Monday, June 4, 2012

Inaugural Sacramento Hackathon and The Birth of Bikepool

About a week or so ago a coworker*, Mike, approached me with an invitation.
A local tech-coworking space, Hacker Lab, was organizing a Hackathon (that is a competitive development weekend where designers, programmers and idea people whip up a web or mobile application). Individuals come with ideas and skills and form teams to hack out a show-able product in just two short days. Mike invited me to join his team as a designer and I was honored.

*as you may recall I work at a co-working space, The Urban Hive; meaning I work in the same building with lots of creatives, entrepreneurs and professionals who have nothing to do with my actual job or company. However, being as our space is collaborative, lots of partnerships spring up. For instance, Mike, the gentlemen who invited me to the Hackathon, co-owns isuggest (a mobile customer feedback application), with my boss, Matt Brickley, the founder of Fibers.com.

The Idea

On Friday I met with Mike and another developer, Matt Scifo and we brainstormed ideas. They suggested doing something location based, so I thought of an app to matched bike commuters so they could bike to work in groups. It's much safer to ride with more people and it's easier to take the lane and make left-hand turns. Ergo, an app that showed where people were biking in real time, suggested the safest routes to work based on user generated data and allowed for group ride planning. As a bike commuter I know this would be invaluable for navigating rush hour on two wheels. More importantly, the concept was do-able in a weekend!

There's lots of evidence to support the safety in numbers theory; the more bikers on the road the safer it is to bike. In Finland when cycling trips went up by 72%, bike fatalities decreased by 75%. Similar statistical relations have been recorded in New York, Portland, Denmark and Germany. 

The developers liked it.

The Team

I recruited another coworker and friend, Nichole Payne as another designer and we were off to the Hackathon!

Here's the team and our roles (I made the graphic):

The Hackathon

The Hackathon started Saturday and we planned, coded and designed from around 3 to 11 that night, and all day Sunday until the end of the competition at 6 p.m. The plan was to get something bare-bones but functional and pretty to show the judges. One of the competition requirements was that nothing could be done before the Hackathon started. So we all worked all weekend to bring this thing together.

We built the application in HTML5, so it could be accessed from any mobile device via the web browser. It's not really ready for the public yet, but we did get the app to function enough to present on Sunday night - and it functioned beautifully.


I introduced the problem and our proposed solution through Bikepool. Mike pulled the app up on his phone, which was plugged into a projector, and walked the judges and audience through the Bikepool experience.

You pull the app up on your phone, log in through facebook, start a new route and find other cyclists on the path. The route it one color for your personal route and another for the bikepool you'll be joining, there are marking for your meet point and your exit point. If you can't find a route that suits your needs you can start a new one and send it out to other bikepoolers to join you!
We had three minutes to present and that's all it took to clench 2nd place. The competition was fierce and I don't feel bad at all coming in second to Radaaar, a location based file sharing app with a killer presentation and sleek graphics. They totally deserved it!

I'm immensely proud of what we built in a weekend and overly excited about where this will go next. We're meeting soon to talk over the future of Bikepool, but I'm pretty sure the future is bright. 

Please follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook, we'll keep you up to date on all the Bikepool happenings. 

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