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Young, talented and smart? Meeting in Israel to hack

Raphael Ouzan: A major start-up event will bring to Israel 25 world-class under-30 innovators to (possibly) invent 'the next big thing'
Start-up workers at a Herzliya accelerator (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Start-up workers at a Herzliya accelerator (Photo credit: Courtesy)

When I was just 23 and still wearing the green uniform of the IDF’s Intelligence corp, I discovered a powerful truth: the most formidable challenges can be solved when the right combination of talented and passionate individuals is placed together in the same room and tasked with solving them. Regardless of age or level of experience of the problem solvers, pragmatic and optimistic “can do” types can accomplish the seemingly impossible.

At that point, a question that I couldn’t shake out of my head occurred to me:  What if we could gather together talented tech minds from all over the world, bringing diverse perspectives together in one forum to share and challenge each other, grasping a broader perspective on the real problems that we can impact?

Not long after, I came across Oren Toledano, then head of a Jewish Agency delegation in Paris, who – like me – moved from France and served in the Israeli army. I told Oren about the project and he immediately fell in love with it. Soon after, Oren was on a plane with his whole family to co-found, fundraise and launch this audacious mission with me: The Israel Tech Challenge.

Now, after more than 3 years of hard work, I couldn’t be prouder to share that our first class of 25 world class innovators, hackers and builders will gather in Israel later this month for deep immersion into the Startup Nation. Out of 500 applicants, we handpicked the best and brightest of under-30 future tech leaders. Some of them graduated from the Harvards and MITs of the world, while others are coming straight from leading companies like Dropbox, Facebook and Paypal. These unique individuals from all around the world are active in some of the hottest fields in technology – including robotics, mathematics, cyber-security, big data, mobile and more.

For 12 days, these innovative global tech minds will meet with leading Israeli tech companies, entrepreneurs, academics and gain exposure to the depth and breadth of the Israeli tech industry. With such a range of backgrounds and perspectives, we know that the participants  will inspire us as much as they will learn from the leaders they encounter during their visit.

This melting pot of innovation culminates in a 36 hour hackathon – an intensive joint collaboration to tackle global problems facing the countries of all the participants, combining each and everyone’s unique skills.

This is the first program born out of Israel Tech Challenge, a project in partnership with the Jewish Agency, the Prime Minister’s office, Birthright – Taglit and many of the leading tech companies.

After this first 12-day program in late December, we have already lined up summer programs of 12 days and 2 months – and a full 10 month program for 2014.

What will come out of it?
Probably many things we haven’t even considered yet. Yet whether the participants go back inspired to launch a new venture, choose to stay in Israel for a dream job opportunity or return to their home country with a few kindred spirits they can now call friends, there is no doubt that we’re starting to tie the knots of a net connecting future tech leaders with each other — and with the Start-Up Nation.

About the Author
Raphael Ouzan, a cyber and data security expert, co-founded BillGuard where he leads its product and technology teams. Raphael has been coding professionally since the age of 13 and has been lecturing on big-data, crowdsourcing and cyber security ever since. Raphael received Israel's highest President's Award for technology innovation and was invited to address world leaders at The World Economic Forum 2012 in Davos, all before the age 25. Prior to BillGuard, Raphael was a decorated officer in Israel's elite military programming and intelligence units where he led the country's best and brightest engineers. Raphael is also the founder of Israel Tech Challenge, an elite technology training program for the world's top performing students and a Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum.
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