It would likely be an impossible task to separate Jonathan Medved’s love of Israel from his position as the founder and CEO of OurCrowd, his newest cutting edge Web-based venture capital fund. The fund allows would-be investors to peruse hundreds of Israeli startup companies online who hope to capitalize on Israel’s current status as one of the safest markets in the world.
At an event hosted by his brother, syndicated radio talk-show host Michael Medved and his wife Diane, and the Seattle office of the Washington-Israel Business Council, the longtime tech entrepreneur spoke to a crowd of 35 at the Island Crust Café on Mercer Island to “sell” the audience of intrigued fund managers, local techies, and hungry entrepreneurs on the opportunity of investing $1 million or more — at a minimum — to buy into a vast array of the most innovative and potentially blockbuster up-and-coming startup companies in Israel.
“The multi-nationals have come in force to Israel,” said Medved. “[Microsoft CEO] Steve Ballmer is making an almost annual trek to Israel. Google has built the most over-the-top offices and has two different research centers. Intel has 8,000 people in Israel, HP has 6,000, IBM has five different research centers, and Facebook has bought two companies. The big players now, they’re all coming to Israel.”
While at the same time many members of the area’s Jewish community congregated at a nearby venue to commemorate Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Medved contended that the wildly successful business and investment climate in Israel is its own powerful testimonial to the vibrancy of the country and ought to discredit anti-Semitic regimes.
“The fact that we are here, 70 years after the Holocaust, talking about how great it is to invest in Israel and how Israel is thriving, is a supernatural, incredible, wonderful affirmation of who we are,” Medved said. “Today we are the masters of the Internet, with all due respect, and not just in Israel but here and elsewhere abroad.”
A California native, Medved, who studied history at the University of California at Berkeley, moved to Jerusalem in the ‘90s and lives there today with his family.
Medved has a history of birthing and nurturing several powerful high-tech companies. From 1982 through 1990, he was one of the founders and the executive vice president of marketing at MERET Optical Communications Inc., in Santa Monica, California. In Israel, he participated in several noteworthy high-tech companies and co-founded Accent, serving as its executive vice president of marketing from 1993-1994.
In 1995, he co-founded Israel Seed Partners and in 2006 became the CEO at Vringo, originally launched as a cell-phone ringtone company that has since reached a valuation in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Today, said Medved, Israel’s economy has a 4 percent growth rate and was one of only two countries in the world that did not experience an economic contraction during the global financial crisis.
Referring to a bar-chart graphic, the economic trendlines illustrated Medved’s essential message.
“Israel is actually growing steeper than China, growing steeper than Brazil, the very anemic line is the Eurozone, and the pathetic black line is the United States,” he said. “Not only are we proud of this, but Israel is now coming to the rescue of its friends and partners and growing jobs in this economy in a significant way.”
Eyal Levy, from the WIBC, GTD Capital LLC, and a former business associate of Medved’s looked at Israel’s economy from a broader context.
“There are about 100,000 people involved in the tech sector in Israel and they generate a significant amount of business,” Levy told JTNews, “but even in the tech industry, there definitely is a decline. Presumably, what he is doing could help overcome some of that.”
Both Medved and Levy don’t deny that Israel lacks the presence of the one, or maybe two, large companies that could sustain its business image globally and its multi-layered economy locally.
But then, they say, Israelis are good at innovating and selling off new ideas to entrepreneurs who can further the distribution and marketing aspects of a business.
“That’s why Jonathan’s proposal is a very good idea,” added Levy, “because that’s what Israel needs. He will find tremendous opportunities”
Over the last 12 years, said Medved, venture capital business in Israel accounted for about a half-billion dollars per quarter, which accounts for $1 to $2 billion a year invested in Israeli companies.
“The majority of the money is now coming directly from overseas venture capital funds and this last year, 26 percent of the money went to life sciences,” Medved said. “The growing area in Israel right now happens to be med-tech.”