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Investing in Israel: Past, Present, and Future

For those within our network who have experienced living or investing in Israel, you likely already know about the dynamism and promise of Israel’s thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

But for the uninitiated, we hope this essay serves as an introduction to why we view Israel as an ecosystem brimming with untapped opportunities – a unique blend of tenacity, innovation, and resilience that presents remarkable potential for both investors and entrepreneurs.

At the heart of entrepreneurship lies a spirit of determination and innovation, characteristics that are woven into the very fabric of Israel’s society. This tiny nation might as well be the world’s largest startup, propelled by a relentless pursuit of success deeply rooted in its culture.

Israel’s rich history serves as a testament to its resilience. The Jewish people have faced formidable challenges for thousands of years, turning adversity into a catalyst for progress. For Israelis, success isn’t just a desire – it’s a necessity for survival. The audacious spirit of Israel is evident on the global stage, emerging from the darkness of the Holocaust, not just to restore what was lost but to showcase their exceptional innovation and tenacity.

Historically, the milestones for Israeli startup success were different. Earning a million dollars was a significant achievement, dictated by market maturity, potential acquirers, talent availability, venture funding, late-stage funding, and socio-economics. Today, the goalposts have shifted. Israeli entrepreneurs aspire not to make millions but billions.

And so far, companies like Waze, Wix, and Fiverr are living proof that these aspirations are attainable. 

For Israeli ventures, global ambition is a lifeline. Given the country’s compact size and limited local markets, businesses that strive for billions must play on the global field. This approach is supported by the Israeli government, nurturing promising students early on and equipping them with tools to shape tomorrow’s businesses. Failure is not shunned but celebrated, with seasoned founders, often returning for their second or even third ventures, building robust, sustainable businesses out of Tel Aviv. 

The IDF Influence

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) plays a crucial role in this tech-driven narrative, serving as a renowned technological powerhouse and launchpad for Israel’s brightest tech talents. As part of their compulsory military service, most young Israelis undergo an intensive focus on research and development. Even before reaching adulthood, Israel’s brightest minds in math and science are groomed for their entry into elite technology units. This process begins as early as late elementary school and continues through high school. 

In the IDF, combat units make up only a tiny fraction of the military, leaving the lion’s share of soldiers serving in non-combatant, predominantly technology-based roles. Young men and women, barely into adulthood, are entrusted with immense responsibility, engaging in crucial tech-based operations. 

This shared journey during their formative years builds deep relationships that extend beyond military service. Post-service, developers are given the unique opportunity to utilize the technologies they’ve built. From 2013 to 2020, each year has seen the emergence of a unicorn founded by developers from the highly respected Unit 8200. Not only does this catalyze Israeli startup creation but it fosters unwavering resilience and partnership that now holds strong as the backbone of the Israeli entrepreneurial community.

These deep-rooted relationships bear fruit for investors, too, serving as a pipeline for promising investment opportunities, from partnering with repeat founders and teams to investing in founder-endorsed ventures. Thus the investment potential of Israel extends far beyond the individual companies—it lies in the interconnected ecosystem.

Our Approach

At Corner, we’ve cemented ourselves as the only international fund dedicated to early growth-stage investments in the Israeli market. While other firms invest here, our commitment is distinctive: Our longevity in the Israeli market, dating back to before many of today’s active firms even existed, gives us unparalleled experience and an intuitive sense of pattern recognition. 

We’ve seen companies through market cycles, downturns, and exits, be it through IPOs or M&A, and over the last 15 years have earned the opportunity to invest in countless Israeli ventures like Melio, Marble, and Travelier.  

Our approach closely mirrors the quintessential Israeli startup mentality—an all-embracing global vision melded with a deeply local perspective. While we’re rooted in Israel, living in the same time zone and speaking the language, our influence extends far beyond its borders. Leveraging a broad network of investment partners across the U.S. and active operations in Asia, we empower our Limited Partners with world-class investment opportunities and provide essential support to our portfolio companies for their crucial go-to-market initiatives.

Take the case of Sightful, a promising innovation in the rapidly expanding AR tech sector. During the global lockdown in 2020, Sightful introduced an innovative AR laptop concept. Recognizing the impending rise of remote work, we backed their development of Spacetop with significant funds. To preemptively quell manufacturing-related risks, we facilitated their alliance with a dependable Asian ODM partner which has proved integral to their go-to-market efforts. Earlier this month, Sightful unveiled Spacetop two weeks before Apple’s Vision Pro, setting the stage for long-term competition in this emerging market.

Then there’s the story of Beewise, a company that’s pioneering change in the beekeeping industry with the world’s first robotic beehive. Upon investing in their Series B round, we initiated a key shift from an asset sale model to an annual recurring revenue structure, refined the company’s narrative and pitch deck to appeal to a broader, global audience, and redirected Beewise’s focus from industrial beekeepers to large-scale farmers — a pivot that tripled their valuation.

But above all, we pride ourselves on being the right partner. Entrepreneurs don’t just see us as advisors but as friends—testimony to the trust we’ve built over the years. This trust has opened doors to new companies and enables us to deliver tough messages when needed, always from partnership and friendship.

These insights are not purely academic; they result from years of working shoulder-to-shoulder with Israeli firms, entering the financial fray early on in a company’s journey and maintaining a steadfast partnership that navigates them toward sustained success. We truly believe that there has never been a better time to invest in Israeli innovation and we look forward to providing the resources and guidance needed for both our investors and founders to realize their full potential.