Why I Continue to Invest in Israel

I am confident that the economic miracle that has been the Startup Nation over the past two decades is just getting started.
September 19, 2023
Elif Bayraktar/Getty Images

Over the course of three decades in business, I have been on nearly every side of an investment. As the founder and CEO of several companies that went from startup to IPO, I’ve raised more than $1.7 billion through public and private debt and equity markets. As an active investor, I’ve negotiated hundreds of deals on behalf of myself and partners in fields from media to agriculture to health care. As a corporate securities lawyer, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of what can transpire when it comes to investing.

The lessons – and scars – of this experience have driven me to make increasingly significant investments in Israel over the past decade.

For me, Israel is personal, as I grew up in a deeply Zionist household—and have been connected to the Jewish state since I can remember. But as I tell fellow investors, the cold-hearted business case for investing in Israel has never been clearer. Here are the top three reasons why I continue to double-down.

First, Israeli start-ups have the best track record of success. Israel now has 41 unicorns, the most per capita in the world. I’ve been involved with a number of these unicorns and witnessed their explosive growth, like Voxia, the world’s first AI-powered cold calling engine, and Moon Active ($1.25b), one of the world’s fastest-growing mobile game companies. You just can’t argue with the Israel’s success in penetrating new areas of technology, and the financial benefit it brings.

Second, you are a bigger fish in a smaller pond. Foreign investment in Israel has skyrocketed over the past decade, from $9 billion to $27.76 billion. Matam Park, in Haifa, is an international tech R&D hub, playing host to Amazon, Intel, Microsoft, Apple, and Google, just to name a few.  And speaking of Intel – they’re building another factory in the country that will cost $25 billion and open in 2027.

While many of the smartest global investors have caught on to the secret of investing in Israel, the space remains much less competitive than Silicon Valley, New York, or Austin.

On most deals in Israel, foreign investors are not competing against the largest VCs, which means we can secure more favorable terms and gain access to brilliant founders with a proven track record whose equivalent might not be available in the U.S.

I’ve become increasingly popular in Austin among the investor community by providing access to these deals. We even created a group called TLV-ATX that brings together 100 of the most brilliant Israeli founders living in Austin, with numerous 9- and 10-figure exits among them.

Third, Israeli companies are uniquely positioned to pioneer the technologies of the future.

In fields from  AI to blockchain to water and sustainable energy to cultured meat, Israelis bring together a density of expertise, bold attitude that allows for risk-taking and experimentation, and unique pipeline connecting world-renowned academic institutions with business. It is a potent mix, unlike anywhere else I’ve seen.

Take, for instance, Pluri, a biotech company that’s applying its 20 years of expertise in regenerative medicine to massive new opportunities for  cell-based manufacturing– whether by growing cultivated meat in a lab, or developing the first effective treatment that could be deployed at scale for Acute Radiation Syndrome (the disease you get from the fallout from a nuclear weapon or nuclear plant meltdown).

I recently joined the company’s board – and have seen up close the technology’s transformative potential to advance environmental sustainability, improve wellbeing, and provide solutions to so many other issues. Like so many other Israeli companies, Pluri encourages us all to break the boundaries between what ispossible now, and what could be possible tomorrow.

Israel’s founder, David Ben Gurion once said that in Israel, “in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.” I am confident that the economic miracle that has been the Startup Nation over the past two decades is just getting started. Smart investors will seize the opportunity.

Lorne Abony is an investor and entrepreneur with decades of experience building and scaling multi-billion-dollar global businesses.

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