Are you a techie looking for a place to volunteer to help in Israel’s defense?
Build to Support is a newly created marketplace of more than 3,500 volunteers dedicated to aiding civilians and the military with a promised turnaround time of just minutes.
Tech entrepreneur Mickey Haslavsky (named to the Forbes “30 under 30” list for Israel in 2017) is a cofounder of the group. On the morning of October 7, he received a video from a friend showing terrorists roaming around his neighborhood. Then he learned that a close schoolmate had been murdered.
“We didn’t know how big the scale of this massacre is yet,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any other way to describe this than as Holocaust scenes.”
And then Haslavsky’s social-media feeds began overflowing with messages from Israelis ready — even demanding — to donate time, money and expertise.
Haslavsky opened a WhatsApp group of friends in the tech industry. The idea was to build an online marketplace connecting volunteers with engineering backgrounds to those in need.
Block quote: “I’ve never seen in my life the amount of ‘urge’ from people wanting to help and to do whatever they can do to help this country fight back. This is insane. And so, so, so inspiring.”
Think of it as a free-to-use Fiverr fighting terrorism.
Within the first few hours, 20 volunteers signed up. A few hours later, the number was up to 50. Three weeks into the war, in addition to the 3,500 volunteers on the list, there were 30 experienced managers available 24/7.
“My WhatsApp crashed three days ago because it was pretty much bombarded with any possible message you can think about, with people who want to volunteer and people who need volunteers. Every message says, ‘I’m willing to do whatever you need 24/7 to help you guys. I’m an operations guy. I’m an HR guy. I’m a tech guy.’ There’s no other land on Planet Earth that has this. Everyone feels that it’s time to fight back,” Haslavsky said.
In addition to Haslavsky, who grew up in Ashkelon, one of the cities hit the hardest in the south by constant missile fire, Build to Support’s core team includes David Tabachnikov, Omri Izhaki, Ilan Dorot, Peleg Bar-On, Gili Rosenthal, Yael Erel, Ben Jacob Dayan, Guy Twili and Orit Ophir.
What can Build to Support build for you?
The group has been focused on projects that aggregate information about missing people; help manage the content required to wage war online; and provide technical support for various organizations involved in the war effort.
Build to Support’s volunteers have experience with artificial intelligence, computer vision, graphic design, product management and straight-up engineering.
The team, for example, can use machine learning to sort through duplicate requests and unclear needs coming from both the military and civilians.
“A lot of our work is to try to clear the communication and make sure that people are not working on the same thing,” Haslavksy said on the podcast Start-Up Nation United.
Duplications happen, he notes, because “a lot of people really want to help. I’ve never seen in my life the amount of ‘urge’ from people wanting to help and to do whatever they can do to help this country fight back. This is insane. And so, so, so inspiring.”
‘You want to protect your own land’
Build to Support has also set up infrastructure to facilitate donations from abroad; a system for monitoring users in WhatsApp groups for telephone identification; a structure to connect guests and hosts; tools for streamlining work; and more.
Among the volunteers Build to Support has amassed are backend, frontend and fullstack developers; product and project managers; QA professionals; graphic designers; HR, information and security personnel; and programmers experienced with scraping websites, mobile application development, cloud computing management, data analysis, NLP, automation, GIS and more.
How did Build to Support grow so fast? “You want to protect your own land,” Haslavsky says plainly. “That’s the incentive right now.”
As is running an efficient business.
“If we don’t manage the process properly, we won’t be able to grow this into something meaningful because you need to make sure that people trust this channel,” Haslavsky told the newspaper Calcalist.
Haslavsky says he’s been blown away by the response.
“Every message we’re sending in our WhatsApp announcement group and every call we’re making is inspiring. You hear people, no matter how old they are, where they are, what they do, willing to stop whatever they’re doing right now and to volunteer on an extreme scale.”
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