Country’s young com­puter in­no­va­tors cre­ate apps at Hack­Track TLV

The Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • By LIDAR GRAVÉ-LAZI

More than 100 of Is­rael’s best and bright­est young en­trepreneur­s gath­ered at the Tel Aviv Port over the week­end for a 36-hour hackathon to de­velop new and in­no­va­tive ap­pli­ca­tions.

Hack­Track TLV, held in Wix’s of­fices in the port, brought to­gether aspir­ing young en­trepreneur­s with lead­ers and in­vestors in the hi-tech in­dus­try for a non­stop idea and de­vel­op­ment marathon.

“It’s re­ally ex­cit­ing to see youth who want to in­te­grate into the hi-tech in­dus­try,” Mickey Haslavsky told The Jerusalem Post on Fri­day.

Haslavsky, who cel­e­brated his 22nd birth­day over the week­end, serves as a co-founder and CMO of Rapid API, a suc­cess­ful start-up launched to­gether with whiz kid Iddo Gino and Daniel Ch­er­nenkov.

“The CEO of our com­pany is only 18 years old, our CTO just turned 21 and I am the CMO and just turned 22,” he said. “We’ve par­tic­i­pated in hackathons and it is a great way to get into the hi-tech in­dus­try.”

As one of the spon­sors of the event, to­gether with well-es­tab­lished com­pa­nies like Wix and Fiverr, Rapid API helped the young en­trepreneur­s by of­fer­ing an easy-to-use tool to help fa­cil­i­tate their app de­vel­op­ment.

“Think of it as what Wix does for front-end, we do for back-end,” he ex­plained. “Our prod­uct helps devel­op­ers get to mar­ket faster since they can use our drag-and-drop method for back-end to do any­thing from store data to make pay­ments with­out hav­ing to write the code them­selves.”

De­spite his sta­tus as a suc­cess­ful en­tre­pre­neur, Haslavsky seemed to be on friendly terms with most of the young par­tic­i­pants,

walk­ing around the room, greet­ing them and point­ing out that many al­ready have suc­cess­ful start-ups of their own.

“Ev­ery­one is com­ing to­gether to de­velop new prod­ucts, it is a great way for youth to get into hi-tech and meet with an­gel in­vestors, jour­nal­ists, suc­cess­ful star­tups and other devel­op­ers,” he said.

For Hack­Track TLV, the youth split up into teams of up to four par­tic­i­pants to for­mu­late and de­velop their ideas, vy­ing for a first place prize of NIS 5,000 and of­fice space for one month at Merkspace, which of­fers co-work­ing spa­ces in Tel Aviv.

“We are all here for 36 hours to de­velop in the most in­ten­sive and fun at­mos­phere that we can,” 20-year-old Michael Ma­tias, one of the par­tic­i­pants, told the Post.

Ma­tias, who is cur­rently serv­ing in the IDF, is no stranger to hackathons or to the hi-tech world.

“When I was 17, I tried to join a hackathon but was told that I couldn’t be­cause I wasn’t 18,” he said. “So, in­stead of wait­ing, I de­cided I would or­ga­nize one my­self.”

The re­sults were over­whelm­ing, he re­called, as he said he re­ceived over 1,200 young ap­pli­cants who wanted to par­tic­i­pate in his first hackathon, held in Sil­i­con Val­ley.

In 2014, fol­low­ing this suc­cess and re­al­iz­ing the need among young en­trepreneur­s, Ma­tias founded Hack­GenY, which or­ga­nizes hackathons for youth all over the world. He re­called how he was talk­ing to po­ten­tial in­vestors for his start-up idea while still in high school.

“I was talk­ing to an in­vestor with head­phones in my ear and I didn’t want him to know that I was in gym class so that he would in­vest in our start-up,” he laughed.

To date, his com­pany has held youth hackathons in 11 coun­tries in­clud­ing Is­rael, Ja­maica, In­dia, the UK, the US and is cur­rently in the process of or­ga­niz­ing two oth­ers in New York and Sin­ga­pore.

