Mash up the words “hack” and “marathon” and you end up with hackathon – a race to build the best app in a limited amount of time. Some hackathons are short, limited to just a few hours. But the truly grueling ones run overnight – because they give contestants a false sense that there’s plenty of time to build something awesome. However, as the night creeps on, with bellies full of pizza and Red Bull, the clock seems to move faster as productivity fades in place of sleepiness.
Just the other week, my co-worker Todd Singleton and I competed in the TechCrunch Disrupt hackathon in New York City. Mashery was a sponsor of the event and we were there to spread the good word about the Mashery API Network. Prior to the event, Todd and I came up with a few ideas but never came up with any solid plan. So we winged it!
We recruited a couple of young graphic designers on-site because neither Todd or myself are “front-end” guys. The idea that we decided to pursue was building a replacement for “Googling” individuals by utilizing social media profiles and related meta-data.
In the spirit of tech buzzwords, we pivoted our project several times in a matter of hours. We tasked our young graphic designers, Kate and David, with building a UI to nameless product that had no clear value proposition. All we knew was that there was a multitude of data about people out in the wild, and we wanted to build something that would replace “Googling.” And then came Harold from Hunch.
Harold Cooper, an engineer from Hunch, was giving an API workshop talk about their API. Hunch is a product and technology company that is building a taste graph — a way to make and discover recommendations based on users’ tastes. Harold was discussing Hunch’s get-recommendations API call which provides an incredible amount of retail, travel and other recommendations based only on an individual’s Twitter handle or Facebook ID – and they don’t even have to be a Hunch user. Harold also mentioned that Hunch was awarding $1,000 to the best hack that utilized the Hunch API. Wow!
We had about 18 hours total to build something, and what we ended up submitting (with just minutes to spare) was Whodata, pronounced like, “Who Dat? Ahh..” A little Detroit flavor. Over 100 teams presented their apps in front of a panel of judges including Jeff Clavier, Christopher Poole (moot) and Bradley Horowitz. With nearly a full days of hacking and no sleep, we were given only 60 seconds for our demo pitch. Despite the lack of sleep and turbo demo, it all worked out.
Whodata was awarded with the “Best Data Integration” by Palentir Technologies who sponsored the hackathon. The prize was $1,000 of Amazon Web Services. We were excited and flattered to win. The hackathon was incredibly fun and very well organized. Big thank you to TechCrunch for holding an incredibly fun and well organized hackathon. And of course, a big thanks to Palentir for the AWS credit.
Shout out to team Whodata – Kate Proulx (@proulxsie) and Dave Caputo (@davecaputo), two young roller derbying graphic designers from New York.
As for the $1,000 AWS credit – I’ll be using that to spin up instances and provide environments for people participating at future Mashery sponsored hackathons coming near you!