Five Thoughts Following Ten Days Living The Crypto Dream In Israel
My ninth trip to Israel in 30 months was my first trip since seeing the Crypto Light on June 29th. That’s the date I stopped everything else I was doing to focus 100% on Crypto. While I had met some cool Crypto companies on previous trips to Israel (e.g. Colu, Chromoway….), I wasn’t sure I could fill 100% of my time, for 10 days, on Crypto. I needn’t have worried.
But, before I get to my five thoughts, I want to start with the view from my AirBnB on the Hayarkon (the Pacific Coast Highway of Tel Aviv). Getting up every morning and running on the beach in Tel Aviv didin’t suck.
Below are the five thoughts, starting with….
#1— Israel Is Going To Kill It In Crypto
Before focusing on Crypto, for the previous 2+ years, I was 100% focused on investing in tech companies founded by Israelis. I made that transition after visiting Israel in June, 2015, and coming to the belief that as much as the world thought of Israel, and it’s tech prowess, the world still had no idea of the innovation and wealth creation to come from Israel. Turns out I was right.
Jerusalem’s MobileEye sold for $15.3 billion earlier in 2017, 30% more than the top 10 exits in New York City over the las five years (I’m just saying). While I’m now 100% focused on Crypto, I’m optimizing for time spent at the intersection of Crypto and Israel. So I had high hopes for my 10 days, and I was not disappointed. For the four reasons below, and many others, after 10 days living the Crypto Dream, I couldn’t be more confident that Israel is going to crush it in Crypto,
#2— Israel Is Crypto Crazy
I haven’t been to other countries since I saw the Crypto light, so I can’t compare the activity in Israel to other countries. But what I do know, is Israel is Crypto crazy.
The most interesting/comical thing I saw in my 10 days was the crowds hanging around the Bitcoin ATM (aka The Bitcoin Embassy) located across the street from the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Israelis put shekels in to the ATM and get Bitcoins back. They have to close the ATM every 90 minutes because the ATM can only hold so much cash. So every 90 minutes, they have to remove the mounds of cash used to buy Bitcoins, to make room for more cash.
Another sign of the Crypto craze was the 2,200+ people who attended the Geektime Blockchain Summit on December 10th. In addition to all the Israelis, I met people who flied in from Prague, Turkey, and elsewhere to attend the Summit. The event was billed as the biggest Crypto conference ever held in the Middle East.
#3 — The Atrium Is Crypto Central Around Tel Aviv
This spectacular building in Ramat Gan, just east of Tel Aviv, has emerged as Crypto Central in the area, most notably because, of Alignment ( a joint venture between Moshe Hogeg, Eyal Hertzog and Uriel Peled) and their associated crypto entities (Singulariteam and Cointree) that have 4 massive floors to incubate and ICO the next generation of crypto powerhouses.
My first company (.tv) was out of the pioneering idealab incubator in L.A., so I’ve learned a few things about start up ecosystems. From what I saw, the three companies are building impressive Crypto company factories, similar to what Bill Gross did in the first wave of the Internet (and idealab crushed it during the boom).
I even got to witness the “launch” of an ICO at the Atrium, when secure smartphone developer SirinLabs launched it’s $100+ million ICO.
The list of Atrium Crypto residents is too long to mention them all, but Bancor, which is solving for Cryptocurrency liquidity, is the most well known.
While the Atrium is Crypto Central, Crypto is happening all over Israel. A highlight of my 10 days was yapping at ther packed BlockchainJLM ( a Jerusalem Blockchain Meetup) on December 14th. The night included my first Hanukkah Lighting in Jerusalem, which was pretty moving.
#4 — The Rise of the PhD’s — Israel’s Amazing University System is Fueling Epic Crypto Tech
Most of the leading edge crypto tech is coming from two places, computer networking/computer science work from 20–30 years ago, and from academia. I saw world changing Crypto tech from Hebrew University, the Technion, Tel Aviv University, and Bar Ilan. Epic work is being done on DAGs (they’re a thing), Zero-Proof-Knowledge (it’s real life magic), and elsewhere.
#5 — Israeli Institutions Are Getting On Board The Crypto Train
I heard from multiple companies and VCs that they had met with the Israel Securities Association (the ISA is the SEC of Israel). The head of the ISA, Prof. Shmuel Hauser, recently said that the country needs to welcome “… cryptocurrency to develop an international ICO hub”. Israeli regulators working hand-in-hand with the tech industry to craft aa supportive regulatory environment has long been a staple of startup nation. Israel could be poised to join Switzerland and Gibraltar at the forefront of Crypto securities regulation.
Turns out Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “Totally Gets Bitcoin”. Netanyahu is a huge fan of cryptocurrencies and has warned banks will eventually disappear, potentially because of Bitcoin. Netanyahu is the first world leader I’m aware of to positively comment on Bitcoin.
A really interesting projects I met with was Carats, which is working with the Israel Diamond Exchange, the world’s largest diamond exchange, to create the worlds first Diamond Index, tradable in Crypto. It’s an impressive to see Israeli institutions rolling out the red carpet for Crypto, when many U.S. institutions are rolling out the red tape.
I could go on, but the point is clear, Israel is going to crush it in Crypto.
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