In many ways, OurCrowd epitomizes the aspirations of what investment crowdfunding has the potential to deliver for both issuers and investors. By providing access to quality deals to smaller (accredited) investors, OurCrowd has opened up an asset class previously closed off to all but the very fortunate. On OurCrowd, you can find yourself investing alongside some of the biggest names in venture capital – at the exact same terms – an important distinction. It is also important to note that OurCrowd has skin in the game for each offering it lists on the platform – thus interests are aligned: OurCrowd wants the company to succeed and it also very much wants to see a return on its own investment. These qualities make OurCrowd a compelling option for investors that are willing to shoulder an element of portfolio risk that can also drive some outsized returns.
OurCrowd is based in Israel – where many of its investments are made – but its vision is to empower investors globally and fund companies regardless of geographic borders. This is what you want to see in the digitized, internet fueled Fintech age.
CI recently caught up with Jon Medved, the ubiquitous founder and CEO of OurCrowd, for an update on platform progress as they execute on their mission to democratize access to opportunity.
Earlier this year, you indicated OurCrowd would top USD $1 billion of investment at some point this year. Is this still on track?
Jon Medved: Yes, our growth in both active new investors and average investment sizes are scaling according to plan through the first half and we believe we will have an even stronger second half result.
Recently OurCrowd was recognized as the top VC in Israel, do you think you can replicate this accomplishment in other countries over time?
Jon Medved: Our focus is on becoming not only the “most active VC investor” but becoming one of the “most successful VC investors.”
When we started, I don’t think many believed that our model could scale this effectively, yet here we are.
Since this asset class has a long growth curve of 7-10 years or beyond to bear the greatest fruits, we know we need to be persistent but patient.
We now have 20 different portfolio companies whose value is $100 million or more, so many of our investments are starting to mature and we are encouraged by their progress. The next phase will clearly be to replicate our level of activity in Israel to other regions of the world. While we are already sourcing about 30% of our deals outside of Israel, we would like to grow this percentage. The key to doing this will be to open up more offices (we already have 11 worldwide offices), sign more global strategic partners, and to engage more active investors who will help us source and diligence quality deal flow in their regions and their areas of expertise.
This month, OurCrowd announced its second investment in unicorn Klook which was your first China investment. How is deal flow for China based firms?
Jon Medved: Our growing network in Asia is a credit to the strong partnerships we have enjoyed in the region. As with everything in our industry, the winning formula always starts with the right people. Not only the people within our organization and across our strategic alliances, but the people we choose to invest in.
In Asia, more than anywhere, access to deals comes from a position of trust. As we grow our investment community in Asia, we hope to find more deals like Klook. Asia has so much promise and upside and spectacular entrepreneurs—but the key will be to deliver added value to these companies and provide them with important access to the rest of our global network.
OurCrowd has a growing portfolio of sector funds for investors. How are these progressing? Will you always offer single firm investments?
Jon Medved: Absolutely we will continue to offer single firm investments; this has been and will continue to be the bedrock of our investment platform.
Our unique ability to deliver deal-by-deal discretion and the “freedom of choice” continues to be a really exciting core of our business. This is especially true as we offer companies at different stages (from Series A to Series E), in different sectors, and with the ability to invest in multiple rounds (we have some companies where we have already participated in 5 rounds of funding!)
However, that said, we are also excited by the growing fund opportunities that we are providing on the platform. We now offer 13 different funds, which fulfill a real need for our investors who want managed portfolios and diversification. The fact that someone can access great globally recognized venture capital funds with a minimum investment of only $50,000 is a game changer. While maintaining our single company investments we also plan to also expand our fund model to many other sectors and strategies, because there is a real synergy between our funds and the single companies on our platform.
What about institutional growth. Last time we spoke much of the platform growth was being fueled by institutional money. Is this continuing? What type of institutional interest are you seeing?
Jon Medved: We have indeed signed several agreements recently with institutional investors who have become our largest and most active investors and partners to date.
What is really exciting about this institutional growth is that it has not come at the expense of our 25,000 accredited investor base. We continue to grow this accredited investor base, and we are proud that we continue to offer deal access to both the individual accredited investor and the huge institution on the same terms. This is a fulfillment of our goal to democratize access to quality venture capital. We are seeing growing institutional interest in our individual company investments especially as many of our deals start to raise $10 million and up on our platform, where there is room for institutions to take a real swing and get the size they want.
Also, the institutions like the fact that they can build their own personalized fund of funds on our platform where they can get a basket of funds without paying the additional fees and carry normally associated with fund of funds.
Are you still seeing significant money flow from Asian money? Do you expect this to continue through 2018?
Jon Medved: As we expand our products, offer larger portfolio deals, and generate diversified fund opportunities, our investor base has responded enthusiastically in Asia and Australia, which have represented almost half of our new capital in recent quarters.
In addition to our office in Singapore, we have recently added an OurCrowd office in Hong Kong, and we are involved in new initiatives in India, Japan, Korea and Thailand.
What early stage sector are you most excited about right now? What about blockchain based investments?
Jon Medved: We are excited about AI, Mobility, Cybersecurity, Drones, Digital Health, Big Data and more. We are really in the midst of an innovation explosion globally and in our opinion, this sea of change is just getting started and the disruption is going to sweep over every industry like a tsunami.
Blockchain too is certainly an area which we are exploring and where we are aggressively hunting for investments. While we are more excited about the industrial blockchain than we are about crypto, we find that here in Israel there are significant core blockchain technologies under development that will unlock the power of blockchain to transform business as we know it.
In the US, policymakers are expected to alter the definition of an accredited investor that may see a sophistication qualification. Is OurCrowd interested in allowing these investors to participate in your offerings?
Jon Medved: We will open up our investments to all those Americans deemed suitable by US government policy. Today we follow multiple regulatory regimes around the world and this continues to be a huge part of our business, just keeping up with this dynamically changing regulatory environment.
Jon Medved: We are pleased with the overall investor returns on our platform. So far we have had 21 exits. Of course, actual returns depend on portfolio composition, vintage, size, etc. Some of our portfolios and funds are really standing out such as OurCrowd First (now known as Cognitiv) where the recent net unrealized IRR reported was close to 40%.