In the chapel on the second floor of Harley-Davidson of Scottsdale, next to the in-house tattoo parlor, Jonathan Medved stood in front of a large image of the iconic Jewish National Fund’s blue and white metal tzedakah box that helped everyday people fund the creation of Israel.
“Israel is probably the only country where the nation itself was crowdfunded,” Medved said during the Oct. 31 event.
Crowdfunding is something Medved knows quite a lot about through his work as an Israeli venture capitalist and the founder and CEO of OurCrowd.
“OurCrowd is a crowdfunding platform,” Medved explained. “People are able to go to our website and choose an individual company and invest $10,000 or more. We’ve now raised over $450 million for startups this way in the last four years.”
Speaking as part of the Arizona Jewish National Fund (JNF) Men’s Club event “Innovation in Venture Capitalism: Israeli Technology Comes to Arizona,” Medved spoke about the need to promote greater business ties between Israel and the Valley.
“There’s a huge tech presence here, but Phoenix is not on the Israeli itinerary,” Medved said. “They go to New York, they go to Silicon Valley, and they might choose a third city, usually it’s where their cousin lives, maybe it’s Seattle, maybe it’s San Diego if they’re into life science — but it’s almost never Phoenix, unless they need to see GoDaddy or somebody like that, and we need to change that.
“We need to create the awareness that there’s a lot going on here,” he continued. “We need to bring Israeli companies to headquarter here and create economic activity, and then we need to get people investing in Israel, because the mission of the JNF, which is building the country, is critical.”
While new technology has made it easier than ever for people to invest in causes and businesses around the world, Medved pointed out that the humble little blue box helped JNF begin to purchase land in what would become Israel. According to Medved, JNF currently owns 13 percent of the land in Israel and has planted more than 250 million trees there, as well.
“The people putting pennies and kopeks into the pushke were not what we call accredited investors, but they invested nonetheless, and this incredible movement literally led to this extraordinary flourishing of this unbelievable country today, and the JNF has been there for 116 years,” Medved said.
Medved became most animated when discussing some of the exciting technologies and business opportunities coming out of Israel, many of which he invests in through OurCrowd.
“Syqe Medical is the world leader in medicinal cannabis,” Medved said. “It’s a very hot company. What’s important about this company is that it’s treating cannabis as a drug, not as, ‘Hey, Granny, smoke four joints and call me in the morning,’ but how to provide microgram accuracy.
“Another is Freightos,” he added. “They’re the leading freight marketplace for the world. Today, you can go on Freightos if you want to send a pallet of stuff you manufacture here to somewhere in China, you can get multiple guys to bid on it. It’s like a Skyscanner or Expedia, but for freight, and freight is a bigger business than airline travel.”
Other Israeli companies that OurCrowd invests in include ReWalk Robotics, which develops exoskeletons for people with paraplegia, and Zebra Medical Technologies, which is developing technology to allow computers to “read” radiological scans and detect cancer.
OurCrowd provides investors with sufficient capital access to companies before going public.
“No one goes public anymore,” said Medved during his talk. “Uber is at $70 billion, Airbnb is at $30 billion. So let’s say Uber finally goes public at $100 billion … How big is it going to get? $200 billion? $300 billion? So you can make two or three times your money — nothing wrong with that.”
Medved believes there is still time to make these kinds of gains in Israel, pointing to a number of recent purchases of Israeli startups by U.S. companies, including Intel’s recent acquisition of Mobileye for $15.3 billion.
“Israel is really the second-most potent innovative country in the world after the U.S.,” Medved said. “I made this claim 10 or 20 years ago and people debated me. No one debates me anymore. If you look at the world of innovation, you say it’s Silicon Valley No. 1, Israel No. 2. Everybody else is eating our dust.” JN