Amid a challenging environment caused by the coronavirus crisis and geopolitical uncertainties, young entrepreneurs from both the UAE and Israel are determined to contribute to progress — and using their imagination can make this a reality.
Brainstorming together — virtual or otherwise — and throwing innovation into the mix have then become essential tools to work on this endeavour.
"If there's one thing we learned, it is that when you live in a complicated region... you have to be creative in order to brighten the future," Eyal Biran, CEO of Israel-is, told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview.
"Because we have common challenges, there is great potential for Emirati and Israeli entrepreneurs to come together, using the knowledge that we once weren't able to share with each other, learning together from mistakes and creating innovations that can solve the common problems of the region."
Biran was referring to a recently-concluded virtual hackathon, where tech-savvy youth from the UAE, Israel, Bahrain and Morocco took part. It was the first such event held between the nations, which had a focus on entrepreneurship.
He says Israel-is — an organisation that educates and trains young Israelis with the skill set and mindset to conduct meaningful encounters with their international peers — moved quickly after the historic treaty was forged, paving the way for multiple opportunities across various fields.
"Without thinking twice, began sending messages on social media to influencers in the Emirates," Biran said.
"We were quickly able to establish relationships, talking about common and universal issues that are relevant for both sides and as an organisation, become an essential part and foundation for the fact that this peace is not just between governments but between people."
Walking the talk
A hackathon is generally defined as an event where people and groups come together to engage and brainstorm using collaborative computing. Global industry giants such as Google and Facebook each have their own form of such an event, attracting tens of millions of participants, while others are held for a specific purpose, such as for games, transport and certain health awareness programmes.
Biran says the hackathon between the UAE and Israel proves that cooperation is possible — and they're walking the talk.
"Instead of talking about it, we're doing it. We're setting an example for the generations that come after us to understand how deep, unique and essential the Abraham accords are, for making our region better and hopefuly the entire universe," he added.
The three-day hackathon — the first since the accords — was organised by Israel-is in collaboration with the Federal Youth Ministry of the UAE, Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affiras, the Concert Social Fund, renowned venture capital fund Jerusalem Venture Partners, the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, and Start-Up Nation Central.
The event tackled regional challenges in the post-Covid era, with business, entrepreneurship, education and tourism as key focal points.
Karin Gattegno, Start-Up Nation's chief business officer, told Khaleej Times that the event is another "important step" in the UAE-Israel journey, stressing that tech and innovation are "at the very heart" of the new relationship.
"We have already launched the first virtual UAE-Israel innovation community, with the task of advancing ties in technology as well as business cooperation," referring to the UAE-IL Tech Zone, an exclusive ecosystem that already includes more than 1,000 people in the business, innovation and technology sectors, investors, developers and government entities from both countries.
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