Israel has been a key flash-point for tensions in the Middle East between Jewish and Muslim people, and while politicians continue to work on (and fight over) the route to a peaceful future, some of the most interesting developments for cooperation and progress are happening not in political halls but in the tech world. We’re very excited to welcome and talk with some of key people in the Arabic tech scene on stage at TechCrunch’s Meetup and Pitch-off, in Tel Aviv on June 28 at Trask, between 6-10 p.m.
The startup world in Israel is very closely aligned with another key part of life in the country: the mandatory military service that all Israeli Jews must go through when they are young adults. For those who are technically-minded, divisions like the Israeli Defense Force’s Unit 8200 become places where people learn a lot of skills, apply them, and crucially meet others like themselves. In turn, when they all leave the IDF, they form companies, and work for and with each other.
The Arab population of the country has largely been cut out of that closed loop, but there are a few organizations that have emerged to try to bridge that gap, and give talented people a leg up. One of them is Gaza Sky Geeks, the first startup accelerator and coding academy in Gaza, a joint project between Google and Mercy Corps. Ryan Sturgill, who is the director, will be with us in Tel Aviv.
Before Sturgill joined GSG in 2015, he helped establish a startup incubator in Afghanistan with support from Google, and has advised small businesses on operations and financial strategy in Palestine, the UAE, Iraq, and Pakistan. He’s also worked on investments for the Abraaj Group, a growth markets private equity firm based in Dubai, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a major lender to small businesses around the globe.
And we’ll also have Arabic entrepreneur Amir Ounallah, the co-founder and CEO of Batuta, an online Arabic travel portal with more than 1 million monthly unique visitors and over 3 million followers on social feeds. (It’s named after the legendary Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta.)
The company is riding an interesting wave, catering to a small but growing population of people who are starting to branch out and visit the world beyond. Right now, it’s largely focusing on hotel listings and bookings, with a focus on the Arabic world, and I expect he has some interesting stories to tell about starting and growing a company in the region.
Others who will be speaking at our event include the co-founder of Waze, Uri Levine, and the CEOs of Convexum and Regulus Cyber to discuss drone security. We’ll be announcing more speakers at the event soon.
We’ve also had a great response from startups applying to be in our Pitch-off, which is the second half of the evening and is always a really exciting event. A finalists shortlist of between 8 and 10 startups will present their magic in two minutes or less to the audience and our panel of VCs and TechCrunch editors, telling us why their startups are awesome. They’re competing for an opportunity to attend TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco or Disrupt Berlin.
- First Place: A table in Startup Alley at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco or Disrupt Berlin
- Second Place: Two tickets to attend TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin
- Third Place: One ticket to attend TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin
Buy tickets here and see you soon!