New venture capital fund to invest $5million in haredi startups

“There is tremendous potential in the haredi sector, since haredim bring a fresh set of minds, and a different way of thinking to the field."

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October 19, 2016 19:15
3 minute read.
haredi hi-tech

haredi hi-tech. (photo credit: PR)

 
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KamaTech, a startup incubator organization for ultra-Orthodox Israelis, on Wednesday launched a venture capital fund dedicated exclusively to entrepreneurs and start-ups from the haredi community in a seasonally appropriate setting – a succa.

Called 12 Angels, the new fund has amassed $5 million from some of the most prominent Israeli investors in the hi-tech sector, including Chemi Peres, co-founder of Pitango Venture Capital; Adi Soffer Teeni, general manager of Facebook Israel; and Dov Moran, whose company invented the USB flash drive.

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The “Start-up Succa” event brought entrepreneurs from the haredi community together with investors, entrepreneurs and partners from Israel’s tech community. Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, addressed the event while, Adina Bar Shalom, who has pioneered higher education for the haredi community, was also present.

KamaTech, a nonprofit organization that works to integrate haredim into the hi-tech industry, was founded four years ago by haredi entrepreneur Moshe Friedman and Zika Abzuk, vice-president of Cisco Israel with the help and guidance of Dr. Yossi Vardi, one of the founding fathers of the Israeli high tech industry..

The organization has helped more than 6,000 individuals from the haredi community obtain skills and qualifications in hi-tech, find work in the sector and launch businesses.

KamaTech’s flagship project is its accelerator program, which provides an array of advisory services without charge to haredi entrepreneurs and start-ups, including connecting them to investors, providing business mentorships, as well as legal and accounting advice.

According to Friedman, KamaTech is now helping some 500 haredi start-ups, versus the five they found when the organization was established.



One success story nurtured by the group is Bontact, a communications platform for businesses to connect directly with customers and Internet users.

The company was the brainchild of founder and CEO Sari Roth, a hassidic woman who approached KamaTech for assistance with her idea and made use of its accelerator program.

Bontact now has business relationships with more than 20,000 businesses around the world and has raised $2m. from venture capitalists.

According to Friedman, the haredim his organization has helped come from across the spectrum of ultra-Orthodox society, including from its mainstream; full-time yeshiva students from prestigious haredi yeshivas such as Ponevezh and Hebron, and from the hassidic community, including the conservative Gur, Belz and Viznitz groups.

Some of the haredi entrepreneurs are self-taught in the field of hi-tech, while others have obtained degrees through universities and colleges catering to haredi students before embarking on their start-up ventures.

“There is tremendous potential in the haredi sector, since haredim bring a fresh set of minds and a different way of thinking to the field,” said Friedman.

“They know how to think, how to analyze complicated issues and bring innovation that comes from open minds and an ability to think outside the box. Haredim can really bring a new point of view to solve problems, disrupt industries and bolster the Start-up Nation,” he said.

While KamaTech is a non-profit organization and is itself supported by various philanthropic groups, the 12 Angels venture capital fund is strictly a for-profit project and will invest in 30 haredi startups over the next three years, focusing on EdTech, e-Commerce, artificial intelligence, cyber security and fintech.

12 Angels is a joint initiative of both KamaTech and iAngels, a leading Israel-based angel investment network which helps connect investors to Israeli startups. The Fund's launch event took place at iAngels, at their "Startup Succah" event co-hosted by The Israel Project.

“12 Angels will enable investors to access new companies, and entrepreneurs with a fresh mindset. On the other side, it will enable many haredim – who want to continue a spiritual Torah life alongside technology and innovation to generate interesting applications and developments. It’s win-win,” said Moran.

Mor Assia, founding partner of iAngels, said the fund offers a platform “for supporting this growing, ambitious and courageous base of entrepreneurs, who often face real obstacles in building their companies.”

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