Over 130 entrepreneurs were evacuated from Beer-Sheva's first Startup Weekend event.
Guest Post Moran Bar and Yaniv Feldman via Newsgeek
Moran and Yaniv are Co-Organizers of Startup Weekend events in Israel
We never thought this is how we will start nor end what should have the ultimate entrepreneurship experience. We have been traveling with Startup Weekend among the different cities of Israel, including Haifa, Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv for the last 3 years, and this weekend was supposed to be the first Startup Weekend in Beer-Sheva, the southern capital city of Israel which hosts the largest and one of the most prestigious universities in Israel.
No Talk, All Action
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Startup Weekend, it is a 54-hour Hackathon that is being held in over hundreds of different cities throughout the world. In Israel, we usually start it on Wednesday and finish on Friday. In the beginning of each event, every entrepreneur gets to pitch his idea in front of all the other entrepreneurs, and after a short voting process, the audience picks the best ideas of the bunch and all the entrepreneurs divide themselves into teams and start a 50-hours Hackathon in order to make their project into something real.
Beyond great good, drinks and an awesome T-Shirt, The experience includes mentoring from dozens of experienced entrepreneurs who share with us their road to success, failure and life stories. At the end of each event, each one of teams should present their project in front of an expert judge's panel and the first place winner would get a services package worth thousands of dollars, just to help them make their project into a real-life kicking-ass startup.
The Local scene
Some of our previous events in Israel were supported by different groups, each promoting a different part of the population such as students, religious people and even Arabs and Palestinians are already regular guests at our Startup Weekends in Israel. Our agenda always was "Startup Weekend doesn't involve politics; we don't care about entrepreneurial background. We only care about their ability to lead, execute and succeed. That was also the agenda that led us to hold this weekend's event in Beer-Sheva.
We had over 135 entrepreneurs, developers, designers and mentors signing up for the event and we got awesome support from local municipal authorities such as the city of Beer-Sheva, the municipal business development company "7x7" (7 is Sheva in Hebrew) and the ministry for the Negev development alongside with huge support from the industry by companies like EMC (That has its own innovation center in Beer-Sheva), Sandisk, Incubit, APM Law Firm, NegevCo., Gav-Yam (A company that is in charge of building Beer-Sheva's Hi-Tech Park), Ness Technologies, Paris Region, WMG and Negev Jobs. Following them, the local universities and colleges also joined in and together we were set to organize the first startup weekend event in Beer-Sheva.
On top of all of that, we were so happy and proud to make it to Beer-Sheva, especially in such a difficult time, to show that we are here, we are strong and that we stand together.
Sometime, reality just hits you in the face
Around 4PM, we still thought we can have a successful event and even when we were notified about the beginning of the operations around Gaza and the imminent threats we chose to continue, pitch the ideas, pick the best of them and start working.
It’s a bit ironic that a few of the ideas that were chosen for this weekend were directly affiliated with what is going on around us. One of those ideas was to create that shows you which direction the missile might come from and give you instructions on where to go and how to defend yourself. Another one was to create an app that allows you to notify all your immediate friends and family that you are safe and ok with a click of button.
After the first missile alarm we didn't change our minds and it was amazing to see everyone starting to carry tables and chairs into the safe zones (Shelters) inside the building just so they can keep on working on their projects. Sometimes, the entrepreneurial spirit can overcome fear. It was so inspiring to see how everyone are focused on what seems to be the most important thing at the moment - how to take their idea and make it into a successful venture.
But sometimes reality just hits you in the face. At about 8:30PM, after the third missile alarm and one rocket hitting a few dozen yards away from the building where we were hosted, we had to submit the safety order by the Israeli Army and the city's representatives who told us to shut down and cancel the rest of the event.
Entrepreneurship is a hard thing to stop
It's hard to stop working on your startup after you start it. The glimmering eyes of all the entrepreneurs and their indifference to all the missile alarms and the situation outside showed us exactly what they are made of. We know that this instinct to survive and to keep on working will be the element which will help these guys to succeed in their future as entrepreneurs. It is hard to stop working and it's hard to see team fall apart because of the order to shut down.
A little after 9PM, we were evacuated from the scene knowing that tomorrow we will not be able to keep on working, creating and building. It's hard to stop, but reality hit us in the face, and it was only luck that kept some of us from getting hurt.
During those several hours, we had the pleasure of working side by side with a community that has tons ideas, initiative and determination and to help on, creating, inventing, improving and making a difference. We have the utmost honor and respect to all the people who helped us bring Startup Weekend to Beer-Sheva and we will do our best to continue right where we left off, as soon as we can.
We wish all of you who still under fire out there, take care of yourselves and your loved ones!
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