Four months ago, I moved to Tel Aviv and joined ZORA Ventures. After crossing paths with Vanessa Bartram in 2015 and having since invested with her as well, I came to Israel eager to join the Israeli impact investing community: a space comprised of pioneering start-ups, accelerators, and VC’s showcasing the global impact of Israeli ingenuity and execution.
My impact investing career started via an in-house lecture by Andrew Kuper, CEO of LeapFrog Investments, during my strategy rotational program at JP Morgan. The marriage of market-rate returns and quantified social impact inspired me. After my program, I pivoted and joined JP Morgan’s Community Development Bank — a group financing projects that foster inclusive economic growth in the U.S.
In 2015, I joined the UJA-NY’s Impact Investing in Israel’s board. UJA-NY had invested $1 million investment in two social impact funds, noteworthy as one of the first Jewish non-profits to use its capital to invest in self-sustaining impact aligned with its mission. At one of these early committee meetings, I met fellow founders, Avi Deutch and Vanessa, as they presented LAVAN, a non-profit advancing the ecosystem of impact investing with Jewish values.
I soon made a trip to Israel to meet impact investing entrepreneurs and accelerators in 2016, became a LAVAN Fellow in 2017, and the rest is history.
Growing up in American Jewish Institutions, I was raised to consider my Jewish and global footprints. Investing in Israel impact-tech became a means to earn market-rate returns in service of the Jewish community and society-at-large. It has compounding value. For example, an investment in Intuition Robotics — an Israeli company developing companion robots for seniors — facilitates universal impact, while showcasing the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam and the best of Israeli innovation.
While moving to Israel has been a dream since childhood, the potential of the impact-tech sector was a catalyzing pull. Young Jewish adults grow up on the story of the Start-Up Nation. The lesser known plot is the extent to which Israeli start-ups are addressing global challenges. Vanessa explains the business case in her post last year — Impact Investing in Israel, Yes it’s a Thing. As written, the number of Israeli start-ups aligned to just impact sectors — Health, Education, CleanTech, and Food and Agtech — is 80% of all start-ups in New York City.
Additionally, the prospect for impact-tech has only heightened as two sector trends sharpen into focus in 2018.
Developing a strong digital health sector — on par with cyber and mobility — has become a national priority. For example, a national database of citizens’ medical records will be developed as part of the government’s $275 million National Health Plan announced in March. This data will be made available to select developers, researchers and enterprises and is a national, competitive advantage for developing new technologies.
FoodTech is gaining momentum. A tender for a second government-backed food incubator was announced in September. Israel is also becoming a global leader in CleanMeat. In October, Forbes even highlighted Israel’s role in How Israel became the Most Promising Land for Clean Meat.
Israel is well positioned to be a global player in impact investing. I moved to Tel Aviv to be a part of this story.