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This article was published on March 7, 2012

Tel Aviv hosts a Hackathon, aiming to make Israel go viral

Tel Aviv hosts a Hackathon, aiming to make Israel go viral
Nancy Messieh
Story by

Nancy Messieh

Lesotho-born and raised, Nancy Messieh, The Next Web's Middle East Editor, is an Egyptian writer and photographer based in Cairo, Egypt. Fol Lesotho-born and raised, Nancy Messieh, The Next Web's Middle East Editor, is an Egyptian writer and photographer based in Cairo, Egypt. Follow her on Twitter, her site or Google+ or get in touch at [email protected]

Last week, Tel Aviv held its very first Hackathon, where over 70 Israeli entrepreneurs came together to brainstorm ideas, and left at the end of the day with several ideas up and running.

The event was organized by Innovation Israel, a 3000-strong community of Israel’s entrepreneurs, investors, venture capitalists and more. The Tel Aviv Hackathon had a very clear goal set in place before the event started – “make Israel go viral.”

With the aim to create viral web and mobile applications, social campaigns, and more, speakers at the Hackathon also gave the participants a little bit of insight into how to get a product noticed by the media.

The Next Web caught up with Ben Lang, one of Innovation Israel’s co-founders and a co-organizer of the event, to find out a little bit more about how it went.

Bridging the Gap

One of the main projects that emerged from the Hackathon aims to forge a connection between people living in countries of conflict. Peace Connector, which was coded by Daniel Sternlicht and Yoni Tsafir, uses Facebook interests and profiles as a means of bringing people together online, in ways which their countries cannot.

Speaking about how the idea emerged, Ben said, “The co-organizers of the event, Nir Kouris, Michael Shurp, Kfir Bendet and I, were brainstorming for ideas that people could work on at the hackathon. We put our brains together and thought of something that could connect us, all Israelis, to people in our neighbouring countries. We wanted to keep it simple but make it effective, which is how we came up with the idea.”

So how exactly does Peace Connector work? Once you’ve granted the app access to your Facebook profile, your location and interests are stored.

Explaining what happens next, Ben said, “Once someone else signs up from a country of conflict with a shared interest you will both receive an email telling you to connect. Essentially we define countries in conflict (i.e. Israel and many countries in the Middle East, US and Afghanistan, North Korea and South Korea etc.) and try to find matches through that.”

Ben gives us an example, “If someone from Iran likes to play tennis and I sign up and also like to play tennis since we are from countries of conflict we’ll receive an email in this form below. You’ll only be matched once.”

This of course, begs the question, how can a service like this help overcome years of conflict? Ben is optimistic, “We want to connect as many people as possible. Dialogue between these countries of conflict is crucial and if politicians can’t do it, why not let the people do it. Every conversation with a stranger starts with a common interest or fact, whether its about an app, year of birth or favourite sport…”

Hummus, Gefilte and More

Other projects that were built at the Hackathon include Hummus Day, an attempt to turn May 15 into a day to celebrate and eat the Middle Eastern dip, Hummus.

Gefilte is an interesting app, which is yet to launch, whose sole purpose in life is to let your mother know that you’re ok. So what exactly does the app do? “The Gefilte app sends your mother a daily email letting her know her precious son or daughter is alive and well. A simple set up ensures her (and therefore your) peace of mind.”

Gefilte is connected to Twitter, and as long as you post an update, your mum will get the email – but she won’t see your tweets. Unless she happens to already follow you on Twitter. While the name of the app does lend itself to an Israeli user-base, the idea of a worried mother is certainly universal, and in the midst of protests, unrest, the occupy movement and more, this could be one way to let your mum know everything is ok on a daily basis.

To get a glimpse into the Hackathon itself, check out the video below in which Ben presents Peace Connector: