‘Beacons of opportunity’: Israel-UAE to build broad partnerships, says high-tech investor

August 23, 2020 by Eliana Rudee - JNS.org
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The recent Israel-UAE peace agreement will forever change the business and tech landscape in the region, says Jon Medved, CEO of Jerusalem-based venture capital platform OurCrowd.

OurCrowd founder and CEO Jonathan Medved. Photo by Eliana Rudee

As one of Israel’s biggest high-tech investors, managing more than $1.5 billion in committed funds, Medved was the first Israeli to speak in a public forum in the UAE in late 2019. As he has been traveling to the UAE for years, building contacts between Israeli and Gulf state entrepreneurs, investors and experts, he tells JNS that the official relationship will make him just one of many Israelis working to build reciprocal ties based on innovation and business.

Calling Israel and the UAE the “most innovative communities in the Middle East,” both small yet “punching way above their weight class in terms of innovation,” Medved expects that “the number of things we can do together is enormous.”

“Just look at the pandemic,” says Medved. “They have advanced hospitals, and we have robust digital infrastructure and vaccine efforts. There are also new things we can do in testing, therapeutics and telemedicine.”

Outside of the coronavirus, the opportunities for tech collaboration are nearly endless, says Medved, who deemed Israel to be the best at innovation in health care, agricultural technology, financial technology, cybersecurity, transportation, education and drones and the UAE to be “the most sophisticated investors and the most advanced Arab society, most particularly in logistics, banking and smart cities.”

Abu Dhabi and Dubai are “shining beacons of opportunity and showcase what you can do when you plan and build a city. There will be no better test bed for Israeli technology than cities in the UAE.”

The broad partnerships will not stop at tech, he says, but also have positive ramifications in education, tourism, energy and security. “In terms of security, nobody is stronger than Israel, and we know that the UAE has threats coming from its neighbor [Iran], and will need those threats thwarted.”

‘It is great for business’

The only ones against the deal, says Medved, seem to be Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and Turkey. “Ninety-nine percent of the sane world is in favor of what is going on. It is great for Israel, it is great for the UAE, and most importantly, it is great for business. The business opportunities it is going to unleash are almost beyond measure.”

Medved hypothesizes that the deal will have a “catalytic” and snowballing impact on other countries. “It was 15 years between Israel’s deal with Jordan and Egypt, and then 26 years between then and today. I think that it won’t even be a year from now until the next one.”

The OurCrowd head, who works with investors from throughout the Arab world “under the radar,” recalls receiving calls from “people from all over the region telling me that they hope they are next,” as well as a message from an investor from Bahrain just hours before the interview who praised the official UAE-Israel relationship and looked forward to further relations in the future.

Because the UAE is a friend of the United States, he continues, the U.S.-Israel relationship will “only strengthen” in the wake of the new collaboration. The Israeli people may also benefit through a strengthened economy to the extent that technology continues to drive the “Startup Nation” economy forward.

A view of Dubai at night. Credit: enjoytheworld/Pixaba

“Israel’s beating heart is the innovation economy”—startups,” explains Medved. “This year the Israeli economy made $10 billion through its startups. Once Emirate money starts flowing in, it will drive this economy even hotter, employing even more people than the already 300,000 Israelis in high-tech, as well as further job creation in food preparations, transportation and the fields of law, travel, accounting, construction and more.”

He adds that “the fact that someone flipped the switch, which allows us to wake up and simply call the UAE, will open the door for business to everyone who was hesitant to business with each other, and hesitant about getting into trouble with the government. For the last decade, the business was under the radar, and we had to be careful and fly in circuitous routes. Now that is changing.”

The next step, he says, is “working towards building the foundation for an unbelievably productive relationship over next decades and millennia. We are looking forward to seeing an Expo in the UAE, where Israel will have a pavilion or a booth. We are looking forward to flying direct and having the UAE as a jumping-off point to Asia. We are looking forward to developing closer relationships that are meaningful for OurCrowd’s 220 portfolio companies, all of which can and should be doing business with the UAE. We hope we can welcome thousands of Emirati investors on our platform, and of course, have them at the OurCrowd summit—it would be great to have a UAE booth.”

“There is no way to underestimate this; it is a really big deal,” declares Medved. The agreement is “wonderful, good news, and lord knows we need good news.”

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