Business unusual: generating positive impact through innovation

OurCrowd summit in Jerusalem attracts thousands by highlighting latest cutting-edge technologies, many of which contribute to the greater good.

OurCrowd founder & CEO Jon Medved addresses the 2019 OurCrowd Global Investor Summit, March 7, 2019 (Credit: Noam Moskowitz) (photo credit: NOAM MOSKOWITZ)
OurCrowd founder & CEO Jon Medved addresses the 2019 OurCrowd Global Investor Summit, March 7, 2019 (Credit: Noam Moskowitz)
(photo credit: NOAM MOSKOWITZ)
Eighteen thousand entrepreneurs and tech-savvy individuals participated in the 2019 OurCrowd Global Investor Summit, the largest technology conference in Israel, showcasing nearly 180 start-ups.
OurCrowd is an investment platform that vets and selects companies and, in a process referred to as the "democratization of investing," invites its 30,000 accredited members and institutional partners to join the opportunities.
Notable attendees and speakers at the conference ranged from Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion to behavioral economist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and video blogging sensation Nuseir Yassin (AKA Nas Daily).
The event, recently held at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center, was an interactive window into the arena of start-up venture capital, highlighting cutting-edge products and their inventors.
"We've got the whole world here, people from 182 countries," OurCrowd Founder & CEO Jonathan Medved, told The Media Line. "Delegations from Hong Kong, Columbia, Mexico, Nigeria, Kenya—and it's really cool because they're all coming to Israel because the country is such an incredible source of innovation. Start-ups are changing the world."
One of these start-ups, Watergen, is in fact doing just that, generating clean drinking water literally out of thin air. Its patented GENius technology transforms atmosphere—a free, unlimited resource—into potable water, with the largest system capable of a daily maximum output of 5,000 liters. 
"You know that you are in the Holy Land, so we are actually making holy water out of holy air," Watergen executive chairman Maxim Pasik told The Media Line.
"There is currently a shortage of clean drinking water in 70 percent of the world, so imagine what the situation will be in two decades, as populations continue to increase,” Pasik said. 
"Our product is cheaper than any mineral water alternative, and we are also reducing the need for plastic bottles," he continued. "To use our machines, you don't need anything except for electricity, so this solution is going to solve the global water crisis."
From cyber-security to virtual reality, the latest trends were on display at the Global Investor Summit, including, for example, Tevel Aerobotics' autonomous drones that pick fruit, thereby ensuring that the apple does not fall far from the tree. According to the company, a fleet of its self-operating UAVs enables farmers to lower costs while gathering new data on crops.
One of the hottest fields exhibited was Artificial Intelligence, with Zebra Medical Vision using learning-capable algorithms to diagnose patients. The company is empowering health providers by facilitating the management of ever-increasing workloads without compromising quality.
"We developed an analytics engine that looks at the pixels of medical scans to detect conditions and offer insights about patients," Eyal Toledano, the company’s co-founder and CTO, explained to The Media Line.
"There is always too much work to handle, so providing technology – a kind of cyber brain – to make physicians superhuman by allowing them to find more [diseases], treat additional patients and give more accurate diagnoses saves lives."
Indeed, the technology allows health professionals to identify high-risk patients earlier while reducing the cost of care by streamlining disease-prevention programs.
While the bottom line with these technologies is generally the bottom line in business, the OurCrowd conference made clear that not all is about dollars and cents by emphasizing the importance of so-called impact investing in organizations that generate positive effects.
"Whether it's on the environment or hunger, in security or related to disability, [the question is] how can these start-ups take a bite out of global challenges and how can we as a community make a collective impact for the better and still make money while doing so," Medved stressed.
To this end, OurCrowd recently launched its $30 million Impact Fund in partnership with Social Finance Israel to invest in companies that demonstrate alignment with the United Nations' 17 sustainable development goals.
Overall, the investment platform has raised a total of $1 billion for 170 businesses and 18 funds in only six years. Some of its most recent investments include Beyond Meat, which develops and manufactures plant-based meat substitutes; MeMed, a device that prevents the misuse of antibiotics; and ThetaRay, which uses Artificial Intelligence to detect and protect against financial fraud.
In effect, then, companies that to some degree contribute to the greater good reinforce a central theme of the conference: namely, that making money can be far more than just business as usual.
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