Rather than chasing investment, if you have an idea for a meaningful enterprise technical tool, you should instead be chasing customers. That’s the goal of the first Philly Enterprise Hackathon, which puts $125,000 in grants and prizes on the table in a two week series of challenges that kicked off this week.
Submissions are due April 19. Get all the details here.
The effort comes from a group at Safeguard Scientifics, NextDocs and Chariot Solutions.
First, the basics, as announced yesterday at the Emerging Technologies for the Enterprise conference and appears on the website:
- Enterprises will present their “problems” and challenge the developers to come up with a viable solution. Hacking will occur over a two and half week period – with scheduled meet-ups in between.
- Five finalists per track will be selected from all registered teams
- A demo night – with a judging panel will take place following Philly Tech Week on May 1
- A winner and a runner up from each track will be selected
- The two winners in Life Sciences and Infrastructure will each receive $50,000, and the winner in Water & Utilities will receive $25,000 along with incubation at VentureF0rth in Callowhill for a month.
The challenges are sponsored by likely adopters of the technologies, including Teva, Bentley and Ben Franklin Technology Partners/SEP, said Satwik Seshasai, the CTO at NextDocs and co-organizer of the effort.
“So instead of raising capital, you’re raising customers,” said Seshasai, who became CTO of the company this week. Last year he joined the firm after a decade with IBM in Boston.
The effort was first announced at Phorum last month.
As a challenge, the effort is an interesting one. But it seems like a strange misappropriation of the ‘hackathon’ word that describes day-long or weekend coding crunches and has come to wider awareness in recent years around a civic-mindedness and open data.
That’s something that Seshasai admits from the start of his conversation with Technically Philly in the newsroom late last night.
“We fumbled the use of the word hackathon,” he said in his calm and precise way, dressed in a neatly-pressed maroon button-up.
Though he says he underestimated the weight of the hackathon word to a technology community in referring to a single, specific event, he defends its relevance: build software in a time-crunch with ideas from subject-matter experts that have real-world application.
That is the beginning of how the United States can remain relevant in technology in the future, as technical skill becomes more commodotized globally, said the Bucks County native.
And he thinks this is the start of something big
“My dream for this is that we built the next Y-Combinator,” he said. “Rather than get an investor like Marc Andresson excited, you get real customers interested and have them put skin in the game.”
In their challenges, Bentley Systems wants you to build an Instagram filter for finding cracks in physical infrastructure and BFTP wants you to find a better mobile app for testing water quality.
“That is bringing industry knowledge to technology,” Seshai. “That’s apps that have a purpose and we want to engage with people who want to do that work.’