While 2016 was not a particularly strong year for the global venture capital market, the same could not be said for the sector in Israel.
“There was one country that has bucked this trend completely, and that country was Israel,” Jon Medved told thousands of people gathered at in the 2017 OurCrowd Global Investor Summit in Jerusalem on Thursday.
Medved, the CEO of OurCrowd, was addressing participants in the convention that is hosted by his company, the Jerusalem-based equity crowdfunding platform for early- stage startups. While stock markets in all over the world were vibrant in 2016, this growth was less apparent in the global venture capital scene.
Yet Israel managed to accrue $4.8 billion in technology investments last year, achieving 120% growth in the sector over the past three years, Medved said.
“You can make predictions about the future, but the future has a way of making its own history,” he added.
Medved did not shy away from making predictions, however, as to which sectors will stand out in Israel’s technology developments over coming years. Such areas will include machine learning, space technology, agricultural technology, digital health, sports technology, drones, robotics and autonomous driving, he said.
As far as machine learning and artificial intelligence are concerned, Elan Zivotofsky, general partner and head of OurCrowd’s investment team, stressed that he and his colleagues are “believers,” and that these sectors are “not just about the hype.”
“Teaching machines has become easier and more scalable, enabling AI [artificial intelligence] to go mainstream across a wide variety of applications,” he said.
Discussing drone technology, Zivotofsky said that the near-term development focus will likely be on industrial-scale drones, rather than ones for personal use.
“Drones are already being used in areas such as mining, oil and gas exploration, crop protection,” he said. “Building industrial-scale drones is very hard to do. We are most interested in companies that can meet that challenge.”
In addition to highlighting some of the sectors Medved mentioned, Zivotofsky pointed to several other game-changers in the near future for the tech world. One such technology is Blockchain, a feature used in Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies, which enables people to send and receive money safely.
He also discussed the important role that voice technologies will play in future man-machine interactions.
While voice will soon become the key connector in such communications, voice-driven apps of today are still missing functions that excel at filtering out background noise, Zivotofsky explained.
“None of us has a crystal ball,” he said. “We are excited to play a role in the development of some of the most incredible, new and innovative technologies.”
With the OurCrowd event in the capital, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat spoke about how the municipality is eager to cement its role as a global leader of such technological developments.
Since biblical times, he explained, the city has been uniquely positioned as a hub for innovation.
“Jerusalem was the innovative city of the world, the center of the world, an inclusive philosophy that holds everyone together,” Barkat said. “Folks, that’s not just the past.”
In the mayor’s eyes, the economic engines for the city’s growth today include clustering tourism and culture, as well as developing the health, life sciences and hi-tech sectors in collaboration with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Hadassah University Medical Center, and the critical mass of global companies taking root here.
“I’m very optimistic that Jerusalem can and will connect the future to the past,” he said.
Thursday’s convention drew some 6,000 guests from 82 countries at the Jerusalem International Convention Center, attracting investors, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, global delegations and industry leaders.
OurCrowd’s community includes almost 17,000 investors from 110 countries, who have invested more than $400 million in 110 portfolio companies and funds, according to the company.
Daniel K. Eisenbud contributed to this report.