Israel has a lot to offer private equity investors. It’s home to more startups per capita than any other country, as Harvard Business Review noted. And CNBC reported that its tech sector drew $4.8 billion in venture capital funding in 2016. While some back Israeli startups simply because they hope to profit from the next Waze, others see investing in Israel as a way to actualize Jewish values and support the Jewish state.
One company that links Jewish values investors and other private equity investors with innovative Israeli startups is Impact First Investments.
The Impact First Investments Approach
Founded in 2011 and headquartered in Herzliya, Impact First Investments is an Israeli venture capital fund that aims to create social impact while earning market-rate returns. The fund focuses on Israeli technology companies that fill a global social need in one of several core areas: education, healthcare, assistive technology, agricultural technology, and energy and the environment. Impact First selects companies who are on a path to scale globally and seeking investments of up to $2 million.
Previously under management by Impact First are four Israeli tech startups whose products support the fund’s mission to “to bolster Israeli technology, to build global social impact, and to obtain market-rate returns.”
AngelSense: Founded in 2014, this startup’s goal is to provide GPS and voice monitoring to parents of children with special needs. Its wearable product allows parents to check on their children’s safety and location at any time. If a child wanders off or gets lost, the technology can be used to locate them. Features include daily scheduling and SMS notifications if a child leaves their predetermined route. AngelSense also established a call center staffed by parents whose children have special needs so that customers can get help from others who understand special needs parenting.
Intendu: Intendu’s brain-training software platform offers patients an alternative to conventional occupational therapy, which can be expensive and which patients can’t always access for the entire duration of their recovery. Patients with brain-related impairments play therapeutic video games on the Intendu platform, while a 3-D video camera monitors progress and allows adaptation to take into account a patient’s strengths and weaknesses. Areas of training include memory, attention, and inhibition.
Neurotech Solutions: This startup has created internet-based tests for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that can be used at home or in a clinic setting. As only 2.5% of individuals affected by the disorder receive a diagnosis, expanding access to ADHD evaluations could help many people obtain information about their condition and find treatment and support. Neurotech Solutions plans to apply its technology to the evaluation of other cognitive disorders in addition to ADHD.
EarlySense: Also in the healthcare field is EarlySense, which was founded in 2004 and provides patient monitoring technology to hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and other healthcare facilities. The technology tracks vital signs and motion and can help prevent falls and pressure ulcers. The system is intended to detect problems early so that healthcare providers can identify at-risk patients earlier and treat them.
Actively seeking “to do good and to do well,” as their mission puts it, Impact First Investments is an exciting example not only for faith-based investors but also for those engaged in the broader field of impact investing.