An interview with hi-tech guru Dov Moran, the inventor of the USB flash drive

Meet Dov Moran, one of Israel’s most prominent leaders in hi-tech, who is also recognised as a pioneer of several flash memory technologies, most notably as the inventor of the USB flash drive.

Not only is he an entrepreneur with over 40 patents to his name, but he has invested in some very well-known startups within the digital health, media, SaaS and IoT sectors and seen them blossom with monumental success. After several years of successful angel investing, Moran founded Grove Ventures, a $100M venture capital fund primarily investing in Cloud, Big Data and IoT. He also founded M-Systems, which was a world leader in the flash data storage market. M-Systems grew to $1B revenue and was acquired by SanDisk Corp for $1.6B. This ranks as one of the biggest acquisitions in Israel.

So, as you would imagine, we couldn’t wait to sit down and have a chat with the man himself, who has also been an awe-inspiring speaker during 4YFN at DLD Tel Aviv 2016 and 4YFN Barcelona 2017 to delve into his wealth of experience and wisdom on the Israeli startup ecosystem. Here is what he had to say…..


We will be heading to DLD for the 3rd time this year.  As a previous 4YFN speaker, can you give us your opinion on what our international startups and delegation can expect from being in Tel Aviv and at DLD innovation festival?

Excitement. Openness. Nice people talking freely with each other. Boldness. Creativity. Innovation. Balagan. “What is Balagan?” I hear you say.

In Hebrew, Balagan means a mess. But more like, a positive mess, for example: “Forget the order. Let’s just do it.”

It seems that people come to DLD Tel Aviv to meet with old contacts and socialise with newly found friends they make over the event.


What are the differences between the Israeli startup scene compared to the rest of the world?

I believe that good Israeli startups are more technology oriented, whereas those from the rest of the world / non-Israeli startups are more marketing driven.


You have invested in a number of startups over the years, what has been the most successful to date?

Well… this one is tricky… OK, so at M-Systems I invested 17 years of my life (much more than money!). It yielded quite good results – exit of $1.6 billion, patents and unique technology that made this world a bit better, with many great people involved that are spread all over the Israeli hi-tech industry and elsewhere.

Going back though, if I had to mention one crazy investment that would undoubtedly be,  Rapid API. I met a very unique person, Iddo Gino when he was just 15 ½ years old. I invested in his company 6 months later. Since then, the company has received investment from Andreessen-Horowitz and most recently, just completed an acquisition of their competitor. Iddo Gino, the Founder will do great. I am very proud of him.


In your opinion, what tech is hot right now? Any advice to entrepreneurs that are thinking of starting up their own business?

Tech that is hot right now is…. hi-tech! My advice to entrepreneurs would be to make sure they establish companies with deep technology, for example: AI, machine learning, HW, sensors and IoT. Basically, anything that makes an impact, is hard to replicate and is truly unique!

At Grove Ventures, where I serve as the Managing Partner, we are very interested in industry 4.0 (or IIoT), automotive and digital health markets, but we do not limit ourselves to any specific group or markets. We like to invest in companies that think ahead of the trends. Construction or xyz? Why not!? It could be a good one…


What should a European investor know or consider when investing in an Israeli startup?

A European investor should know that his chances to invest directly in Israeli startups, or in early-stage startups, to be more specific are relatively low. Why? This is because he will have a significant disadvantage compared to Israeli VCs. He does not understand the culture. He doesn’t really know the people, while in Israel everybody knows everybody or at least knows somebody that knows some things about the person in front of him. Israelis are taking more risks, like balagan, they are very fast in changing directions… still – Israel has great startups, innovation and entrepreneurship which no VC should ignore. So my advice to foreign investors is to find a good Israeli VC to team up with or to cooperate with and enjoy such partnership.


What should a European startup consider when approaching an Israeli investor?

A European startup that wants to approach Israeli investors should consider moving to Israel or approach Israeli VCs that are investing in foreign startups (83North, for example).


Thank you for your time. Do you have any other comments that you wish to share with us?

People first. Create value. These are the principles of my fund. My advice to all: identify your principles. Present them. Embed them in your organisation. Make your whole company operation act accordingly. Don’t give up. This is half way to success.


If you would like the chance to reach out to the Israeli startup ecosystem, then join us in September!

4YFN will be taking a number of startups and investors to the next edition of 4YFN at the DLD Innovation Festival, taking place in Tel Aviv, Israel from 5 – 7 September 2017.

To be part of the delegation, sign up by 29 July. More info here.