Interview with Israeli ambassador to Macedonia, Dan Oryan – his experience with startups and the importance of hackathons

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This month is also the month of Bitalon, a hackathon that is solely focused on telling a story.

The stories will be about the Jewish community in Bitola. The participants will try their hardest to tell a touching story by using the old graveyards in Bitola and by coming up with a digital platform for the visitors of the Park of the Living.

The Israeli ambassador to Macedonia, Dan Oryan, is playing a pivotal role in the organization of the hackathon and we had the utmost privilege to get together and find out more on Bitalon.

How did you decide to get involved in organizing a hackathon in Bitola? Why Bitola?

The story of the Jews in Macedonia is a very important one. I always strive to look for new and special ways to connect the young generation to the tragic story of the Jewish community and to combine the horrid elements of the holocaust with the Israel as the startup nation. The best way to get the young people to think about it is to integrate it in certain aspects and to tell the old story in new ways and with new tools. We want the old story to be out of the books and into holograms and 3D, with strong innovative elements that will move the young people and empower them to take action.

For a while now, I have found that hackathon is one of the quickest growing scenes and I want Israel to play an important role by working together and creating an informative ecosystem that tells a tragic story of the past.

What are your expectations from the hackathon? What are you hoping to accomplish?

I expect that the hackathon will captivate the attention of the young generation of the country, to open new dialogue as well as to tell this important story to everyone that is willing to listen. I  am hopeful for the rise of new concepts, new friendships as well as new partnerships that will give birth to new ideas on how to make the past more visible and more relevant to the new generations. I have witnessed amazing things from the hackathon in the museum tour of David in Jerusalem and I though this could also be equally exhilarating. And yes, I expect that we will enjoy and have fun.

One sure outcome is that we plan to donate the sitting arrangements to people with special needs the moment we are done with the hackathon.

Why is this hackathon important for the Jewish community?

The hackathon is important for the Jews all around the world because it is part of telling a story that is not told enough. It is also important for the Jewish community here in Macedonia since this is a story of their family. The Jewish community in Macedonia is very small but being able to tell the story here is what makes it unique. For the small community, this is one of the most important chapters of the past and if you want to have a future, you must preserve the past.

What will the winners get out of the visit in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv? Is that going to be a tourist visit or also educational?

The winners are going to have an amazing opportunity to visit to the startup nation. They will meet prominent figures of the leading industry of startups in the world. They will visit companies and hear success and failure stories of experienced entrepreneurs and they will visit incubators, accelerators as well as talk to the people in charge. Of course, they will also have some time to rest and to sightsee.

The underlying fact is that they will see a country that is old but highly flexible when it comes to getting to grips with the newest breakthroughs in technology and innovation.

What is your opinion regarding startup climate here in Macedonia? How is it different from the startup scene in Israel?

I see accelerated development in this field in Macedonia, but I think you can do much more. I see many organizations and some funding and I hope that together we can give it a big push. I brought a few of our stars in high tech to observe and cooperate and I am sure we can do wonders together.

In your opinion, what skills do the entrepreneurs nowadays need in order to succeed in this ever-changing environment?

From all the projects I did up to this point, from leading theaters and modern dance concerts, to bringing specialists and cleaning the old Jewish cemetery, the hackathon seems to me to be something totally new and different, so I am really excited and hope it will be a big success. The only time I felt like this was when my first children’s book was published.

If you want to succeed, you must think, at least from time to time, out of the box. I am trying to do that, though as diplomat it is sometimes less acceptable.

Disclaimer: The interview has been slightly altered for clarity.

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