Entrepreneurship is a trait that knows no boundaries. Those that possess it come in all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and genders, and in some places, the startup spirit is bringing together groups of people that are otherwise at odds with each other. Nowhere in the world is this more evident than in the middle east, where Palestinians and Israelis continue their centuries-long feud, but one organization is throwing all of that out in the name of entrepreneurship and peace.
Seattle-based entrepreneurship launch-pad Startup Weekend has been hosting events since just 2007, but has already expanded to over 100 cities in more than 25 countries around the globe. One of truly inspiring chapters of the organization exists in Tel Aviv, Israel, a city poised just an hour's drive from Jerusalem and The Gaza Strip.
- Amir Harel
"Once you enter into the Startup Weekend event, there is no Israeli, Palestinian, or American - there are entrepreneurs, developers, investors, designers working together to build technology and have fun," says Harel. "We are not taking any political stand, and we are not associated with any political group - we just want to send a message - we can do things different, we can do things better, and it needs to come from the ground up."
While many associate Startup Weekend with Internet companies, the events are not specifically tech-centric. At the last event in Tel Aviv - which saw 130 participants, 50 pitches and 13 projects undertaken - one team modified a computer keyboard into a guitar which could be strummed with a mouse and whose function keys served as frets. According to Harel, the next Tel Aviv event, slated for later this month, is the groups attempt to take things to next level.
"Startup Weekend is such an amazing platform to bridge gaps, we decided to focus on the greatest one -- the one between Palestinians and Israelis," says Harel. "I decided that like with Startup Weekend, I should do something to make a change. I see it as my own, yet small, contribution to increase the chance for a peace."
With help from sponsors like PayPal, Google and IBM, Startup Weekend Tel Aviv has made it possible for 20-30 Palestinians to attend the upcoming event. They limit the number of Palestinians because arranging for the government to authorize their participation is a hefty effort and Startup Weekend is providing hotel space for them.
While this limitation is not an ideal situation, the efforts being made by Harel and his partner Eddy Resnick to bring these two groups together is inspiring. The next event, July 14th through 16th, is already quickly filling up, so if you're interested in attending be sure to check out the registration page as just a few tickets are left in each category. If you're unable to make it to Tel Aviv, take a gander at Startup Weekend's event map to find a city near you where you can participate.
Photo by Flickr user mockstar.