New immigrant’s Hackathon hopes to make a viral splash

New immigrant’s Hackathon hopes to make a viral splash

The cool side of tech in Israel will be on display in Ben Lang's Innovation Israel gathering

Ben Lang (courtesy)
Ben Lang (courtesy)

A young entrepreneur is organizing Israel’s first Innovation Israel Hackathon, designed to get attention from major tech websites like Mashable and TechCrunch. Ben Lang, an 18-year-old who made aliya after starting three successful websites in the US, told The Times of Israel that he’s looking for programmers, designers and marketers to create innovative products that will “make Israel go viral.”

Lang hopes that the Hackathon, which will take place on Friday in Tel Aviv, will inspire participants “to create viral web applications, infographics, videos, mobile apps and social campaigns designed to promote interesting sides of Israel throughout the world. We’re looking to work on creative ideas with the potential to make a big splash,” he said.

The Hackathon is the first major activity of Innovation Israel, a project Lang has been working on with his partner, Nir Kouris, who himself has started a number of companies. With over 3,000 members in the month or so that Lang has been actively recruiting, the organization, he said, is set “to share the incredible high-tech scene in Israel with the entire world, virally spreading the message of Israeli advancements in computers, Internet, environmental technology, energy technology, and much more.”

“Viral” is usually used to describe the spread of videos or photos on social networks — for example, Facebook friends spreading a link to all their friends, with the information being spread exponentially to millions in a matter of days, or even hours. Participants in the Hackathon will create web gadgets, programs, videos, and other online presentations and products that will be saved on the Innovation Israel website, from where creators will spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks.

But beyond social networks, Lang hopes that he can get the Hackathon material on influential tech websites and blogs like Mashable, LifeHacker, TechCrunch, and many others. “That’s where the people who can really appreciate technology hang out, and by reaching them, we’ll be bringing specific Israeli successes — the cool products on our site — to the attention of people in the know, directly to the decision makers who hopefully will see something unique, and perhaps even develop a relationship with the entrepreneurs who created them.”

As an added bonus, Lang will be teaching participants how to get the ear of top tech sites. “Obviously these sites get thousands of submissions a day, and the vast majority never see the light of day. We intend to show participants exactly how to get their attention.” One tip: “Keep it simple,” said Lang. “The sites want to see something cool and different, and of course technologically advanced. But it’s got to tell a story in a way that a reader of the site can get what is going on within seconds — easy to understand and easy to use,” Lang said.

Lang has had a great deal of experience getting attention for his ideas. He is a recent graduate of a Silicon Valley program for young high-tech entrepreneurs, the Teens in Tech Incubator program, which he got into as a result of his startup activities. “I started my first online business when I was 14, selling things on eBay,” Lang said, “A few years later, I started EpicLaunch, a popular blog for young entrepreneurs. And I started a site called MySchoolHelp, where high school students can share notes and help each other on assignments.”

MySchoolHelp, says Lang, came about when he was a student at the Ramaz School in Manhattan. And as a result of the incubator experience, Lang has a third start-up, ClassParrot, which lets teachers send notes and messages to students’ phones and devices without revealing either’s phone number to the other, thus preserving privacy on both sides.

As a new immigrant, Lang is set to join the IDF later this year. But first, he wants to use the Hackathon to help spread the word on Israel’s high-tech economy. “I know there are many other sites out there that are trying to do the same thing we are, but I believe we are different,” said Land. “Most of the other efforts limit themselves to talking, conducting discussions, signing petitions, and so on. We are actually trying to do something to get solid, positive attention for great Israeli technology. We’re planning to continue with this program, and bring it to supporters of Israel around the world, who later on will be able to participate online, and share their own great ideas to promote Israel’s technology coolness.”

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