Only in Israel: 'The Great Startup Race'

Israel set to host biggest contest for startups in its history, as investments grow from 2.2 billion, to over 5 billion dollars.

Raphael Poch,

Hi-tech start ups leading the charge (illustration)
Hi-tech start ups leading the charge (illustration)
Flash 90

OurCrowd together with Bank Hapolaim are creating the biggest contest for startups that has ever taken place in Israel. The contest has two different tracks, one for startups and one for bank apps, and the winners of both tracks will be announced at the the OurCrowd Global Summit on January 25th, 2016.

“It is the biggest contest that has ever been done for startups in this country,” Jon Medved CEO of OurCrowd told Arutz Sheva.  

The contest is being run through its new vehicle by the name of OurCrowd First, which is a vehicle that has been created to help entry level startups apply to OurCrowd for support.

“We have invested 200,000,000 dollars into startups in the past two years,” said Medved. “The startup scene has simply exploded.”

Over the past two years the amount of total investments in Israeli startups has gone from 2.2 billion dollars in 2013, to over 5 billion dollars in 2015. “This is literally off the charts,” Medved joked, as he discussed having to make a new chart due to the totals not fitting on his projection chart for this year’s investments.

“To grow more than one hundred percent under tough geopolitical and our special political conditions, is astounding”, he said. “Our response is more gas, and push the pedal to the floor.”

Medved explained a little bit about what OurCrowd does. “We’re different as people get to choose which startups they wish to invest in starting at 10,000 each. We are trying to become the next generation fintech platform. OurCrowd has thus far invested 2 hundred million dollars into startups in two years,” he said.

With regards tot he contest, Medved said that it was about getting to all of the different people around the country who are involved in startups and giving them a chance to promote what they are doing. “We wanted to open it up as much as possible so we created the contest,” said Medved.  

“We have a new vehicle called OurCrowd First which is aimed at helping entry level companies (companies under the million dollar threshold) find investors. So we built a platform that can allow people to do that.” Medved said that he company monitor the investments as well as the companies themselves. “The system is monitored very closely by venture capital professionals. We invest in approximately  two percent of the startups that approach us. We put in our own money and we put it up on the platform for people to invest in. We want to build this as a global platform and bring our message as a startup nation to the nations of the world.”

When asked why there is such a global interest in investing in Israel, Medved responded by saying that “everyone is excited and interested in what is going on here, not just Jews. Chinese investors, Indian investors, Christian investors, everyone want to get in at an early level so that they can make huge returns,” he said.

The contest is providing the startups with the ability to gain that type of recognition by working with OurCrowd, gaining access to their new platform and possibly earning the right to negotiate a contract with OurCrowd of up to 500,000 dollars. “The top three to five winners will get the opportunity to sit with Our crowd to negotiate a contract for up to 500,000 dollars,” said Medved.

In addition to the opportunity to work with OurCrowd, Bank Hapoalim will be giving a 200,000 NIS grant for the best startup company.

Applicants now have 5-6 weeks to build their ideas, propose them and enter the contest. The winners will be announced during the OurCrowd Annual Investor Summit on January 25th 2016.

Tom Meroz, Head of the Innovation and Strategy Division of Bank Hapolaim spoke to Arutz Sheva about the second part of the contest, the BankApp contest. “This contest is for a different group of people then the OurCrowd contest”, he said. “Whereas that contest is for startups of all kinds, ours is more specifically oriented to developing new apps to help our customers by using banking information in a new and dynamic way,” he said.

This is the second year that the BankApp contest is taking place. “We invite anyone who has an idea for new apps that can help utilize bank information to provide better service to our customers by using API better and in a manner more friendly manner to propose their ideas.  We will give them all of the tools necessary to create their ideas and put it into practice,” said Meroz.

As an example of the type of programs that are pitched, Meroz related one idea that was developed during the previous contest.

“Last year we had an idea that would create a social media app which was based upon people who have similar credit card expenses. People who go to the same places of entertainment or have the same purchases, would be able to meet and interact with each other, and swap information that would help each other make smarter purchases.”

Both organizations share the understanding that startups and new apps seem to be the wave of the future.

“We are always trying to help our clients,” said Meroz. “If we can take the information that we have and open it up to our clients in order to help them in new and innovative ways, then that is what we want to do.”  

Meroz said that “the bank understands that the knowledge, and creativity of innovators is building the banking of the future.”




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