Watch Israel's OurCrowd Summit live
Tech superstars are in Jerusalem March 7 for event that is 'part conference, part trade show and part circus.'
Eric Brand is juggling. On March 7, he's helping put on a conference in Israel for the high-tech industry. It will feature speakers from Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman to a former professional hockey player. It will highlight tech that can save lives, predict the weather and make driving safer. People from 90 different countries will be in attendance.
"I like to say that the summit is part conference, part trade show and part circus," he said with a laugh, when we caught up with him during a brief break in preparations. Brand works for OurCrowd, a Jerusalem-based firm that has invested in nearly 200 startups. "I'm more like the architect of the summit. There's an entire team here of very talented people who pull it all together. I'm just lucky to be in the center of all that."
This will be the fifth year of the OurCrowd conference, and it has doubled in size each year. More than 10,000 people will gather at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem for the event. "Were going to be testing the limits of its capacity," Brand said. For those who can't make it to Israel, all the main sessions will be live-streamed and later archived online. "It's kind of taken on a life of its own. It's become an event for the entire tech ecosystem," he said, adding that several tech companies have chosen to make major announcements and unveil new products at the summit, just like they do at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Hillel Fuld, a prominent startup advisor, attended last year's event. "I haven't seen a level of production like this anywhere outside of Silicon Valley," he said. "This is remarkable."
While the summit itself takes place on one very long day, there are at least two dozen other related events that have cropped up for festival-goers to attend during the week – from networking meetups and tours of the city to startup accelerators and massive outdoor parties. The summit will also host an “Open Mic for Entrepreneurs,” providing a stage for startup hopefuls to win over an audience, and a chance for investors to get a first look at some potentially overlooked opportunities. Thousands of people will be coming from overseas for the summit.
"There's a real fascination with Israel – both as the startup nation and also with the history and culture here," Brand explained. "The interest in Israel in general, and our summit in particular, is really off the charts."
While Tel Aviv is usually viewed as the business center of Israel, the OurCrowd event is being held in Jerusalem to showcase that city's high-tech bonafides as well. "We don't make as much noise, perhaps, as Tel Aviv," Jon Medved, the founder of OurCrowd, told us when we visited his Jerusalem office last year. "But Jerusalem now, is incredible. There are about 600 startups here. The ecosystem is dynamic. The largest, most successful startup of recent time, Mobileye, is a Jerusalem company ... The Hebrew University is here, we have a spectacular incubator called Labs/02 who are setting out to invest in 100 new startups over the next 10 years. The Jerusalem scene is pretty exciting."
So how will Brand relax after this year's conference is over? "I wish I could tell you I would take a vacation, but our work won't slow down for about a month after the summit," he told us. "There's so much followup to do."
And then? "And then we start planning the next one."
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