Investors around the world “are looking at Israeli stocks, but they really want to get into Israeli start-ups,” OurCrowd CEO and founder Jon Medved told The Jerusalem Post.
Step inside the Jerusalem headquarters of venture capital platform OurCrowd any day of the week, and you will likely meet a large group of international visitors learning about Israel’s hi-tech success.
While the majority of Israel’s record-breaking numbers of tourists are still attracted by the country’s ancient history, its religious sites or even its culinary offerings, OurCrowd CEO and founder Jon Medved estimates that tens of thousands of visitors – and soon hundreds of thousands – are arriving to discover Israel’s “investment tourism” scene.
For Medved, the level of interest from abroad represents a third stage in the development of the Israeli hi-tech ecosystem. Mass global interest, he says, follows the initial interest of venture capitalists and corporate partners, and the subsequent massive growth of multinational companies and investment funds establishing permanent outposts in the country.
“This is just the beginning,” Medved told The Jerusalem Post. “Think about the tens of millions of investors out there in the world. They are looking at Israeli stocks, but they really want to get into Israeli start-ups. The opportunity is huge for this third wave.”
Soaring foreign interest, he adds, likely results from a combination of trying to figure out Israel’s “secret sauce” of innovation, how to replicate the country’s innovation scene in their own home countries, searching for technology that they can implement in their own businesses and, finally, seeking profitable investments.
Platforms such as OurCrowd, and other crowdfunding venture capitalists, aim to take advantage of that growing interest and the en masse desire to access innovation.
Since OurCrowd was established six years ago, the platform has become Israel’s most active venture investor, raising $1.28 billion in commitments and investing in 170 start-ups and funds. The platform, which boasts 35 “exits” to date, consists of almost 40,000 registered, accredited investors from more than 180 countries.
International interest in OurCrowd’s activity was underlined this week when the platform announced a strategic partnership with Stifel Financial Corp, one of America’s largest retail brokerage networks. According to the deal, which will see the US financial firm make a minority investment, OurCrowd will build an investment offering for Stifel’s accredited investor clients.
While the platform hosts as many as 200 events worldwide every year, including a major event in São Paulo last month, OurCrowd’s annual global investor summit in Jerusalem is undoubtedly the highest profile of all.
Some 18,000 people registered to attend the business conference earlier this year and, for the first time, the majority of delegates arrived in Jerusalem from abroad. A total of 215 delegations from 140 countries attended the flagship tech event.
Next year’s summit – the climax of a intensive week of investor activities – will take place on February 13, 2020, under the theme of “Startups: Going Beyond.” The event will showcase the potential of start-ups to push the limits of what has previously been perceived possible.
“I believe very strongly that establishing the summit was a necessary thing to do, and it has turned out to be a great thing for us.” Medved said. “We are more than just an online platform – we have to also be a face-to-face platform. Our average active investor has deployed about $300,000 on the site. That is real money and, while they can use our website and our mobile apps to stay in touch, people usually want to sit across from somebody, look them in the eyes and make a decision regarding an investment.”
As the number of attendees continues to rise year after year, possibly outgrowing the summit’s regular home at the Jerusalem International Convention Center, Medved emphasizes the importance of continuing to focus on Jerusalem as a hub of technology.
“This is our city, where we live and play,” Medved said. “It is critical that Israel’s capital is not just the seat of government and religion, but also the seat of the future. The essence of Jerusalem is past and future. To be able to highlight Israel’s technology and vision for the future in the place that symbolizes our contributions to the past, and is rooted in our tradition and culture, is incredibly important.”
Given soaring international interest and annual venture capital investments potentially reaching another record-breaking sum of $8 billion by the end of the year, the growth of Israeli hi-tech shows few signs of slowing.
Medved is quick, however, to emphasize the importance of not just continued growth, but also of integrating more Israelis into the hi-tech success story that OurCrowd shares with international groups every day.
“The big issue here is whether we can get more Israelis involved in this activity, and get the underrepresented groups – the ultra-Orthodox, Arabs and women – to take bigger chunks,” said Medved. “Progress is being made. We also need to bring more immigrants from the Jewish community and other communities, where people come here just to join the Start-Up Nation.”