by Andrew Friedman
If you ask Jon Medved, CEO of the Jerusalem-based ‘Our Crowd’ venture capital group, the “issue” of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria is no more relevant to the international business community than they would be if they were located on the moon.
“Are you kidding?” he laughs. “Listen to me: It is a non-issue. No one even knows how to spell it. It may be a big issue for diplomats and the United Nations, but it is completely orthogonal to what we are doing. It’s like a different planet.”
Speaking about Our Crowd’s equity crowdfunding platform and the state of technology investment in Israel, Medved said that since opening for business in 2013 the company has raised $400 million, invested in 110 companies and had had 13 successful “exits.” Even more significantly, he said the scope and breadth of international interest in and support for the local technology sector means the current numbers will grow exponentially in the coming years.
“Israel is hotter than ever, growing at a rapid pace. $4.8 billion was invested in Israeli technology companies last year, of which 85 percent came from abroad.
“Compare that to Europe – $13.6 billion last year for their 700 million people, compared to our 8.5 million people. So we’re about 30-to-1 over them in the tech sector. It’s not an exaggeration to say that people simply can’t get enough of it,” he said.
Both in order to ramp up the level of investment in Israeli tech companies and to facilitate investment opportunities for investors around the world, Our Crowd has created an investment platform to match local start-ups with small-to-medium investors by adapting the crowdfunding model to the hi-tech sector.
Traditionally, start-up investing has been limited to a minuscule number of investors, mainly because the entry fees to the sector limit the playing field to the super rich. Venture capital funds routinely demand a $1 million opening deposit, and can often go as high as $4-5 million. But individual investments into particular companies are often impractical, especially when talking about overseas companies. Legal and accounting requirements differ from country to country, and watching over a large-scale investment requires both time and expertise.
Those difficulties have not dimmed interest in Israeli technologies from the international community, however. Business and technology delegations have boomed in recent years, with dozens “tech tours” from every continent expected to visit technology hubs around the country this year, including from countries that do not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel.
“Take our Global Investors Summit,” Jon Medved said. “At our first Summit in 2014 we had 1,000 participants. It grew to 3,000 by the second one and 6,000 last week. We had people from 82 countries – Poland, Greece, Macedonia, Finland, all closing deals with hundreds of multi-nationals and learning about locally-created technologies. We even had one Muslim CEO from Iraq!
“For instance, we had the CEO of Zoom Car, sort of like an ‘Uber’ for rental cars in India. He decided to attend last year’s Summit on a whim and wound up signing a deal with Mobile Eye. Last week, he told me that the technology has reduced accidents for his fleet by 80 percent,” Medved said.
“There is no question this is an international conference,” added Nitzan Adler, Director of Community Projects & Operations at Siftech, a hi-tech accelerator in Jerusalem. “Things run like clockwork and I’ve met people here from around the technology industry, both from Israel and abroad. It’s a sign of a bright present and future.”