OurCrowd CEO Jon Medved Outlines Israel's Future With New Gulf Arab Friends
Jewish National Fund-USA’s IsraelCast host, Steven Shalowitz, sat down with OurCrowd CEO, Jon Medved, to understand why he's so excited about Israel's new friends in the Gulf.
By Joseph Wolkin
There’s one big silicon beach being built from the shores of Tel Aviv to the waters bordering the Persian Gulf. That’s the way one major Israeli venture capitalist is looking at the future.
Jon Medved, the CEO of OurCrowd, is known for democratizing access to the world of venture capital. The Jerusalem-based venture capitalist focuses on helping connect investors to Israeli and global startups, pushing success whenever and wherever he can.
Medved started OurCrowd in 2013 with the key understanding that the "crowd" wants to invest in startup businesses, but they might not be sure how to do so. In a conversation with Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) IsraelCast host Steven Shalowitz, Medved discussed the importance of Israel’s new relationships with other Middle East nations via the Abraham Accords. Specifically, he believes Israel will benefit greatly from the previously hostile Saudi Arabia.
“The most important are our cousins in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Medved said during IsraelCast. “It’s shocking how broad their interest is. I thought it would be focused on issues like cyber security, logistics, or aviation, but they’re interested in clean energy, smart cities, and food. Israel leads the world in these technologies.”
The developments have continued since the original announcement of the Abraham Accords. But even prior to the peace deals, the relationships were already starting to develop.
“In December of 2019, I was invited to speak at the SALT Conference in Abu Dhabi,” Medved, who has been a venture capitalist for 40 years, said. “Anthony [Scaramucci] asked me to come and I said I’m going to speak about Israel. He said that’s what he wants me to talk about.”
But the conference was sponsored by the United Arab Emirates’ government, and Medved wasn’t sure how they’d respond to his venture capitalist talks about Israel.
“I was really surprised about the incredibly warm reception that I got,” he said. “When I came back, I told my friends and colleagues that things are changing.”
Things did change. The Abraham Accords were officially signed on Sept. 15, 2020, marking the start of diplomatic relations and the normalization of ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. From there, several other nations joined the United States-brokered deal, including Bahrain, Sudan, and, most recently, Morocco.
OurCrowd is already starting to work with people from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, through both investing in startups and hiring people from the region.
“The sky's the limit,” Medved said. “This is akin to the Berlin Wall coming down, except when the Berlin Wall came down, it really affected Europe. This wall is going to affect the entire world.”
Medved said that when the coronavirus pandemic began, OurCrowd believed 2020 would be a down year for startups. But the opposite happened during the pandemic, and 2020 will conclude with roughly $10 billion invested in startups.
“It’s become the single largest source of foreign capital inflows,” Medved said. “It’s not just the investment, but it’s what it does for the economy because today’s Israel tech economy is the beating and driving heart of an unbelievable economy.”
The normalization of diplomatic relations will only lead to a stronger 2021, Medved explained. The relationships that Israel is developing will boost not only the Jewish state’s economy, but that of its partner nations as well.
“Israel is a world leader,” Medved said. “That is driving a lot of our diplomatic advances. A big driver in normalization, which is broad among the people, is they want to tie in with startup nation.”
One of Medved’s key messages is the importance of tzedakah (charity). He pointed out that Jewish people actually donate more frequently to nonprofits than any other group of people.
“A large part of it has to do with our tradition, which is about giving a ma’aser, 10 percent of your net income as a religious obligation,” Medved said. “It’s one kept broadly from Orthodox to Reform to Conservative to secular.”
With plenty of firms and high-tech businesses investing in Israel, Medved made it clear that it’s time for the Jewish people to invest in the future of our homeland now more than ever.
“Jews should look at aligning their mission with their investment strategy, and they should take hard looks at all kinds of Israeli investments,” he said.
JNF-USA’s IsraelCast comes out every other Wednesday, available wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.