Israel’s most active VC firm courts UAE investors

‘Our phones have been burning up’ since the UAE-Israel peace deal, OurCrowd CEO said

An OurCrowd UAE Webinar recording. courtesy: OurCrowd

OurCrowd, an Israeli crowdfunding and venture investment company which includes former US Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, courted UAE investors in a virtual meeting on Tuesday, touting opportunities to fund start-ups in areas like healthcare, mobility and artificial intelligence.

OurCrowd, which has over $1.5 billion (Dh5.5bn) in committed funding across more than 200 portfolio companies and 22 funds, co-hosted the event with Emirates Angels Investors Association, an angel investing firm based in Abu Dhabi. More than 1,000 people registered with around a quarter from the UAE.

"Our phones and Zooms have been burning up from overuse [since the Abraham Accord was signed]," Jonathan Medved, OurCrowd's chief executive, told The National.

The normalisation of relations between the UAE and Israel this month is opening up various investment opportunities between the two countries for the first time.

Israel, a leader in AI – only behind the US and China – is a global technology hub, attracting $2.74bn in venture capital investment in the first quarter of 2020.

Masaood Al Masaood, Emirates Angels Investors Association chairman, said the most important aspect of “this historic moment” is to “build a powerful engine of economic and cultural exchange”.

The new investment corridor is a massive opportunity to explore investment options in smart cities, logistics and financial services – three sectors where the UAE is leading, Mr Medved said.

“The unlocking of the energies between these two countries will be huge. Because let's face it, Israel punches above its weight and so does the UAE,” he said. ”Initially, I think people were asking me the question, ‘Isn't this being overhyped?’ And I think people don't get it.”

The OurCrowd team is looking to open offices in the UAE and assessing regulatory requirements to invest and seek investments in the country.

The majority of OurCrowd’s deals are in Israel, but 40 per cent of deals have been done internationally in countries such as the US, Canada, the UK, India, Hong Kong and Singapore. The Jerusalem-based company has offices in Europe, Asia, North America and Australia.

When asked about investments in Palestine, Mr Medved said, “We are looking and interested, but have not yet found the right deal.”

OurCrowd has over 50,000 members who are individually accredited and institutional investors. Members also include family offices and venture capital partners from over 183 countries to invest alongside the fund at the same terms.

An OurCrowd UAE Webinar recording. courtesy: OurCrowd

The fund’s portfolio is diversified across different technology-driven sectors and stages, ranging from seed to early equity-based financing in companies that are not publicly listed yet. Uber, Canon, Oracle, Nike and Intel have acquired OurCrowd portfolio companies but Mr Medved said, "by no means is this an opportunity for anyone looking to make a quick buck."

He founded the firm in 2013, after three decades as a serial entrepreneur and seed investor in California and then Israel. Mr Medved also co-founded Vringo, a Nasdaq-listed mobile social and video applications area, in 2006.

Emirates Angels will host a similar event on October 13 that will showcase UAE start-ups to the Israeli investor community, something the OurCrowd team is heavily promoting.

“It’s pretty exciting. It feels like romance,” Mr Medved said.