In early March, Explorium went on what has recently become one of the global ‘startup scene’ pilgrimages; the OurCrowd annual summit in Jerusalem. OurCrowd combines venture capital and crowdfunding by allowing smaller ticket investors (minimum USD10K investment) to invest in funds and directly in startups. Although only founded in 2013, OurCrowd has already raised close to 1 billion USD, with 170 portfolio companies, 18 funds and 29 exits. Hong Kong’s Klook was highlighted as one of the keynotes, having recently crossed the USD 1 billion mark, both in terms of valuation and revenue.
Global corporate collaborations landing in Israel
While many of its startups are based in Israel, or have Israeli founders, OurCrowd’s network of over 30,000 active investors hail from over 150 countries, especially the US. Members average seven investments, with a portfolio size of over $350,000. And it was clear that interest in Asia is picking up. Korea was the only country to host a pavilion, we saw many familiar Hong Kong faces, and Changi Airport Group signed and announced a new innovation partnership with OurCrowd, to source and integrate technology solutions. The partnership means Changi Airport can access OurCrowd’s portfolio and OurCrowd will be able to develop and test these new technology solutions in a live airport environment.
At the event, Jon Medved, founder and CEO of OurCrowd, extolled the diversity of companies that “run the gamut from drones to agtech, from cybersecurity to food technology, to consumer software and medical products, digital health, and big cloud data.” The Changi-OurCrowd technology sharing agreement is positioned to span areas such as automation, retail, data analytics, Internet of Things and smart infrastructure management. More OurCrowd partnerships with Asian corporates would not be surprising in the coming period.
A focus on values and impact
Exemplifying the seemingly growing power of impact and value based investments, the conference also focused significant attention on the launch of two new funds: a $30 million Impact Fund for venture-backed businesses centered on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and a $50 million Medtech Fund for disruptive medical technologies and healthcare solutions. At 3% and 5% of total funds, this isn’t fundamental at this point, of course. But the themes lead the pitches and even the Hong Kong contingent included VCs with value-based investment thesis, such as ‘happiness.’ There was even a breakout area devoted to cannabis investing.
We saw significant interest from Israeli companies and universities to build connections in Asia with formats including safaris and venture building through accelerator and corporate collabs. Explorium hosted a roundtable in collaboration with Kimberly-Clark, Neura, and OurCrowd’s pre-summit that discussed issues around ‘understanding and delivering for the customer’ using action-based signals, like those captured by our phones as we move around. The table, which included a global mix of startups, investors, and corporates, moved the discussion towards new platform solutions where unusual partnerships will emerge as each partner can add unique data-sets to the platform and leverage the combined knowledge on customers for relevant product and services delivery. As we’re already seeing in some industries.
500 MNCs had representatives at the event. More and more big corporations are looking outside to find value through collaborations with startups and tech companies. This generates significant interest in collaboration frameworks and POC case studies, although the field is still nascent and without a common standard. We also sensed continued interest from corporates to build tech outposts in Israel, which ups the ante for corporates that want to play a role in the community. The key challenge for Israeli companies might be the lack of diversify in their teams and capabilities. Although the US-Israel bridge is well established and international market exposure is fairly strong, most companies are purely focused on building tech with Israeli teams, which might complicate scaling up and expanding internationally. Asia markets seem largely untapped.
A country coming together around collaboration
Startup Nation, as an initiative that cuts across government (incl. defence), corporates, academics, and startups, is a powerful concept in Israel. Seems to be driving at least a collective conversation and some projects around cross-organisation collaborations. Shorter supply chains, cross border, and cutting out the middleman using technology (DTC) is visible across categories. One example is The Bouqs, a flower platform working directly with flower farms and paying higher product costs while cutting out the middleman to deliver value to the consumer. General focus on provenance and cutting waste form the supply chain.
Innovators shaping the retail supply chain:
- CB4 — retail analytics for brick and mortar store assortment and inventory planning. Works mostly with US clients.
- Neura — data analytics tool based on mobile technology and is to improve customer engagement.
- Freightos — marketplace for freight services but also the largest database of freight pricing info (based on 1200 freight forwarders on their platform). They are selling data to Bloomberg and Reuters aa launched a freight index in 2017.
- Spometics is beauty sport brand from Korea. They are making products that are sweat and water resistant and easy to carry and apply while exercising.
- Proov is an online platform that helps corporates run tech POCs — provides a marketplace for software vendors, a virtual testing environment and a step-by-step process to manage the POC. Particularly focused on tech and data POCs with security as a key value proposition.