'Emerging markets hold the key to Israeli VC success'

The IVA was founded in 1996 in response to the extensive development of the hi-tech and venture capital activities in Israel.

ORNA BERRY 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Looking back on her first year as chairperson of the Israel Venture Association, Dr. Orna Berry is proud of her accomplishments, but is much more focused on the long-term progress of her association as well as of the entire venture capital market in Israel. "Investments in VC are not regulated and decision making isn't regulated - success depends on people and teams with market opportunity," Berry tells The Jerusalem Post. "If you look at the market now, there are growing investments in the cleantech sector and consumer electronics and now homeland security companies. What we need is excellence, proper marketing and government policies for foreign investments and strategic alliances - if we have these, we will be able to attract more foreign investors and enjoy tremendous growth from our investments." While Berry worries about securing more investments from foreign VC funds, she is currently pouring her energy into reshaping the local venture sector, bringing it more in line with US standards. "The VC model here was built according to the US model, but the government did not create opportunities to allow it to grow as best it should. Right now, there are lots of issues that make the Israeli VC market different from the US and we are conducting a dialogue to align it more appropriately." While Berry says she views her accomplishments as more of a long-term picture, she noted that 2007 was the first time, as part of the IVA's annual conference, that the organization did a general course on building companies. "There has been a focused shift in the market and our conference focused on how best to deal with this shift," she says. The 2007 IVA Conference focused on "Building Home Run Companies" in today's competitive environment. According to Berry, it provided an opportunity for entrepreneurs, investors and strategic partners to meet and exchange ideas regarding future cooperation. The Israel Venture Association (IVA) was founded in 1996 in response to the extensive development of the hi-tech and venture capital activities in Israel. It is a broad-based membership organization representing the diverse aspects of the VC industry in Israel, including the major VC funds and other venture investors, service providers, technological incubators, investment and commercial banks, private investors and private equity firms. Current activities include the exchange of information between the EVCA (European Venture Capital Assn.), the NVCA (US VC Assn.), the CVCA (Canadian VC Assn.), the SVCA (Singapore VC Assn.) as well as those in Russia, Kazakhstan and other countries. Looking ahead, Berry is excited, yet hesitant, about how well Israel will be able to navigate the fickle waters of the international venture capital market. The organization, she says, is playing a central role among the Finance Ministry, the Chief Scientist's Office, the country's largest banks and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in coordinating efforts to advance the local market and remove some of the roadblocks, such as tax structures and government regulations inhibiting further growth. "The plan going forward, the IVA is addressing some of these topics and from an institutional investor's point of view, we are looking to make the market more systematic," Berry says. "We want to work with the government to expand investment here, but we need the government to institute some sort of regulatory incentives - the IVA will definitely play a role in reshaping the VC market here - we will be a mover." Meanwhile, said Berry, the key to securing significant growth for local VC firms is the necessity of having the right person at the helm. "The CEO here needs to be able to balance different realities that don't exist in other places such as the security situation and the small, local market. In this sense, it is very important to have the right people in order to drive the company," Berry says. "While Israeli venture capital firms can identify the special talents of local start-ups and are very good at investing in Israeli companies, they need to take additional risks in the global market - we need to sell, access and operate in emerging markets such as China, India, Asia and Africa."- M.K.