Coronavirus challenge: Why OurCrowd is starting a $100m Pandemic Innovation Fund

Working on the MigVax coronavirus vaccine at the Migal Galilee Research Institute. The new fund will invest in solutions for health, business, leisure and other challenges created by the pandemic (Migal Galilee Institute)

The new fund will target solutions for COVID-19 and future pandemics, remote working/learning, and social distancing

Today, OurCrowd announces the launch of its Pandemic Innovation Fund. We plan to raise $100 million for investment in urgent technological solutions for the medical, business, educational and social needs triggered by global pandemics and other health emergencies.

The rapid spread of the coronavirus has validated our vision of a connected digital world poised to solve any crisis through global communication and rapid response.

This worldwide crisis presents the greatest challenge yet faced by digital technology. The pandemic has accelerated the pace of technology adoption across many domains.

“We saw two years of digital transformation in two months,” said Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella.

This new struggle against an invisible threat will result in the creation of new areas of business activity. Some that exist already will expand dramatically: digital medicine; artificial intelligence-powered diagnostics; remote social and business networking; online freight and logistics; one-click cybersecurity and payment systems for small businesses; 3-D printing for vital medical equipment; training for distance learning – just to name a few. Other entirely new industries will appear.

To ensure that we get the world back on track, there is now an urgent need for innovation to help us overcome many of the problems resulting from the crisis. It’s time for tech to move fast and fix things.

Working out from home? Kemtai brings a virtual personal fitness trainer into your home via your personal device, giving you real-time feedback and advice. The new fund will invest in solutions for health, business, leisure and other challenges created by the pandemic (Kemtai)

Together, we must plan for future pandemics because this story is just beginning. Entrepreneurs are uniquely skilled to provide fast, effective, efficient solutions to some of our greatest challenges. The tech world has the ingenuity, resources, imagination and drive to tackle these new challenges. Our new fund will create the bridge between the innovations needed to face these challenges, and the far-sighted investors able to provide the resources entrepreneurs need to change our world for the better.

The monumental direct impact on humanity will drive reallocation of resources and economic change in many sectors on a scale not seen since the development of the military-industrial complex after the tragedy of World War II.

The new shape of the world economy is already beginning to emerge. The FDA has approved new digital diagnostic tools that will remain in use once the current pandemic has settled. Appstore downloads of the top remote working apps rose from 1.4 million per week in early January to 6.7 million per week in early March. Zoom video users grew by 67% in the same period. In a survey, 75% of IT professionals told Crowdfund Insider that changes were made to fintech firms’ cybersecurity programs to manage the transition to working from home, and even as unemployment soared, demand for cybersecurity professionals rose by 15%. Salesforce predicts the use of AI-driven customer service and chatbots will more than double as employment in call centers falls.

OurCrowd’s Pandemic Innovation Fund will provide the financing to empower a broad range of companies working to develop treatments, vaccinations and cures for COVID-19 and future pandemics as well as those providing solutions to the fundamental changes that have been wrought in the economy and society by this crisis.

Sight Diagnostics’ OLO blood analyzer, which gives a complete blood count from two drops of blood in 10 minutes, has been deployed for COVID-19 patients at Sheba Hospital in Israel (Sight Diagnostics)

Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, we have seen OurCrowd portfolio companies redeploy their technology to save lives and assist frontline medical staff in coronavirus quarantine wards. We also see AI, robotics, distance learning, cybersecurity, remote monitoring and other companies roll out their technology to meet medical, disease protection, business, logistics, education, communication, fitness and other challenges created by the new norms of social distancing and self-isolation.

The new fund will further empower these existing companies and search for new solutions created by visionary entrepreneurs. Responding to this challenge involves a complete ecosystem of industry, supply-chain and fundamental innovation. As investors, we see a role in supporting those on the front lines while also funding companies poised to address the secular shifts in the economy that will arise in the post-pandemic world.

With $1.4 billion of committed funding, investments in 200 portfolio companies and 20 venture funds, and nearly 50,000 individual accredited and institutional investors, family offices, and venture capital partners from over 183 countries, OurCrowd is uniquely positioned to respond quickly and effectively to the technological challenges created by the global coronavirus pandemic.

OurCrowd’s Pandemic Innovation Fund will focus on the following investment sectors:

  • Prevention & Containment – Vaccines, Testing, Personal protection, etc.
  • Treatment & Healing – Therapeutics, Diagnostics, Remote monitoring, Digital health, etc.
  • Continuity & Disruption Mitigation – Remote working, Distance learning, Robotic process automation, Home exercise, Cybersecurity, etc.

