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Israel’s whiz kids create opportunity

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Mickey HaslavskyMICKEY Haslavsky of Holon is only 18, but he’s already on his second startup.

“When I began my first startup at 16, I thought I was the only one creating websites at this age, but I was amazed to discover a huge community between 10 and 18 around the world, and I know of about 10 startups by Israelis my age,” Haslavsky says.

By invitation of Israeli high-tech godfather Yossi Vardi, Haslavsky recently gave a TEDx Youth@Holon presentation, “Teenage Nation,” about how he founded an online youth magazine.

One thousand people registered the day Haslavsky launched his second site, Machbesa (Laundry), this spring. It’s a viral scheme for racking up genuine “Likes” on Facebook, pluses in Google Plus and views on YouTube.

“I want to bring the system to Brazil next because it has 51 million Facebook users and it’s spreading all the time,” says Haslavsky, who needs to find someone to run his enterprises by November, when he gets drafted.

That shouldn’t be hard, since he is at the older end of the spectrum of Israeli teens helming a surprising number of high-tech ventures.

Tal Hoffman of Haifa says Israel’s designation as the “Startup Nation” has encouraged young business developers.

“Israel’s entrepreneur community is really big among my age,” says the 15-year-old founder of Itimdi, a not-yet-launched site where teens can meet and interact based on their interests.

ANOTHER 15-year-old, Gal Harth of Herzliya, was interviewed at Tech Crunch Disrupt last year in San Francisco about his Doweet website (motto: “So, what do you want to do?”), described as “a fun and easy way to create activities with your friends.”

Harth founded Doweet with his pal Nir Ohayon in reaction to all their friends playing Xbox and PlayStation instead of engaging in social and physical activities.

“This is a way to get together easily to go to the gym, go swimming, play soccer. It’s an app that links everyone in one spot.”

Harth and Ohayon got initial funding from Israel’s Rhodium, the first venture capital firm they approached.

“My passion is startups,” Gal Harth says. “My passion is to change the world.”

Enterprising Israeli teenagers have plenty of role models.

Gil Schwed, founder of Israel’s Check Point Software Technologies and one of the world’s youngest billionaires, is a prime example.

Schwed was taking computer classes at The Hebrew University before graduating high school. Drawing on experience gained in the IDF Unit 8200 intellegence corps, he invented the modern firewall at age 26.

Many up-and-coming entrepreneurs  are eager to follow the same path, knowing that their military service can paved the way to successful careers. It’s no coincidence that many Israeli startups are co-founded by former army buddies.

However, programs to recruit high school students for high-tech military units foucs on top achievers and tend to miss a considerable number of kids whose tech abilities surpass their grades.

 

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