn’t easy, Schwab admits, but she is quick to add that when compared to the reception that women in technology face in other countries, she considers herself immensely lucky.
“I think we don’t always appreciate it, because we’re so used to it, but my co-founder and I have amazing access to investors. And there’s a lot of investors in Israel simply due to the start-up culture here,” Schwab told Al-Monitor. “It’s definitely a ‘the tide raises all ships’ sort of scenario, where everyone benefits [from the saturation of start-ups], including women. But it’s no doubt more challenging as a woman, or any minority here, and you have to be better, fight harder and be more persistent.”
For Liat Mordechay Hertanu, who in 2013 began working on 24me, a next-generation personal assistant app awarded Apple’s “App Store Best of 2014,” the creativity that infuses daily life in Israel is inspiring.
“Israelis are super creative, and they come up with ideas,” she told Al-Monitor. “They never settle.”
That sort of attitude is what pushed Hertanu to create 24me with her partner, Gilad. The two of them, busy working parents to three children, were exhausted trying to juggle their professional and personal lives, keeping track of appointments as varied as board meetings and soccer practice. They couldn’t find a good scheduling app to manage their crowded calendars and keep them on track without confusion, so they decided to create one themselves.
“Everybody in Israel is trying to create their own start-up, and it’s amazing to see that sort of innovation,” Hertanu remarked. “I think it’s something unique.”
Another unique aspect of Israel is its strength in the security sector, which has created an entire generation of former soldiers ready to apply their battle-honed knowledge to the field of business. Among them is Sivan Raucher, who threw herself into consulting after serving seven years in the Israeli army in a special cyber security unit.
Within a few years, Raucher had dreamed up the SAM Seamless Network, a cybersecurity technology platform that squelches threats at the source by securing network gateways. According to her, success as a woman in technology and business is simply a matter of keeping your head straight.
“Founding a company is no easy decision or career path for anyone,” Raucher told Al-Monitor. “I never allowed the fact that I was a woman to prevent me from achieving my goals.”
Raucher noted that the number of female CEOs is low around the globe, especially in the cyber industry, and that while Israel certainly has room to grow in that regard, the country is doing well in making strides toward gender equality.
“Every day I meet successful women in high tech,” said Raucher. “Gender has nothing to do with success.”
Read more: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/03/women-power-in-israeli-start-ups.html#ixzz5hxmXEk4R