Stuart and I have been in Israel for the past week for the primary purpose of attending the Our Crowd Investor Summit in Jerusalem. Our Crowd was the world’s first equity-based crowdfunding platform, and allows accredited investors to provide venture capital funding initially for Israeli, but now global, start-ups.
I first met Jon Medved in 2014 on my debut visit to Israel as a trade mission delegate. We’d visited and heard from so many fascinating Israeli start up companies during that week, and the energy, approach and mindset the founders had was different to anything I’d previously experienced. But we’d met literally dozens of founders during that visit alone, and knew that they were just the tip of the iceberg. This was a space I knew we definitely wanted to become more involved in, not just from the perspective of the investment opportunities but from the ability to partner with some of these companies and utilise their amazing products. The challenge was how do we do that from the other side of the world, with no local knowledge and operational base.
That was the question I’d been grappling with, and then Jon delivered the solution. Here was a way we could not only easily access pre-vetted investment opportunities, but via a model that also asked for investors to partner with the businesses in whatever way they could, whether that be via introductions into their local coporate networks, providing expertise and advice, or referrals of talent. Stuart and I have never done passive investment very well, we always prefer opportunities that allow us to add value in ways other than just the provision of funds.
I got back to Australia and as luck would have it Jon was presenting at a lunch in Sydney a couple of weeks later. I’d briefed our Epic Investment Committee who were intrigued, and Stuart and I left that lunch as one of Our Crowd’s earliest signed up Australian investors. Since then I’ve been back to Israel a number of times but Stuart had not had a chance to join me on any of those trips. When the dates for this years Summit were announced he was determined to make it happen, and we relocated our traditional Epic Shareholders Strategic Retreat at Hayman Island (which coincidentally also falls across the Valentines Day window) to Jerusalem.
After a great couple of days in Tel Aviv visiting a number of companies, some from within our Our Crowd portfolio and others who weren’t, we headed to Jerusalem for the main event. With over 6000 attendees representing over 82 countries the energy was fantastic, and the growth stats of the past 3 years presented by Jon were extraordinary.
But Our Crowd was designed to be about collaborative innovation, unlocking the power of the crowd to deliver outcomes that are more than just financial. It’s about building companies that have the potential to change the way their industry operates, and we were reminded not only on our obligation to deliver those enabling referrals and introductions, but provided with tangible illustrations of what can happen when we do.
Representatives of Vocal Zoom and Honda took to the stage to talk about their collaboration using Vocal Zoom’s voice command software. It filters out extraneous background noise, as was illustrated in an impressive onstage demonstration where the founder counted the odd numbers, the 6000 strong audience counted the even numbers. When the recording obtained via a regular mike was played back, we could clearly hear all numbers, but when the recording using the Vocal Zoom mike played back we were barely audible, while the odd numbers were clear as a bell. The potential applications in voice control in noisy environments are clearly apparent, which is no doubt why Honda and Vocal Zoom are now working together!
Another great partnership which came directly from last years Summit was next. Mobileye is a great Israeli start up success story, with its collision avoidance system now fitted into over 16 million cars globally. ZoomCar, the Our Crowd portfolio company with a share economy model of renting cars to Indian drivers, met Mobileeye last year, saw the potential in inlcuing Mobileye’s post market solution in their cars, who are commonly rented to inexperienced drivers, with a resulting reduction in crashes by 78% in just 5 weeks!
These were just a few of the examples of the power of the OurCrowd crowd that we heard about both on stage and off. Unsurpisingly many of our meetings this week were with healthcare companies, and we hope by next years summit to have one or more of those stories of our own to share.