More than 6,000 investors and entrepreneurs crammed the Israel Convention Center in Jerusalem Thursday for the annual OurCrowd Investors’ Summit, braving Jerusalem’s freezing rain to attend what was billed as the largest gathering of investors in Israeli history.
Including investors from 82 countries and corporate representatives from close to 300 companies, as well as 250 venture capital firms, the convention promoted Israeli innovation in fields as diverse as agricultural, automotive, financial, medical and sports technology. The summit, which has grown sixfold since it was first held in 2015, mirrors the growth of venture capital in Israel in general, and of firms like OurCrowd, which manages a portfolio of more than $400 million invested in Israeli startups.
Speaking to the plenary, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat focused on the development of the startup environment in Israel’s capital. “Jerusalem is a city not only of the past, but also of the future,” he said, pointing to the more than 600 startups that are now headquartered in Jerusalem, including the automotive company Mobileye, which is at the forefront of the development of autonomous vehicles and was Israel’s largest IPO in the US, raising $890 million when it went public in 2014, and today enjoying a market capitalization of nearly $10 billion.
Jon Medved, the founder and guiding force behind OurCrowd, explained Israel’s contribution to American economic growth. “Israeli innovation is powering the American economy in a number of ways. Our innovative companies, when they want to go to market they set up shop in America. They start hiring Americans,” he told TheTower.org. Medved cited a recent study that found over 200 Israeli companies now headquartered in Boston alone. “They directly employ 9,000 people, and indirectly through subcontractors another 27,000. They’re generating $18 billion of annual economic activity, which represents 4 percent of the Massachusetts GDP.”
According to Medved, Israel fuels American economic growth in two crucial ways–by providing new ideas and the companies that then scale up in the US, hiring American workers as in the Boston study, but also “product growth” driven by American companies that take advantage of Israeli minds by setting up R&D facilities in Israel itself, or buying Israeli startups and then using those technologies in products that are manufactured in the United States.
“Other than Silicon Valley, Israel is number two in the world in innovation. Silicon Valley has long known that if you want innovation outside the Valley, you come here. But now it’s becoming known outside Silicon Valley as well.” In cities like Tampa, Florida and Atlanta, companies and local governments have begun setting up business accelerators aimed at collaborations with Israeli entrepreneurs.
[Photo: The Tower]