The Las Vegas-style OurCrowd event at the Jerusalem International Convention Center
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Due to his young age, Ari’s case was more complicated. Transnasal endoscopic skull base surgery, by which the tumor would be removed through the nose, had never been performed on such a young child. Surgical Theater, an Israeli start-up established by former Israel Air Force officers, had created a virtual reality platform, which would provide the surgeons at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Stanford, California, with the opportunity to train for the surgery like fighter pilots would do before a perilous mission. After an 18-hour surgery the tumor was removed and the Ellmans’ life returned to normal.
ElliQ is a social companion robot aimed at helping the elderly. The robot is designed to learn the owner’s personality and uses machine learning and natural language processing to help them live a normal life.
“We launched in 2016 and our aim is help fight loneliness and isolation,” explains Dafna Presler, vice president of marketing at Intuition Robotics. “Toyota is now using our software to help power in car-assistance technology, to ensure drivers are more careful and reduce accidents.”
“We helped Susan, a 74-year-old widow living alone in California, who had just suffered a stroke. Her family wanted her to regain independence. Susan’s doctors decided to use ElliQ to help her overcome her new handicap and get back to living a routine life,” Presler says. “Susan uses her ElliQ to remind her about playing cards, listening to music and dancing (which she loved doing before her stroke) and when to eat and drink.”
Surgical Theater and Intuition Robotics are just two of the companies in which OurCrowd invests, which were represented at the 2020 OurCrowd Global Investor Summit in Jerusalem on February 13. From health care to transportation, artificial intelligence to agriculture and food, and from fighting fires in Australia to protection from missiles, OurCrowd is saving and improving lives.
At the summit held at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center, Jon Medved, chief executive officer and founder of OurCrowd, highlighted how they were taking the lead in finding solutions to the world’s leading problems. For instance, Medved said that OurCrowd was involved with four companies – SaNOtize, MeMed, VocalZoom and Sight Diagnostics – which were trying to come up with solutions to the coronavirus.
“This is not just a battle for China, but a world battle,” Medved said. “The tech community must take responsibility to be on the front line in fighting coronavirus. We must come up with solutions – not just travel bans – to stop these types of epidemics.”
One feature of the summit was how OurCrowd is impacting the Middle East, building relations with Arab states.
Matthew Kalman, the master of ceremonies of the summit who is currently a Middle East correspondent and a former editor of The Jerusalem Report, pointed out that Medved was the first Israeli venture capital speaker to speak publicly in the Persian Gulf at the SALT Abu Dhabi Conference. Kalman described Medved as the “disruptive digital diplomat of the Start-Up Nation, who was breaking new territory in the Arab world for Israel’s business links.”
“We need to build a new Middle East together, inshallah,” said Medved. “We have representatives from 22 members of the Arab League at the summit and hopefully Lebanon will be here next year.” Medved then showed on the screen how people were watching the summit live from Lebanon.
Elias Samuel, vice president of global corporate development at OurCrowd stated: “From a geopolitical perspective, the OurCrowd Global Investor Summit is a game changer for Israel, as for the first time a host of participants from all major Gulf countries will be participating in the summit in Jerusalem. This in itself is a testament to the fact that ‘innovation can become the ultimate unifying force’ in this historically tumultuous part of the world.”
Medved made it clear Israel was a perfect country for start-ups to thrive: “Like a martial arts expert, we know how to turn threats to our own benefit. Israel is a country of spirit, expressed in our technology and innovation…. We have no water; we become masters of watertech. We have no markets; we go global. We have no natural resources; we focus on human resources. We have to send our kids to the army; our children become pioneers, who learn how to take risks.”
Eric Brand, who oversees the OurCrowd team that produces the summit, said the event was unique in that it “includes start-ups and venture capitalists from multiple fields, bringing together investors, entrepreneurs and governments from across the globe. Over 23,000 registered from over 186 countries, who come to Israel because they see it as an exciting center of innovation and technology.”
“The OurCrowd Global Investor Summit has broken records in terms of the technology, business and organizations involved. It’s very powerful that over one week of activities – climaxing at the summit on Thursday – you get to network and make connections with professionals from all around the world. Investors and multinational corporations can meet the start-ups they are involved in.” For instance, the CEO of Seagate Technology appeared on the main stage after signing on with OurCrowd to source promising technologies.
Brand continues, “We didn’t just want regular speakers and sessions – we wanted it to be really interesting and exciting with engaging content. Our ‘Hi-tech horror show’ dealt with real-life issues people are frightened by – for instance, being afraid of the Internet and superbug viruses – which attracted over 1,000 people, with standing room only!”
“We demonstrated how start-ups are providing the solutions to these problems. For instance, SaNOtize uses technology to address viruses and bacteria; Sixgill is dealing with data theft and protection; Insightec is aiding people with essential tremors; and Alpha Tau is providing dart-like treatment for cancer.”
Brand said, “For us, the fact that Israel’s biggest business event takes place in Jerusalem is really significant. Furthermore, Jon Medved’s vision is one of inclusion – we want to integrate the Arab world into Israeli tech, as well as Israeli-Arabs, women and Haredim.”
“Jon very much believed what Jason Greenblatt said at the end – that we are at a watershed time here in the Middle East. As humans we all have the same desires and needs – making an honest living, building a family and contributing to society. Through economic and business connections, hopefully, we can build relationships across the globe, including with our Arab neighbors,” Brand concluded.
Another key feature of the summit was the representation of Israel’s English-speaking population. Gary Leibler, of Shavit Capital in Jerusalem, says, “I think the ecosystem in Jerusalem is improving at a light speed rate and OurCrowd is one of the entities changing the hi-tech sector. In this context, the biotech and life science market is Jerusalem’s biggest source of deal flow in Israel today.”
Rifka Lebowitz, a financial consultant from Beit Shemesh, said, “There is a mindset stuck in the 1980s that you can’t make it here. The OurCrowd Summit and other such events remind us that Israel is a real home for ingenuity, innovation and creativity. Just meeting so many people, from so many different fields, gives you the feeling that you can succeed in Israel.”
Hadassah Levy, a digital marketer from Eli, reflects: ”The summit really brought home to me how our lives are changing and how different things will be in ten years. Jobs that didn’t exist will be created and many currently popular jobs will become obsolete. Marketing is unlikely to go out of fashion, but it will change unrecognizably, just as it has in the past decade.”
Simon Gerstler, from Ra’anana, said, “The energy here is infectious and the networking really useful – if you’re not networking, you’re not working.” Robert Curtis, from Even Shmuel, comments, “This summit is not just about OurCrowd, it’s about the Israel and Zionist journey.” Johnny Stern, from Tel Aviv, believes, “This summit is a really efficient way to catch up with VC contacts from the industry. I have just agreed to a pitch meeting with a start-up about to raise money.”
Sam Michelson, from Alon Shvut, reflected, “I was particularly inspired from the medical advances – like Insightec, helping people with tremors. This made me realize how innovation doesn’t just pump money into our economy, but also changes people’s lives.”
Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog kicked off the event by declaring, “I think King David would be awe-inspired if he saw his Psalms coming alive here at the OurCrowd Summit – seeing people coming to Jerusalem from all over the world, dealing with the world’s problems.”
Medved concluded the day by saying, “This is Las Vegas in Jerusalem.”
He was right – there was a “Las Vegas” feel. But Herzog’s words resonated with the huge international crowd – that the OurCrowd Summit brought the hopes and dreams of the Bible alive, making Jerusalem a center for all people to gather in peace and harmony, with the shared goal of innovating to enhance our global society