Amir Weitmann is the managing partner of Champel Capital, an Israeli VC firm that has backed success stories like insurance tech firm Lemonade, and lidar developer Innoviz Technologies. Amir spoke to Opto Sessions about his investment philosophy, Deep Tech, and why driverless cars will make the roads of the future safer.
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Amir Weitmann, managing partner of Champel Capital, has a simple investment philosophy. His primary objective is to maximise returns to investors as quickly as possible, and he believes this can be achieved by doing good in the world.
“We believe that it's better and more uplifting to do this by looking at life-changing industries,” Weitmann told Opto Sessions. He cites Champel’s investment in Aleph Farms, a cultured meat producer that features Leonardo DiCaprio on its advisory board.
“I tasted [Aleph Farms’ meat] for the first time a couple of weeks ago,” says Weitman. “It's amazing. It's like real meat. But it's not coming from a cow, it's grown in a lab. So you are cutting 99% of the CO2 emissions, 99% of land usage and 99% of the energy consumption. So this is much more sustainable … eventually it's going to give cheaper meat of higher quality for everybody.”
This typifies Champel’s philosophy: it’s a business idea that will generate cash while solving major ethical problems, based on what Weitman calls ‘deep tech’.
What is deep tech?
Aleph Farms’ meat is based on groundbreaking research by Professor Shulamit Levenberg, the company’s co-founder and chief scientific adviser. For Weitman, it is this rigorous academic underpinning that defines what deep tech is.
“These investments are more complicated, they typically will take longer, and the go-to-market will be more complicated,” says Weitman of investing in research-intensive markets like this. "But if you succeed, then good luck to the competition to move you out.”
One of Weitmann’s most successful ventures, insurance tech platform Lemonade [LMND], illustrated this point. An early-mover in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning driven insurance technology, it fused automated insurance services with charitable donations to overcome the moral hazard of insurance fraud. When it went public in July 2020, its shares more than doubled on its debut, becoming Champel’s second successful exit.
“These investments are more complicated, they typically will take longer, and the go-to-market will be more complicated” - Amir Wetmann
Investing in deep tech during a downturn
Since 2020, however, market conditions have worsened, and many would see 2022 as a harder investment environment than 2020, when Lemonade had its success. Weitmann disagrees, however. While supply chain disruption from the pandemic lingers, and has battered many stocks, the knock-on effect on prices is, for him, a positive.
“In my view, we are more than compensated because the prices that we were going through in 2020, especially 2021, were completely ludicrous,” he says.
One industry that’s down following supply chain challenges in 2022 is autonomous cars. Stocks in this space have been ravaged, with the Global X Autonomous & Electric Vehicles ETF [DRIV] down 24.1% in the year to 30 November. Weitmann believes this pessimism presents an investment opportunity.
“People were thinking that we were going to reach level five, which is fully autonomous cars, by 2022. This was not realistic.”
Another Champel investment, Innoviz, is playing a major role in this. Its light detection and ranging (lidar) technology powers the “sight” of autonomous cars, and Weitmann believes such technology will ultimately make roads safer.
“People were thinking that we were going to reach level five, which is fully autonomous cars, by 2022. This was not realistic” - Amir Wetmann
Intelligent investing, says Weitmann, is about spending money when markets are down, not up.
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