2015-05-13 / Columns

Israeli company brings ‘startup nation’ spirit to tikkun olam

COMPUSCHMOOZE
STEVE LUBETKIN

A recent best-selling book called Israel “Startup Nation,” and now a new Israeli investment company hopes to couple that nickname with the concept of tikkun olam by investing in Israeli technology startups developing products and services that have socially responsible benefits in addition to being profitable.

Impact First Investments (http://impact1st.com/) is the first Israeli investment firm that exclusively invests in high tech companies that are both viable and socially driven.

It recently announced an investment in Catalyst AgTech, an Israeli company developing a catalytic chemical that can be mixed with pesticides to reduce the environmental impact of agrochemical products.

The firm’s catalyst enables Israeli farmers to use agrochemicals like pesticides and fungicides to render them harmless to the water supply after they have done their work as pesticides, to eliminate pollution of scarce water supplies. The catalyst can be applied to about 40% of the pesticides being used.

“As the need for technologies that enable farmers to continue using effective, field-proven products in a way that minimizes the negative impact on the environment continues to increase, demand for products such as those being developed by Catalyst Agtech will dramatically rise,” said Cecile Blilious, co-founder and Managing Partner of IFI. “We look forward to working with Catalyst AgTech to help bring their technology to market as quickly as possible.”

IFI accepts investment money from accredited investors, meaning high net-worth investors who are sophisticated about startup investments. Individuals can also make direct donations to support socially responsible technology, according to Yali Harari, general partner USA at Impact First Investments.

“We invest in technology that is socially driven,” she said in a Skype interview. “In other words, startups having a social mission to create technologies for either communities that are either underserved by technology or markets that may be too small but have a great need for technology like education, or agriculture.”

IFI seeks investors and donors around the world, but its investments are mainly in Israeli companies that have global missions. IFI specializes in identifying companies that achieve both social and capital gains, and helps the companies develop their social component.

Another investment IFI is making is in a company called Intendu (www.intendu.com), which is developing body-controlled adaptive video game technologies to be used in occupational and rehabilitation therapies for people with acquired brain injuries.

“There are very old-fashioned tools today to help those people,” Harari said. “It takes science and gaming and puts it together for this population in a very unique way.”

Other investments IFI is making, that Harari could not identify by name, are in technology tools for children with developmental disabilities and other educational tools for children with special needs.

Do you have questions or comments about Israeli technologies or companies? Write to me at steve@compu schmooze.com. .

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