Olmert to chair venture-capital fund

‘I feel more comfortable when I work with someone who takes the money out of his own pocket to invest in these new technologies.’

Olmert 370 (photo credit: Niv Kantor)
Olmert 370
(photo credit: Niv Kantor)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert has joined Genesis Angels, a private venture-capital fund seeking to invest in “the next big thing” in Israeli disruptive technology, as chairman of its advisory board.
“We are interested in robotics, in artificial intelligence, in areas which can have a big impact on the long run,” Olmert, who also chairs the private conglomerate A. Livnat Holdings and runs a consulting company, told The Jerusalem Post Thursday in Tel Aviv.
The fund was cofounded by Kazakh investor Kenges Rakishev, a mining magnate who sees Israeli technology as the key to the future and was recently named by buzzsparks.org as the eighthlargest private Internet investor of 2012, and Moshe Hogeg, an Israeli entrepreneur who founded Mobli, a competitor to Instagram.
“If we take all the APIs, Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, Google Maps and combine them all together, you can start to create the next layers of reality, which is augmented reality,” Hogeg said. Google Glass, which overlays its user’s field of vision with a screen, is an example of “a project that can bring a digital layer on top of reality,” he said.
“We started with one kind of technology, and now we see more and more how it can grow,” said Rakishev, who is the fund’s primary investor.
The fund already has invested in a series of companies that mimic, read and analyze the senses, or promote human interaction through online media. Beyond Verbal can pick out emotion in audio. Infinity Augmented Reality developed a Google Glass-like software platform. TriPlay stores and runs applications on the cloud.
Technology takes time to develop and must be nurtured, so the fund’s strategy lies in long-term investment, Hogeg said.
“If you go to a typical investor and tell them, ‘I have a big vision, but it will take me five years to develop,’ they’ll say, ‘Okay, come back in four years,’” he said. “Mr. Rakishev doesn’t think of the quick buck.”
When asked why he chose to throw his weight behind this fund, Olmert said: “For the last few years, I was approached by many, many different hi-tech companies, and the normal case is that young guys with great ideas come to you and say, ‘Help us raise funds for our new ideas.’ In this particular case, the one with the money came to me. Now this is a big difference. I feel more comfortable when I work with someone who takes the money out of his own pocket to invest in these new technologies.”
Asked if his involvement meant anything for his return to political life, he said, “Political life is political life, and in the meantime you have to do things that interests you.”
Rakishev and Hogeg said they have received interest from Forbes & Manhattan Merchant Bank, and Olmert plans on visiting Kazakhstan in the near future. But Rakishev will remain the primary investor in the fund.