UOB crowdfunding partner OurCrowd hits US$1b in fundraising in six years

Israel-based equity crowdfunding platform has also signed innovation partnership with Changi Airport Group

Jerusalem

OURCROWD, an Israel-based equity crowdfunding platform that counts UOB as its equity partner, has raised a total of US$1 billion for 170 companies and 18 funds in six years.

Of these, 29 had matured sufficiently for OurCrowd to make an exit, it said at its investor summit in Jerusalem on Thursday. In 2018, it exited 11 companies, and these were picked up by big names such as Samsung, Uber, Nike and IBM.

On the flip side, OurCrowd has also written off 13 of its investments. On a blended basis, the portfolio has delivered two times on capital, said Jon Medved, founder and CEO of OurCrowd, at a press conference at the 2019 OurCrowd Global Investor Summit.

OurCrowd is a global investment platform that connects startups to funds from accredited investors worldwide.

Mr Medved said that more institutional investors are coming on the platform. By next year, institutional investors will likely make up a larger part of the investment base than accredited investors. Still, Mr Medved said, the platform remains keen on giving accredited investors access to to the asset class of unlisted startups seeking funding.

"It's about the individual investors that have been frozen out of this asset class," he told reporters, pointing out that 99 per cent of accredited investors in the US - defined as households that have US$1 million in investable assets beyond the value of their primary residence - had never been involved in venture capital.

"That was the problem we went out to solve: bring them in."

UOB has partnered OurCrowd since 2016 to provide equity crowdfunding services in Asia, through which small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and startups can seek investments from accredited investors in return for shares.

Under the partnership, UOB can refer companies from its tech incubator and accelerator programmes to OurCrowd to be considered for fund raising, with the OurCrowd team deciding on its portfolio companies.

UOB has invested more than US$10 million in OurCrowd for an undisclosed equity stake.

The OurCrowd network consists of 30,000 registered investors from over 150 countries.

Geographically, the company's primary investor base remains the United States, followed by Asia. The average number of investments made by individuals was seven, with an average portfolio size of over US$350,000. The minimum investment size on the OurCrowd platform is US$50,000.

OurCrowd invested in 24 new companies in 2018, including Beyond Meat, which makes a plant-based meat substitute; skyTran, which is developing a new form of urban travel; and ThetaRay, an artificial intelligence (AI)-based outfit that provides the detection of and protection against financial fraud.

Mr Medved said that Israel and China today are neck-and-neck in harnessing AI technologies, which remains the top technology trend. "If you want to get venture capital, mention AI. In fact, if you don't have AI as part of your pitch, you're sort of in trouble," he said.

But where Israel stands out is its use of AI in sectors such as medical technology (medtech) and agriculture technology (agtech), where it has developed a robust ecosystem with entrepreneurs in Israel.

"The synergy we've created between investors, companies and venture funds has allowed us to play an instrumental role in building Israel's reputation as a global leader in innovation and technology," said Mr Medved.

Separately, Changi Airport Group and OurCrowd said on Thursday that they have signed an innovation partnership to source and integrate technology solutions. This allows Changi Airport to access OurCrowd's portfolio, which includes 170 startups.

In return, OurCrowd gets to develop and test new technology solutions in a live airport environment. The technology sharing agreement involves technology areas such as automation, retail, data analytics, Internet of Things and smart infrastructure management.

In a statement, Bernard Siew, vice-president for innovation, Changi Airport Group, said: "With over 65 million passengers annually, we believe that Changi Airport would be an interesting testbed for startups, and subsequently as a valuable launchpad to scale up globally. Through this partnership with OurCrowd, we look forward to exploring win-win collaborations with innovative companies."

Roland Wee, managing director of OurCrowd Asia, said that this collaboration reflects the "growing impact of Asian traction for OurCrowd".

"We are leveraging our presence in Asia and the unique network effect of the thousands of co-investors on our global platform to bridge the gap between the Asian corporates and innovative tech startups around the world," he said.

The 2019 OurCrowd Global Investor Summit in Jerusalem is the largest technology event in Israel, with over 170 startups and some 18,000 registered attendees.