Where no $10,000 investor has gone before

Where no $10,000 investor has gone before

Englewood meeting showcases investment site for high-tech Israeli firms

Rami Parham demonstrates his “fingertip” technology in Englewood.

The scene in the Englewood living room last Thursday night felt like a science-fiction movie.

A computer display was projected on the wall. Rami Parham stood off to the side, using his hand to manipulate the display. He moved windows around on the wall, tapped on it to start a YouTube video, and reached out and around in the space in front of the wall to manipulate a three-dimensional model of a water mill.

It seemed like the high-tech computer interface of the PreCrime police department in the 2002 movie “Minority Report” – except with ordinary wall instead of translucent displays. Mr. Parham, who controlled the display with a small splint-like device he wore on his finger, is the Israeli founder and CEO of Muv Interactive. The three-year-old company hopes to begin selling the pointer and the Bluetooth-linked sensor that connects to a computer, phone, or tablet this summer. Plans call for it to cost $350. (Users will have to provide their own projector; computer, phone, or tablet, and flat surface.)

OurCrowd founder Jon Medved

Mr. Parham came to New Jersey, along with the leaders of a couple of other start-up companies, at the behest of Jon Medved. Mr. Medved is the American-born Israeli founder of OurCrowd, a 14-month-old investment company that lets anyone who is interested invest in start-up companies.

Venture capital has disrupted every industry through its early funding of companies such as Google and Amazon, Mr. Medved said.

“The one industry that hasn’t been disrupted is venture capital,” he said.

OurCrowd aims to do just that, by opening up early-stage companies to investments of as little as $10,000.

OurCrowd’s website, ourcrowd.com, lets “accredited investors” – that’s SEC-speak for someone with assets of more than one million dollars or annual income of more than $200,000 – browse through lists of potential investment opportunities.

“We go and hunt down great companies in Israel and now around the world,” Mr. Medved said. “We choose two out of a hundred that we look at. We negotiate terms,” how much a stake in the company the investment buys.

Then it offers those companies to OurCrowd’s member investors – there are now about 4,000 of them.

Early stage investment is risky; not all fledgling companies succeed. But the payoff can be huge for early investors in companies that go big.

So far, OurCrowd has invested $50 million in 37 companies, 31 of them Israeli. The name reflects its initial Israeli and therefore Jewish focus – it is a nod to the 1967 book by Stephen Birmingham about New York’s wealthy German-Jewish families. As OurCrowd has taken off – it just raised $25 million in investment funding to expand – it has begun funding companies in the United States and elsewhere.

Muv Interactive isn’t the only OurCrowd-backed company selling a product that seems like science fiction. Consumer Physics, based in Herzliya, was represented at the Englewood meeting only by a video demo. It has produced a portable material scanner – in other words, Star Trek’s tricorder, which enabled Mr. Spock to identify the composition of life found on alien world. Unlike the tricorder in the 1966 TV show, the SCiOS device created by Consumer Physics is closer in size to an iPhone than a transistor radio. And the science is real: It uses infrared spectroscopy to detect the chemical makeup of the products it scans.

The company is selling its first batch of SCiOS through Kickstarter.com at $299 each. On Kickstarter, the company has raised more than three-quarters of a million dollars, promising its scanners to nearly 4,000 backers. Last month, the company raised a million dollars in investment capital through OurCrowd. It was fully funded only ten minutes into the company’s webinar.

In one demonstration video, the SciOS identifies one pill as aspirin, and another as Tylenol. In another, it reports the percentage of fat in a slice of cheese.

Another company with medical angle is MedAware. It provides a data analysis to detect possible prescription errors.

“About three years ago I encountered the case of a nine-year-old boy who went with his mother to primary-care physician with asthma,” founder Gidi Stein said. “The physician wanted to give a prescription for Singulair. Instead of Singulair, he clicked on Sintrom, the next medicine on the list. Sintrom is a potent anticoagulant. Three weeks later, the boy fell off his bicycle and that was that. He died of an intercranial hemorrhage.”

Dr. Stein’s goal is to “fix the system.”

“There are more than four billion prescriptions written annually in the U.S.,” he said. “Eight million have life-threatening errors. Seven percent are wrong, but only two in a thousand can kill you. It’s estimated that a hundred thousand people will be injured and even die because of prescription errors in the U.S.

“The current systems that should protect patients are not good enough. They cover drug interactions, allergies, all kind of manually created rules. But if the physician got mixed up with drugs, or gave the wrong drug to a patient, or is unaware of critical date, no one can warn him or stop a catastrophe.”

Dr. Stein said he tested the system on 44 million prescriptions, and then met with the physicians where errors were discovered. In most cases, he said, the physicians were unaware of the error, even if the patient had died.

The system is being installed in Israel’s largest hospital, and large studies are beginning in one of Boston’s leading hospitals.

The system sits within a hospital’s privacy firewall, and sends only anonymized data to MedAware servers to check the wisdom of the prescription.

Unlike Muv and Consumer Physics, MedAware is still recruiting investors.

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