The Fund will invest in new startups, and join investment rounds in relevant existing companies.

OurCrowd’s portfolio already has more than 20 companies actively working to mitigate the coronavirus crisis and its effects, some of which will be candidates for follow-on investment from the fund. OurCrowd’s existing investments in technologies on the frontlines of coronavirus response include:

  • MigVax – Developing the MigVax-101 COVID-19 oral subunit vaccine for humans based on a proven platform developed over 4 years that was shown to be ahighly effective oral vaccine against IBV (Infectious Bronchitis Virus) in poultry.
  • Sight Diagnostics– Compact complete blood count analyzer that provides lab-grade results with 2 drops of finger prick  blood sample in under 10 minutes.
  • SaNOtize – Approved by Health Canada for multi-center Phase II trial of its Nitric Oxide Releasing Solution (NORSTM) for the prevention and early treatment of COVID-19.
  • Tyto Care – Remote physical exams and monitoring for primary care, chronic care and COVID-19 patients, protecting medical staff and reducing the burden on health systems.
  • MeMed– Provides diagnostic insights to distinguish between bacterial and viral infections and is working on actionable solutions to help enable early intervention, before the onset of COVID-19 symptoms, and the implementation of measures to identify infection severity and improve patient management.
  • TechSee – Remote Visual Assistance powered by Computer Vision AI & AR used by leading brands like Vodafone and Verizon to provide uninterrupted tech support while ensuring safety of employees and customers under social distancing.
  • Kryon– Robotic process automation used to transfer and verify millions of coronavirus test results with individual patient health records in a fraction of the normal time.
  • Intuition Robotics – ElliQ AI-powered intelligent digital companion for the elderly, helping them stay sharp, connected and engaged.
  • Zebra Medical Vision – Zebra-Med’s AI automatically detects and quantifies suspected COVID-19 findings on standard chest CTs, both contrast and non-contrast, and is already integrated in Apollo Hospitals Group in India.

Advisors to the Fund, portfolio company experts, and top speakers from around the world will participate in the OurCrowd Pandemic Innovation Conference – an online event on June 22, 2020, broadcast from Jerusalem.

OurCrowd’s Pandemic Innovation Fund managing partners. L-R: Dr Morris Laster, Dr Morry Blumenfeld, David Sokolic

The Fund’s managing partners are:

  • Morris Laster – Healthcare executive with over 30 years’ experience in the biopharmaceutical industry, an expert in the identification, development, management, and financing of biomedical technologies who has founded six companies that have gone public.
  • Morry Blumenfeld – Venture Partner and Chairman of the Medical Advisory Board at OurCrowd, with a distinguished 30+ year career in medical innovation at GE Medical Systems.
  • David Sokolic – OurCrowd Venture Partner, 20+ year career at startups, technology leaders, and VC funds including, Microsoft, Radvision, and Battery Ventures.

The fund is open to both accredited private investors (minimum $50,000) and institutional investors (minimum $1,000,000). For more information, visit the Pandemic Innovation Fund page at OurCrowd.

Join us online for the OurCrowd Pandemic Innovation Conference on June 22, 2020, broadcast from Jerusalem. Register HERE.

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About the Author
Jonathan Medved is the founder and CEO of OurCrowd, the world’s leading global equity crowdfunding platform. Medved is a serial entrepreneur and investor, according to the Washington Post “one of Israel’s leading high tech venture capitalists.” In 2015 Medved was named one of the “50 most influential Jews.” He invested in almost 200 startups, helping to bring 15 of them to values in excess of $100M. Exits include: Shopping.com (acquired by Ebay), Compugen (Nasdaq: CGEN), Answers.com (Nasdaq: ANSW, acquired by Summit), Cyota (acquired by RSA/CA), Finjan (Nasdaq: FNJN), Mobile Access (acquired by Corning), Tradeum (acquired by VerticalNet), Native Networks (acquired by Alcatel), Broadlight (acquired by Broadcom), Xacct (acquired by Amdocs), Business Layers (acquired by CA), Xtellus (acquired by Oclaro), and Digital Fuel (acquired by VMWare). Between 2006-2012, Medved was the co-founder and CEO of Vringo and led the company to a successful IPO on the NYSE. Medved is a frequent guest and commentator on U.S. and Global TV: PBS, CNN, CNBC, BNN, Bloomberg, CBN, CBC, BBC, ReutersTV, CCTV.
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