“You’d be sur­prised, but Is­rael is at the high­est level, with many Is­raeli youth win­ning hackathons around the world,” he said. “The par­tic­i­pants [at this hackathon] are the most tal­ented youth in Is­rael and it’s go­ing to be re­ally fun to de­velop here.”

At the hackathon in Tel Aviv, Ma­tias said he had an idea to de­velop an ap­pli­ca­tion that links teens go­ing through sim­i­lar prob­lems so they can text each other and share their thoughts, feel­ings, or sim­ply chat.

“How is Gen­er­a­tion Y dif­fer­ent from pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions?” he asked. “We com­mu­ni­cate via tex­ting. So if a teenager is up­set be­cause his girl­friend broke up with him or be­cause he failed a test, he isn’t go­ing to want to talk to his par­ents or his friends face to face, he’ll most likely want to text some­one about it,” he ex­plained.

“Our idea is that we cre­ate an ap­pli­ca­tion where a guy who just got dumped and is up­set by it can go on­line and talk to other guys who just broke up with their girl­friends and who are go­ing through the same thing and text each other about the ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said.

While Ma­tias was get­ting set­tled in set­ting up his work sta­tion, stand­ing across the room was the youngest par­tic­i­pant in the hackathon, nine-year-old Ni­tai Abadi, who had an idea for an ap­pli­ca­tion but no part­ners with whom to de­velop it.

“My class­mates make fun of me and laugh at me and make me feel like I’m in­vis­i­ble,” he told the Post. “So I want to cre­ate an ap­pli­ca­tion called ‘Sicha ben koshi lekoshi’ (A chat be­tween dif­fi­culty to dif­fi­culty).”

Abadi’s idea, sim­i­larly to Ma­tias’s, was to cre­ate an ap­pli­ca­tion that can link youth who are go­ing through a hard time to other youth who are go­ing through sim­i­lar prob­lems to “help cheer them up.”

“And, if there are no youth to help, they can com­mu­ni­cate with the com­puter pro­gram to help cheer them up,” he ex­plained.

Upon hear­ing of the sim­i­lar ideas, Haslavsky in­tro­duced Abadi to Ma­tias, who hap­pily added him to the team.

“I went through some­thing sim­i­lar when I was in fifth grade,” Ma­tias told Abadi. “I was also boy­cotted and it was a re­ally hard time for me, but I made it through and here I am now,” he told the young boy.

“This is the beauty of hackathons,” Ma­tias said, “join­ing to­gether to de­velop our ideas in a fun and ex­cit­ing at­mos­phere.”

In ad­di­tion to de­vel­op­ing their ideas, the par­tic­i­pants were privy to meet­ing in­vestors and men­tors across a num­ber of fields.

Naamah Zal­cman was at the hackathon to help the young en­trepreneur­s work on pitches to pro­mote and sell their ideas fol­low­ing the event.

At only 17, Zal­cman, one of the few fe­males at the event, has held po­si­tions at McCann Erick­son, i24 news and Chan­nel 1, where she de­liv­ers a seg­ment on tech­nol­ogy.

“It’s im­por­tant to go to school, but it is also im­por­tant to en­gage in other things,” she told the Post. “You can learn a lot through do­ing rather than just sit­ting in school. I am still get­ting my ma­tric­u­la­tion cer­tifi­cate, but I am do­ing so much more be­yond that. I am young and I have a lot of en­ergy now, and so now is my time to do what in­ter­ests me.”

This at­ti­tude seemed preva­lent among the par­tic­i­pants, as most of th­ese youth were, in ad­di­tion to their stud­ies, fo­cused on de­vel­op­ing their ideas to be­come the next suc­cess­ful start-up.

“We are all good friends here, it is a small niche and we are all hav­ing a lot of fun do­ing what we do,” she said. •

(Naamah Zal­cman)

SOME 100 of Is­rael’s young hi-tech en­trepreneur­s gather in Tel Aviv Port over the week­end to de­velop in­no­va­tive ap­pli­ca­tions at Hack­Track TLV.

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