Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment—would you capture it or just let it slip?
These lyrics from Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself” ran through my head a lot this weekend.
The opportunity to create innovative solutions in less than 48 hours and then pitch your minimum viable product to Critical Mass... well, for most this would seem impossible, but to entrepreneurs the gauntlet was thrown down and the challenges accepted.
This is how Calgary’s first Enterprise Hackathon, HackYYC, went down:
1. Critical Mass described four challenges: Humour of Messes, Destination Passport, Retail Experience, and Automobile: Bringing Objects to Life.
2. Participants of HackYYC then pitched their solutions to their fellow participants
3. The group anonymously voted for their favs
4. The top five solutions were chosen
5. Five teams were formed with hackers, hustlers & hipsters (programmers, biz dev & designers)
6. The teams got started as now they had less than 46 hours to pitch to Critical Mass
Up to $50,000 in contracts from Critical Mass were on the line plus Dentons Canada LLP also offered up to $5,000 of legal services to the winners. Real solutions were being created with real money as prizes, which in turn will create real jobs and startups.
Yes, there were heated discussions, people frustrated and some people did pull “all nighters." People went from hyperdrive into overdrive and then no drive back to hyperdrive. There were also times of laughter and cheering as they watched their ideas come to life.
The participants had great resources through out the weekend too. Cybera had installed 1GBps internet called CyberaNet at AcceleratorYYC. Cybera & Canarie also offered free cloud services for the weekend. Plus there were many mentors who stopped by through the weekend to offer support: Stephen King, Cullen Jennings, Brian Singh, and many others. Not to mention the free food, beer from Molson, and Red Bull.
“Having the advisors around was the best idea of the entire event. Having a bunch of them walk around, hearing what the group was doing and offering advice, sometimes contrary to each other, really helped my team explore the many possibilities of the project we were working on," said one participant from HackYYC. “Making us see the issue from a more commercialization, and marketability angle rather than just solving the core engineering problems of the project. In addition just getting to know them, and how they think about problems and the tech business was very interesting.”
The end result?
Photobomber: a social media solution set up to “photobomb” selfies and create a buzz over social media. This solution could be used to promote deals and be monetized.
The Ultimate Retail Experience: revolutionizing the retail shopping industry by improving the consumer experience using highly customizable interactive media platform.
Beer Flow: there is nothing worse than standing in long lines to get a beer at an amusement park, this integrated technology solution cuts down on wait times while incorporating promotions.
Twitter Unlock: hardware and software solution that unlocks a device with a tweet and reveals a free prize!
Ez-Car: an interactive car that comes to life using facial and voice recognition technology
Each team had viable solutions and the technologies could be applied across many different platforms and clients. Ultimately it took Critical Mass over 30 minutes to deliberate, it came down to choosing which solutions they could implement and use right away.
The good news? Critical Mass chose not one but two teams to go forward with. We look forward to seeing what comes out of the EZ-Car and Beer Flow solutions over the coming months.
“There was never any doubt that there was creative technical talent in the Calgary market. We were impressed by what the teams delivered and look forward to engaging the community more," noted Chris Gokiert, president of Critical Mass.
The next HackYYC event will be in March for the Charity App Challenge.