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May 29, 2017 10:31 am

Investing in Jewish Businesses — and BizTank

avatar by Ronn Torossian

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The BizTank website.

I recently served as a “mogul” on BizTank —  a forum for hungry entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas and seek investments from a panel of Jewish investors. The program, similar to the TV show Shark Tank, has helped companies raise $4 million since launching just more than a year ago.

Created and produced by Joel Klein, each episode of BizTank features a series of presenters, each of whom was impressive during my stint on the show.

First up was an innovative new virtual and augmented reality technology company that works in residential brokerages. Going beyond today’s online “virtual tours,” a broker can use this new technology to take a potential buyer through an entire property in real time, going from room to room — and amenity to amenity — as if they were really there. The product has had impressive early results, helping one real estate company exceed sales forecasts by 40 percent. While fellow BizTank “mogul” Sruly Wolfson invested, the rest of us passed.

Next up was a 22-year-old entrepreneur and hairdresser who recognized that there is no good way to clean a hairbrush from client to client. Therefore, she created a disposable/recyclable hairbrush head that can be changed with every new client — no more dirty hair, bacteria, dandruff or other nasty stuff during your next cut. Four of the five investors (myself included) scheduled a follow-up meeting with her company, and are interested in investing the $250,000 that the entrepreneur needs to bring the company to market.

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For those in the private label business, turning out products can be a daunting task. The next presenter led a company that helps research, create, source, market and sell private label products. I can image how much more efficient it would be to bring private label products to market with a service like this.

Finally, two sisters presented us with an opportunity to invest in an entirely new food category: the spoonable smoothie. Using avocados as a base ingredient, and packaged smartly in grab-and-go avocado-shaped containers, the product is made of all-natural ingredients — even down to the included, eco-friendly paper spoon. As someone who has launched numerous food and beverage brands, I’m certain that these women are on to something special.

And as impressive as these entrepreneurs were, so were the investors on the BizTank panel.

My fellow “moguls” for the day included: Inbar Haham, an early Waze investor and Israeli venture capitalist; Anthony Pinkesz, a mortgage and real estate industry guru and angel investor to dozens of businesses from food to fashion; Sruly Wolfson, who made his name as a film producer and venture capitalist; and Ezriel Rappaport, an investor in dozens of start-ups who represents an investment group looking to fund exciting new companies.

The back-and-forth between the investors alone would make for a great business school seminar. But most impressive of all was the passion of the entrepreneurs, and the earnest spirit of BizTank to help people succeed and follow their dreams.

It is truly special for the Jewish community to stand together and invest in businesses, and to contribute positively to the world around them.

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