Help From Above: First-ever VC Fund For Israeli Ultra-Orthodox Entrepreneurs Launched
The Ultra-Orthodox, or “Haredim”, Hebrew for “those who fear God”, are the fastest growing sector in Israel. They currently make up about 11 percent of Israel’s 8.5 million citizens, with the majority living beneath the poverty line, according to a recent study by the Israel Democracy Institute, an independent think tank. With a growth rate four times that of the general Jewish population, their numbers are expected to rise to 14 percent in 2024, 19 percent in 2039 and 27 percent in 2059. This huge growth of Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox population – characterized in part by its low levels of workforce integration, secular education, and technological skills – presents a vast macro-economic and social challenge.
Against this backdrop, KamaTech, a nonprofit organization working to integrate Haredim in Israel into the high-tech industry, and iAngels, a leading Israel-based angel investment network, have announced the launch of ’12 Angels’ Venture Capital, the first-ever VC fund dedicated exclusively to entrepreneurs from the Ultra-Orthodox community.
The 12 Angels early-stage investment fund will invest up to $5 million in approximately 30 Ultra-Orthodox startups over the next three years, focusing on EdTech, e-Commerce, artificial intelligence, cyber security and fintech. Investors include some of the most prominent names in the Israel high-tech sector, including Chemi Peres (Co-Founder of Pitango Venture Capital), Adi Soffer Teeni (General Manager of Facebook Israel), Dov Moran (Managing Partner of Grove Ventures), Gigi Levy-Weiss (Founder of the NFX Guild, and one of Israel’s most successful angel investors) and many more.
“A Landmark Moment”
“12 Angels marks a landmark moment in the integration of Ultra-Orthodox Israelis into the high-tech workforce,” KamaTech CEO and Co-Founder Moshe Friedman said in a statement. “For the first time, investors – not philanthropists – are putting their faith in the talent and commitment of Haredi entrepreneurs.”
iAngels co-founder Mor Assia said in a statement that she felt privileged to be able to support the 12 Angels fund, which offers a “scalable platform for supporting this growing, ambitious and courageous base of entrepreneurs, who often face unique obstacles in building their companies.”
Integrating the workplace
With its flagship accelerator program for Haredim in Israel, KamaTech helps members of the Haredi community who have a good business idea but few technical or business skills. Founded by Haredi entrepreneur Moshe Friedman, together with Zika Abzuk (Cisco Israel VP), and with the guidance and support of Israeli entrepreneur and investor Dr. Yossi Vardi (Chairman of the Advisory Board), KamaTech operates a number of programs for the training and placement of Haredim, along with a coalition of tech companies, including Cisco, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and others. According to KamaTech, the organization has helped more than 6,000 individuals from the Haredi community obtain skills and qualifications in hi-tech, find work in the sector and launch businesses. According to Friedman, KamaTech is helping some 500 Haredi startups, versus the mere five they sponsored when the organization was founded four years ago.
Benefits for those who participate in their accelerator include working with leading entrepreneurs in the Israeli high-tech industry as personal mentors, help from law and CPA firms on copyright, financing and other issues, a free project development team, and assistance in hiring, financing and presentations.
KamaTech’s flagship project is its accelerator program, which provides an array of advisory services without charge to haredi entrepreneurs and startups, including connecting them to investors, providing business mentorships, as well as legal and accounting advice.
iAngels is a leading Israel-based angel investment network, leveraging due diligence to enable accredited investors around the world to gain access to the most-exclusive early-stage technology deals in the market. In less than three years, iAngels has raised over $50 million, invested in over 60 Israeli startups, and built a full-service in-house investment team, led by founders Shelly Hod Moyal and Mor Assia.
Array of startups helped by KamaTech
Among the startups that have been funded and supported by KamaTech are: Cognilyze, which uses big data for targeted advertising; Pojo.me, which provides drag and drop WordPress themes for websites; Bontact, a platform combining several ways of communication so your users can contact you via their channel of choice; and English On which encourages English learners to improve their language skills at their favorite content websites.
A win-win proposition
“12 Angels will enable investors to access new companies, and entrepreneurs with a fresh mindset,” Dov Moran, a serial entrepreneur and investor, best known for inventing the USB memory stick, said in a statement. “On the other side, it will enable many Haredim – who want to continue a spiritual Torah life alongside technology and innovation, to generate interesting applications and developments. It’s win-win.”
“12 Angels offers both a practical platform to create social and economic change, as well as a powerful symbol of collaboration and partnership,” Freidman said in a statement. “The initiative will help entrepreneurs establish their businesses in the rapidly growing ultra-Orthodox start-up scene.”