Dov Moran: I want to be the world's best investor

Dov Moran Photo: Alon Ron

The Israeli disk-on-key inventor has set up Grove Ventures and tells "Globes" he wants to help other entrepreneurs through venture capital investments.

Dov Moran is one of Israel's best known breakthrough entrepreneurs. As founder and CEO of M-Systems, he invented the disk-on-key (USB Flash Drive), which he sold to Sandisk for $1.55 billion in 2006. Subsequently, he founded Modu, which developed the world's smallest mobile phone but collapsed after raising tens of millions of dollars.

Since then Moran has written a book (100 doors) been appointed chairmam of chipmaker Tower Semiconductor Ltd. (Nasdaq: TSEM; TASE: TSEM) and most recently set up the Grove Ventures venture capital fund, which has raised $110 million to invest in early stage tech startups.

Speaking to "Globes" Moran said, "All my life I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. That's the way I grew up. Both my grandfather and father were entrepreneurs. Intelligence is very important for a good entrepreneur but emotional intelligence is even more important - ultimately you have to cope with people."

He recounts that M-Systems was set up by chance. "We were working on some sort of keyboard with educational elements that was shaped like a cat and designed for children. At the same time we were doing a flash memory project and we considered creating a project in that field. We were contacted and asked how much money we would need to raise for this idea and I threw out the number $300,000, expecting them to refuse us. The same day they said that they would invest the money and that's how it all began. Did we believe that it was going to be something big? We didn't have any idea."

In 2001, sales totaled $45 million and by 2006 they had soared to more than $1 billion. I didn't want to sell but I was going through a difficult period from a personal point of view and I decided that it was better to sell, and continue moving forwards. I stayed with Sandisk for six months for an orderly transition and the day after I left the office and leased an office opposite in order to set up Modu."

After that it was downhill as the 2008 financial crisis hit and the company was unable to raise capital. "I worked non-stop, sleeping just two hours a night. My entire focus was on Modu. Ultimately we received an offer for an institutional investment that was less than what I wanted and I preferred to close down rather than risk the money of Mrs. Cohen from Hadera." Modu's patents were sold for $17 million.

He added, "I wasn't born a good entrepreneur. In order to be good at something you need a lot of faith and practice. At Modu the mistake was that we completely skipped the practice stage, jumped to a new industry, raised money - and all that happened very quickly. After selling M-Systems, I raised $20 million through an 11-slide presentation, five of which were pictures without any text."

Now Moran has decided to become an investor. He has set up the $110 million Grove Ventures venture capital fund. He said, "My experience as an entrepreneur allows me to help entrepreneurs. Do I interfere too much? I don't interfere with an entrepreneur that doesn't want my help. That's a commitment."

He added, "I certainly wasn't the best investor in the world five years ago when I already began investing as an angel in companies. But that's the direction. I want to be among the world's best investors. At least, it would be difficult to look at our current portfolio of companies and not think we are an excellent fund. This is what I want to do over the next 10 years.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 27, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

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Dov Moran Photo: Alon Ron
Dov Moran Photo: Alon Ron
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