Largest group of int'l venture capitalists ever in Israel for tech program

This year is the first that the elite Kauffman Fellows Program is visiting Israel.

April 23, 2018 15:05
2 minute read.
A cityscape of Tel Aviv

A cityscape of Tel Aviv. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)


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Some 280 venture capitalists – what’s being dubbed as the largest contingent of tech investors ever – are visiting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem this week as part of the Kauffman Fellows, a US-based NGO that runs programming for such investors worldwide.

It’s the first time the annual, invitation-only summit is being held in Israel. This year the program is aimed at acquainting the venture capitalists with the Israeli hi-tech ecosystem and connecting them to Israeli entrepreneurs.

“The fact that we are bringing the largest delegation of global VCs to Israel ever is significant,” said Jeff Harbach, CEO of the Kauffman fellowship program.

The summit – which includes a week of meetings and sightseeing on Monday – is being co-hosted by the Kauffman Foundation; Start-Up Nation Central; and the Jerusalem Development Authority.

The conference will focus on what distinguishes Israel’s start-up culture, as the country is home to around 5,000 start-ups, one of highest concentrations per capita in the world.

With billions of dollars in foreign investment pouring into Israel, investors are clamoring for a piece of the local tech pie. That’s where Kauffman fellows enter the picture.

The visiting venture capitalists hail from blue chip firms such as Microsoft Ventures, Social Capital, Intel Capital, Google Ventures, BlackRock Private Equity Partners and some 500 start-ups.

“The connectivity between the Israeli innovation ecosystem, one of the most important ecosystems in the world, and emerging stars in venture capital from around the world, many of whom have never been to Israel before, is a net benefit for the VCs and for the Israeli ecosystem,” said Amir Mizroch, Start-Up Nation Central’s director of communications.

Among the 280 fellows are 13 Israelis, including the likes of Eyal Shaked, Yoel Cheshin, and Amir Lahat, who have been instrumental in getting the summit to be held in Israel this year.

Some of the Kauffman fellows and attendees are counted as Forbes magazine’s “Midas List” investors who are breaking into the rankings of the top 100 venture capitalists.

The itinerary allows the Kauffman fellows to meet with Education Minister Naftali Bennett and participate in various roundtable meetings and panel discussions that showcase innovation.

The investors will dig deep into what makes the Jerusalem tech scene tick and what efforts are being made to further integrate Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox into that sector, Mizroch added.

Also on the agenda are meetings with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and conversations with leading Israeli entrepreneurs from Orcam and Mobileye,

A new scholarship program aimed at women and minorities will be announced at the summit, which will also focus on advancing more women into the world of upper-tier finance and entrepreneurship.

Established in 1995, the Kauffman fellowship is based in California’s Silicon Valley and counts more than 500 graduates from 40 countries, according to its website.

To join the fellowship, applicants must be recommended by another Kauffman fellow – ultimately paying $80,000 for the two-year program of leadership development and mentoring.

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