“We like pre-seed companies – this is what we’re looking for.”Lee Moser
Lee Moser is a managing partner and founder of AnD Ventures, an Israeli venture capital firm investing in pioneering early-stage startups and building them into companies that make a difference. AnD Ventures have built companies from Seed to Unicorn by both deploying over $400M of VC funding and providing Silicon Valley standards, professional support, US go-to-market expertise, growth and talent acquisition specialists, and more. Lee and the team at AnD have also founded and managed acceleration programs for tech giants including Google, Microsoft, Amdocs, and Deloitte.
Start-Up Nation Central Information Specialist Yotam Maman sat down with Lee for an interview about AnD Ventures and its role in the Israeli innovation ecosystem.
Yotam: What is AnD Ventures and what do you do?
Lee: AnD Ventures is an early-stage VC based in Israel focused on mainly pre-seed and seed companies. We like pre-seed companies – this is what we’re looking for. We’ve kind of built an upside-down fund. We understand that founders need a different aspect of help from an early-stage investor. When Roy Geva Glasberg, Ariel Cohen, and myself founded AnD we said: “OK, we know how to invest and we have a great network but we don’t have everything for the early-stage investor.”
“We built the AnD Studio, consisting of a team of 11 people carefully selected to provide exactly what startups need: a CTO and specialists for product, growth, and finance.”
That’s why we built the AnD Studio, consisting of a team of 11 people carefully selected to provide exactly what startups need: a CTO and specialists for product, growth, and finance. When deciding to invest in a startup, we always start with a roadmap of what roles we’re going to support – we don’t just sit on the board. Do they need help with their data structure? Our CTO is an expert in data. Do they need help with financial planning? Our CFO can help them. The idea is to provide the skills that a startup needs in its early days.
We’ve also built an auxiliary group that we call Growth Partners: personal connections and experts from the industry (mainly from Israel and the US) that are all part of our fund advisory. They help us validate startups but also participate on the board or as investors, bringing their expertise and skills to the company. For example, we were working with a blockchain gaming company, so we brought one of the founders of the biggest studios in the US to join the advisory board and help them build the company.
Yotam: Would you say the AnD Studio is your big differentiator?
Lee: Yes, it’s a huge differentiator for us. It’s a real space where we get to know the founder for five or six months before investing. About 50% of the companies we invest in come through the studio.
“We want to democratize the way VC funds work.”
We want to democratize the way VC funds work. That brings a lot of people to work with us and join us with equity. We believe we will bring more to our companies and more to investors by doing that.
Yotam: You were chief of staff of the Israeli Embassy in the U.S.. Tell us about that journey.
Lee: I was a tour guide in the army and later a tour guide for Birthright and for different official Jewish delegations from around the world. I did that for about five years until I finished my MBA – it gave me the skills for standing in front of a group and conveying a message. And some of the people I met then are also investors in the fund.
My dream had always been to work at the embassy in Washington DC and the day I finished my degree, Michael Oren was appointed ambassador. I really wanted to work with him and I had met him previously because I knew his son. I applied but he suggested that I start off in the Foreign Ministry. So I went to the Foreign Ministry and took half a year of classes. Then I got the job as his executive assistant and eventually chief of staff, which I did for four years.
Yotam: How did you go from politics to the world of startups and investing?
Lee: I always wanted to be in politics. In fact, I wanted to be the prime minister – I really love politics! I was in DC during the Obama administration and there were a lot of disagreements and arguments about everything from the Palestinians to the Iran deal to many other issues. But there was one thing everyone agreed on: Israeli innovation.
It’s funny, but everyone talked about cherry tomatoes! So when I started accepting speaking engagements, I always started with that. I began exploring Israeli innovation and learning about it, and I decided that I needed to be a part of this amazing ecosystem. This is where I should be – not politics. I fell in love with it.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘Did I really just say no to a job with the Prime Minister?’ But I did, and I know I made the right choice.”
When I finished my time as chief of staff, I got an amazing offer to work for the prime minister, but I said no. I wanted to be out in the real world, where all the innovation is actually happening, where all the new ideas are coming from. And I really believe this is the future of the State of Israel, and that this is really an area that I can influence and make a positive impact in. So this was really my eureka moment. I remember thinking to myself, “Did I really just say no to a job with the Prime Minister?” But I did, and I know I made the right choice.
I knew that I wanted to be on the investor side of things, so I started off as a consultant with BlackRock. I was there for two years until joining iAngels, where I worked for five years before founding AnD Ventures.
Yotam: A 2020 CTech article stated that out of a total of 171 VC partners in Israel just 22 were women and only 13 of them were investing partners. How would you explain this gap? What obstacles do you see for women and how can the situation be improved?
Lee: I think the problem of diversity is not just an issue for the VC world: it’s a problem in startups, in politics, in finance – I mean, let’s talk about finance for a minute. In Israel, we have a lot of women in high roles, leading banks; but when you look a little bit further down at other job titles and across other financial institutions, they’re not there. And women who have started a fund? Maybe five. You can literally count them all on one hand!
“The problem is that women don’t have enough female role models to look at and be inspired by. There are a few, certainly, but we’re always talking about those few.”
There is discrimination everywhere. I would say there is bias against women, not only from employers but also from the women themselves. Many capable women get stuck with internal criticism and can’t get past their own doubts about whether or not they can succeed. Think about role models: there are many more men than women in the world of VCs, just as there are more male ministers in the government. The problem is that women don’t have enough female role models to look at and be inspired by. There are a few, certainly, but we’re always talking about those few. The fact is there are many more amazing women who should be role models. Women like me have a responsibility to speak out and say, “Hey, I did it and so can you!” I hope this becomes more and more common.
Yotam: How do you help women investors? Tell us about Wonder Founder.
Lee: I get phone calls from women who want to start funds and I literally mentor them one to one: how to raise money, how to start a fund, how do you get your anchor, etc. I believe that change is starting and that women need to be there for each other and support one another. There’s a woman named Michal, who I really appreciate. She started a sisterhood for women in business with the goal of supporting one another. This is something I do personally – I will always take a call and make time to speak to women who want to consult with me or learn more. The youngest woman I spoke with was 16 years old and that really excites me for the future.
Yotam: Okay, last question, about Israel: what’s the one place visitors to Israel should make sure not to miss?
Lee: Great question! I’m going to give a tasty answer – there’s a small hummus place in Jerusalem called “Lena” – you have to go. It’s in the Christian Quarter of the Old City and it’s the best. Oh, and afterward go to “Jafar” for baklava – it’s close and well worth it.
SUMMARY: AnD Ventures
- INVESTMENT STAGES: Pre-Seed, Seed, round A
- BENEFITS: Hands-on mentorship and strategic consulting.
- MAIN FEATURES: Studio place for startups.
Yotam Maman is an Information Specialist at Start-Up Nation Central where he helps companies, investors, and corporations to succeed on Finder, our online platform dedicated to the Israeli tech ecosystem. Finder enables you to gain insights about industries and connect to companies, investors, and multinational corporations, functioning as an engagement space for identifying and growing business opportunities.