IVN* has now established itself as a leader in efforts to employ Haredi men in the Hi-tech sector through its support of Ravtec. Ravtech is a social, for-profit initiative set up by Rabbi David Leibel who set out to help Haredi men enter and integrate into the Hi-tech industry in Israel through intensive training. Ravtech’s training program is constructed in a way that allows Haredi men to keep up their Torah study and learn to code. IVN has supported Ravtech from its establishment, by providing low-interest loans as well as professional mentorship by IVN staff and its mentor network.
Two years ago, Benny Levin, IVN’s Vice-Chairman, was appointed as the Chairman of the Board of Ravtech, on behalf of IVN. In the past few years, Ravtech has undergone organizational and managerial changes in which its training activities were separated from its business activities. This change allowed Ravtech to independently raise capital from investors from the Israeli Hi-tech industry, the United States, and from the Haredi community (led by Rabbi Leibel), as well as from other strategic partners, like any private firm would.
Investments into Ravtech, and other similar impact investments, demonstrate that certain social challenges, such as the underemployment of the Haredi community in Israel, can be bettered through targeted investment in a company that trains and employs scores of Haredi men, while providing opportunity for financial returns for investors. Ravtech has been able to raise $4 million USD in capital which will allow the firm to grow, recruit hundreds of new employees, invest in R&D, and ultimately develop its own technology to position itself as an independent Hi-tech company, rather than simply providing IT services. Doing so will increase profitability and better positon Ravtech as an expert in specialized technology solutions.
This is the optimal ‘exit’ for an impact business. It transcends philanthropy that most social organizations rely on, by providing an investment opportunity – to raise capital like all other Hi-tech firms. Ravtech is no longer dependent on foundations and donations. It must now demonstrate its capabilities in the local Hi-tech industry, like any other private firm. Meanwhile, Ravtech will continue to pursue its social goal – integrating Haredi men into the most sophisticated segment of Israel’s labor market.
*IVN – Israel Venture Network, supports businesses that benefit Israeli’s marginalized populations, including people with disabilities, youth at risk, Arab citizens of Israel and the Ultra -orthodox, among others. IVN provides financial investment and mentoring for businesses from seed money for early stage ventures and continues to support these businesses as they develop into profitable enterprises.