As a goalie for Clark University’s men’s lacrosse team, Jacob Reiner ’17 is no stranger to fast-paced, high-pressure, adrenaline-pumping situations. His drive to compete is why he’s traveled 5,600 miles to Jerusalem for the past two summers to intern at OurCrowd, an equity crowdfunding venture capital company, and play in Israel’s Premier Lacrosse League.
“I was intrigued to learn about this whole sector that isn’t widely discussed in school,” he says, adding, “I thought what they were doing was revolutionary.”
During each nine-week trip, Reiner — an economics and geography major — got first-hand experience working with OurCrowd’s approach to funding innovative Israeli high tech start-ups. The country, which was dubbed “Start-up Nation” by authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer, produces more start-up companies and entrepreneurs than other much larger countries.
OurCrowd, co-founded by Jonathan Medved and Steven Blumgart in 2012, is an equity-based crowdfunding platform that allows accredited investors to provide venture capital funding for start-ups. The start-ups are sourced and vetted, with many on their way to becoming acquired or publicly traded for millions or billions of dollars. Since 2012, OurCrowd has raised about $300 million for a select 98 companies out of more than 5,000 vetted, according to its website.
Reiner, who learned about OurCrowd and Medved from an episode of “Charlie Rose,” first worked in investor relations in the company’s Jerusalem office as his LEEP project. With Clark President David Angel as his faculty adviser, he simplified technical information for the company’s 10,000 worldwide investors and used Excel to build out models. He also learned how the company sifts through roughly 500 start-ups a month to find the three it will feature to its investors.
“Interns in Israel are required to be paid, so I wouldn’t have been able to work at OurCrowd without LEEP funding,” Reiner says. “[My LEEP project] allowed me an incredible opportunity. I learned how to do analytical work the foundation of which I learned from my professors at Clark.”
OurCrowd is nimble, which Reiner was excited to experience from one summer to the next.
“As a young company the workplace at OurCrowd is continually evolving,” he says. “I stepped in [this summer] and didn’t recognize half the people and others I knew had moved [to different departments]. This made it a tremendous opportunity to learn from a company in a growing phase.”
Reiner moved into business development, which involved collaborating with portfolio companies to help them hit benchmarks toward acquisition or initial public offerings and working on OurCrowd’s internal analytics. Despite the demands and busy schedule, Reiner said his work community always welcomed him to Shabbat dinners on Fridays, something comforting when away from home. “It was touching to be included into people’s homes for meals, this made it easier to be so far away from home.”
Reiner is considering Clark’s fifth-year M.B.A. program, but he’d also like to stay in the venture capital industry after graduation, noting that “it’s a thrilling, fast-paced and growing industry.”
When Reiner wasn’t working in the high-stakes world of finance, he got his heart racing on the lacrosse field, playing on Israel’s national lacrosse team’s practice squad in 2014, as well as for Israel during the European Championships this past summer. Reiner also played for Be’er Sheva in Israel’s Premier Lacrosse League both summers winning the league title both years. The sport and league, both of which are relatively new to Israel, are picking up steam.
“We were playing twice a week [this summer] instead of once a week [last summer] and there was more talent in the player pool,” he says. “It was a competitive league.”
A league goal is to recruit more young players into the sport, something Reiner enjoyed doing as a coach for the league-affiliated youth sports teams. With both Jewish and Palestinian players ranging in age from six to 15, Reiner and his teammates would provide sideline guidance and teach skills during games and clinics.
“It allowed me to play the game I love and teach kids in Israel how to play it,” he says. “What was more amazing and most meaningful to me was helping bring both Jewish and Palestinian children together through the power of sport, and watching differences be left on the sidelines as the new athletes were playing the game.”
Back at home, Reiner and Clark’s lacrosse team also make it a point to work with children in Main South by holding clinics at the Boys and Girls Club of Worcester to introduce the sport.
It’s that sense and commitment to community within the University, and the lacrosse program specifically, that drew him to Clark. A call from Coach Jeff Cohen along with a campus visit, and Reiner knew he had found his place.
“Everything just kind of fell into place,” he says. “It was the right fit for me lacrosse-wise and academically; it was just what I wanted.”
Even though Reiner’s last two summers were fast-paced, he appreciates the unique perspective they gave him on living abroad. The multi-faceted approach of sports, work and becoming a part of his community helped him acclimate to life far from home.
“I had the opportunity to travel all over the country for games and practices and experience first-hand the amazing people and places of Israel,” he says.
Photo at top by Erika Sidor