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Investors See Israeli Startup Scene as Opportunity to Tackle Global Challenges

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, 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.”

(via Israel21c)

[Photo: Israel21c ]