Hundreds of international investors and Israeli companies gathered in Tel Aviv on May 3 for the 30th edition of GoForIsrael, hosted by Cukierman & Co. Investment House and Catalyst Investments.
The program of the event covered a wide range of topics, including how to facilitate Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) and fundraising in Israel, the impact of political and economic changes on the country’s hightech industry as well as how Israel’s image abroad influences the level of investments. In addition, startups and more established companies in several fields, including biotech, cyber and robotics, medtech, mobility, green tech and food tech had the opportunity to present their work.
Thirty years of shared values and innovation
“What has brought us together for 30 years is that we all share the same values,” Edouard Cukierman, chairman of Cukierman & Co. Investment House and managing partner of Catalyst Investments said while opening the event.
“We are all Zionist and proud of it,” he further said. “We are also excited to discover and help innovation mostly by funding amazing entrepreneurs and technological companies. What enabled us to operate together in the last 30 years is the power of innovation.”
Cukierman emphasized that over the years, Cukierman & Co has raised over $10 billion dollars for Israeli company, allowing Catalyst Fund to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in disruptive technological companies.
President of Israel Isaac Herzog also addressed the audience, highlighting the importance of an initiative like GoForIsrael, and recalling how Cukierman and Catalyst “have historically been responsible for capitalizing some of the major connections between Israeli innovation and global investors.”
“Conventions of this nature are irreplaceable,” Herzog said. They are the place where ideas are sparked, connections are forged, and the magic of collaboration starts to take course.”
The next frontier of technological innovation
After the opening remarks by Cukierman and Herzog, Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua was presented with the GoforIsrael Achievement Prize “for his remarkable achievements in the field of artificial intelligence and for founding a remarkable company like Mobileye, and doing it in Jerusalem.”
“Over the past decade, new technology advancements have moved fast and created a lot of promise for humanity,” Shashua said in his remarks, offering his analysis on the current state of innovation. “The game changing advancements are focused on software, hardware and data, enabling computers to perform tasks that in the past were exclusively performed by humans. And we are at the cusp of a very big change.”
In the past few years, Shashua noted, computers have learned to interpret visual inputs at a level that can compete with the human brain. In addition, the ability of computers to make decisions, for example while playing games like chess or driving autonomous vehicles, has also significantly advanced.
“Four years ago, another frontier emerged, which is language,” he added. “Language is a window towards intelligence. We are starting to see very promising signs of reasoning and problem solving by these machines. So it's just around the corner to have machines become thought partners.”
A Land of opportunities
During the conference, experts, entrepreneurs and investors from Israel and all over the world met and discussed avenues of cooperation, as well as the latest trends in their field.
Shy Zyman, a partner at Cuckierman whose expertise focuses on medical technology, and speficially on medical aesthaetics, explained how the field is strong in Israel and rapidly evolving.
“There is a lot of innovation and some of the global leading industries in the field came out of Israel,” he said.
Laurent Choppe, a veterinary surgeon and investment banker leading Cukierman & Co. Life Sciences discussed “bioconvergence” or the combination of tech, engineering, big data and biology, that is having a dramatic impact on how new drugs and medical devices, as well as digital health, are developing.
“It is a new ecosystem that is developing all over the world but especially in Israel,” he said. “Today there are about 1,800 startups in Israel, about 20% of all startups, many of them in the field of bioconvergence.”
Among others, speaking at the conference were Michael Oren, a former Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Ronnie Chan, Chair of the Hang Lung Properties, and French Ambassador to Israel Eric Danon.
Israel’s most successful companies also participated - publicly traded companies such as Arbe, BioHarvest, Freightos, Lantronix, Nanox and Satixfy, as well as unicorns or soon-to-be unicorns Addionics, Civan Lasers, CuraLife, Nexar, Storedot, Trax, Xjet and Xtralit.
During the GoForIsrael conference, Catalyst launched the new Catalyst Investors’ Club, while closing the Catalyst IV Fund.
“This is a brand new platform that allows individuals to invest in startups,” Ofer Carmel, CEO of Catalyst Investors’ Club, said.
“For those who want to gather information about Israeli startups, there is not a lot of information easily available,” he added, revealing one of the projects developed within the new initiative. “One of the things that the platform will offer is a ‘VOD-style Netflix’ that will showcase Israeli startups for everyone in the world. Any company who has a 90-seconds video can have their page with us and put it up for free.”