Partnership could link Penn students with Israeli-based startups.
Students at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania could soon be helping to spur investment in Israeli startups.
A new partnership between the highly ranked business school and OurCrowd, a crowdfunding platform based in Jerusalem, will allow MBA students and a few undergraduates to deal in so-called impact investing.
"I think that the genesis of OurCrowd out of Israel is natural," said Jacob Grey, the director of the Wharton Social Impact Initiative. "If you didn’t know where it was from, your first guess would be Silicon Valley and your second guest would be Israel, and it's natural for OurCrowd to choose Wharton."
Impact investing is the "inverse" of socially responsible investing, in that, for example, rather than “focusing on avoiding” companies that manufacture firearms, you might instead invest in a company that provides handgun ID technology so that only the owner can fire it, preventing accidents, said Grey.
The connection between Wharton — where about 50 students will participate in the initiative — and OurCrowd is also “natural,” said OurCrowd's founder and CEO Jonathan Medved, because both his parents are from the Philadelphia area. He was born and raised in California and moved to Israel as an adult.
“I have strong attachment and love for the city and we’re hugely excited about working with Wharton on a bunch of different levels,” said Medved, who lives in Jerusalem. “We’re going to work on really strengthening Israel and Philadelphia’s ties.”
The crowdfunding platform is different from companies such as Kickstarter in that his company provides investors equity in companies rather than helping to fund creative projects, Medved explained. He has attracted more than 7,000 investors to provide more than $110 million in startups since it was founded in 2013, he said. The majority of the companies are Israel-based and fall under the category of impact investing, he said.
Among the companies which people have invested in through the site are ReWalk, an Israeli company that developed an exoskeleton system to help paralyzed people walk, and ClipFort, an Israeli company that developed the firearm safety technology.
These are all companies that are clearly high social impact companies, that will make a lot of money and God-willing employ a lot of people in Israel and America and do good for the world,” said Medved.
The students, who will be mentored by a local group, Locust Walk Impact Partners, are expected to begin investing in the companies later this year.