OurCrowd to set up Israel pet health tech hub with Australian partner

Innovation lab will aim at growing field of digital health technologies for pets, a global market worth billions

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Illustrative image of pets with a vet (humonia; iStock by Getty Images)
Illustrative image of pets with a vet (humonia; iStock by Getty Images)

Jerusalem-based equity crowdfunding venture capital firm OurCrowd has teamed up with an Australian pet store operator to set up Israel’s first innovation lab focused on creating new health technologies for pets.

OurCrowd announced a three-way collaboration with PETstock, an operator of pet retail stores and veterinary hospitals in the Asia-Pacific region, and Qure Ventures, OurCrowd’s digital health fund, at its summit in Jerusalem on Thursday, attended by global and local investors, entrepreneurs and company officials.

The hub, called Pet Health Innovation Labs (PHIL), is taking aim at the growing field of digital health technologies for pets. It will seek to create and grow startups that develop connected devices for pet diagnostics, healthcare software, and technologies that use machine learning and artificial intelligence to better target medications for pets. Another aim is the development of apps for pet wellness, e.g., those that foster nutrition and exercise regimens.

Consumers worldwide are spending more on nutrition, health, tracking and monitoring of their pets. The global pet care market will be worth almost $203 billion by 2025, up from $132 billion in 2016, according to Grand View Research, a San Francisco-based data research firm. Apps already allow owners to monitor their pets’ health, nutritional intake and play, and connect with walkers or sitters.

Full house at OurCrowd 2019 summit in Jerusalem; March 7, 2019 (Shoshanna Solommon/Times of Israel)

“It’s not just that there is a huge market opportunity for pets,” said Jon Medved, the CEO of OurCrowd, in a phone interview. But the typical medical technology company always tests their products first on animals. “Because they are animals, there isn’t the same regulatory strict regime, so it turns out that lots of things which we ultimately want to use with humans are ready and can actually help pets.”

There is a lot of interest in the tech market for this sector, he added, which is “booming in the US.”

There are already some startups in Israel targeting this sector, he said, but it is still early days and the venture seeks to boost the initiatives in the field.

Medved said that the hub would be the first of its kind in Israel and one of the first in the world.

Teaming up with OurCrowd’s Qure, a fund set up in 2016 that focuses on human digital health solutions, will enable the teams to use the expertise developed at the fund and apply it to pet health, said Yossi Bahagon, managing partner of Qure Ventures, in a statement released by OurCrowd on Thursday.

Partnering with PETstock will allow access to the industry.

“Our deep knowledge of our customers — both human and animals — will enable us to focus on the market’s needs,” said Shane Young, CEO of PETstock in the statement. “PETstock’s strong connections with the industry’s strategic players offer a significant edge as we launch new ventures.”

New Medtech and impact investment funds

OurCrowd on Thursday announced a flurry of other activities, including the setting up of a $50 million Medtech fund that will focus on investing in medical technologies and drugs, medical devices and robots.

The firm also said it was partnering with Israeli consultancy Social Finance Israel to set up a new impact investing fund that will aim to raise $30 million. The fund will invest in startups that are solving “some of the world’s greatest challenges” and are aligned with the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which forge a path toward a more sustainable future. Impact investing refers to investments in companies that generate social and environmental impact and provide a financial return, as opposed to charities, for example.

The impact investing sector is still small in Israel but has been growing rapidly in the past few years, doubling from $130 million in 2016 to some $260 million in 2018, according to data provided by OurCrowd.

OurCrowd’s Jon Medved speaks at 2016 Global Investor Summit (Courtesy)

OurCrowd has raised $1 billion in investor commitments

The crowdfunding VC firm said that in the six years since its inception it has raised $1 billion in investor commitments for 170 portfolio companies and 18 funds. Of the 170 companies using OurCrowd’s crowdfunding platform, some 29 have made an exit — either a sale or an initial public offering of shares — the company said.

According to data provided by the fund, OurCrowd has 30,000 registered investors from over 150 countries. The main investor base remains the US, followed by Asia. The average number of investments made by individuals was seven, with an average portfolio size of over $350,000, the company said.

In 2018 OurCrowd invested in 24 new startups including Alpha Tau Medical, which develops new radio therapy for solid cancer tumors, Beyond Meat, a maker of a plant-based meat substitute, and skyTran, which is developing a new form of urban travel.

An illustration of how an Alpha particle can cause irreparable breaks in the DNA of cancer cells; Alpha Tau Medical says it has developed a technology in which these alpha particles can live long enough to destroy the cells (Courtesy)

“We are seeing no end to opportunities here in Israel and globally in terms of innovation, and if anything, we believe that the pace of innovation and innovation investment is increasing,” Medved said in the interview.

Israel has shown that “you can be small, but really have a big heart and a big role in innovation,” with startups tackling a whole range of challenges including climate change, pollution, hunger and sickness. “We are on it. The startups are attacking these head-on.”

The trends in the tech scene today “are all driven by artificial intelligence. AI changes everything, in every area,” he said, adding that Israel was “a powerhouse” in the field.

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