The yearly event attracts thousands of entrepreneurs, founders and investors, service providers, tech buffs and curious observers and is considered one of the premier events in the tech industry focusing on the future of technology and engineering. It is also the largest business conference in Israel.
Led by founder and CEO Jonathan Medved, OurCrowd is the largest venture capital firm in Israel, and during his presentation, he showcased the company’s startup and investment portfolio to thousands of representatives of more than 120 countries worldwide. The firm’s specialty is crowdfunding, and it is not uncommon to find Yeshiva University alumni among the investors and on the boards of directors of OurCrowd companies. What’s more, a quick look at the LinkedIn profiles of the firm’s staff shows a sizeable number of YU alumni among the company’s leadership.
Because of this strong connection between OurCrowd and YU, 25 tickets were reserved to enable a contingent of gap-year students in the SDA Program to attend the summit. “It is hard to overstate the importance of this conference for Israel and for the high-tech worldwide ecosystem,” said Mark Finkel, clinical associate professor of management at the Sy Syms School of Business, who led the SDA student delegation. “The students had a great opportunity to see the future firsthand, and as they contemplate their educational future at YU, they could integrate the real career possibilities that will open up over their 21st-century careers,” said Finkel. “At YU, we have been rapidly expanding the course and extracurricular opportunities to prepare our students for that future.”
In a collaborative effort between YU Israel staff, headed by Stephanie Strauss, and Jonathan Fuchs ’85 YUHSB, ‘89YC, Director Of Business Partnerships at OurCrowd, students were given a VIP tour of game-changing Israeli high-tech startups disrupting every tech industry for the better. The visit included a demo session of some of the hottest prospects, a plenary conversation between Medved and Michael Eisenberg ’89YUHS, ’93YC, co-founder and equal partner at Aleph VC, and an in-depth group chat with Joel Strauss ’82YUHS, ’86YC, ’92C, partner at Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer LLP, adjunct instructor in the political science department and a dedicated mentor of YU students. Strauss spoke about achieving success through hard work and motivation and discussed how the students can pursue their interest in startups and entrepreneurship through various programs, courses and internships offered at YU.
The students also heard from entrepreneurs about their ideas and got to ask them direct questions about their innovations. Hillel Fuld, well-known tech columnist and startup adviser, moderated a breakout session titled “Demo Theater: No Pitches, Just Wow,” where attendees were shown demonstrations of leading high-tech innovations in the fields of sports, exercise, health and transportation. They also had the opportunity to hear a fascinating talk by Saul Singer, co-author of Start-Up Nation, who discussed what has changed in Israel over the past ten years and what technology and engineering innovations can be expected from the country in the future.
“The OurCrowd Global Investor Summit was absolutely incredible,” said Rory Meyerson, one of the students in attendance. “To see all the innovation that Israel is producing is mind-boggling. I’m just so happy YU put it on my radar and made it an option for me to be a part of.” Another student, Elan Koshner, added, “Having the opportunity to attend the Summit was really an eye-opening experience. Seeing and experiencing entrepreneurship firsthand gave me a much richer understanding of what it really takes to succeed. The highlight for me was seeing so many different startups from all different fields.”
The Summit was the third event this year for the YU community made possible by OurCrowd. Earlier in January, Dr. Noam Wasserman, dean of Sy Syms, hosted a Founder’s Bootcamp at the OurCrowd offices in Tel Aviv. Josh Wolff ‘93YC, Chief Operating Officer of OurCrowd, facilitated and hosted that unique event, in which Dean Wasserman shared his entrepreneurship expertise with early-stage founders. Several Israel-based YU alumni were among the thirty founders who participated, and many remarked how much they appreciated YU continuing to be invested in their education through this innovative forum.
Later that month, 17 students visited OurCrowd as part of Rensop Fellows 2020 – YU’s Winter Break High-Tech trip to Israel. The students were given an inside look at the firm’s infrastructure and investment platform and were introduced to some of the most innovative startups in the OurCrowd portfolio. The presentation followed with a Q&A session facilitated by Eitan Smilchensky ’12SB, account manager, Investor Relations at OurCrowd.
The team at OurCrowd continues to open doors to YU students and graduates, substantially enriching their classroom lessons by bringing learned values and skills to life, right in the heart of the startup nation. YU offers its deepest gratitude to Jon Medved and the employees at OurCrowd for their ongoing support and hospitality.