Hackathons / Roundups / Small businesses

Visa and the U.S. Small Business Administration awarded $60K in cash prizes at their joint hackathon

The two organizations hosted their second annual hackathon over the weekend, this time focused on developers building app-based solutions that will help small businesses prepare and recover from major natural disasters.

SnapShot received $25, 000 for their work at the Visa and SBA annual hackathon. Photo by Joy Asico, AP Images for Visa.
Updated on 05/07/2019 at 9:42 a.m.

For a second year in a row, Visa and the U.S. Small Business Administration teamed up to host a hackathon to kick off #SmallBusinessWeek, taking place May 5-11.

The event took place on Sunday, May 5, at the Inclusive Innovation Incubator in Washington, D.C. Entrepreneurs, designers and developers from all over the U.S. began their hacking on Friday, May 3, and concluded for presentations on Sunday morning. Of the teams formed, 27 presented their final solutions to a panel of judges that included this reporter (me), Visa VP of Global Small Business Nate Smith, Three Brothers Bakery President Janice Jucker and SBA CIO Maria Roat.

The apps focused on solutions that will help small businesses prepare and recover from major natural disasters like hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes.

David Simon, Visa’s global head of small and medium enterprises, and Chris Pilkerton, Small Business Association’s acting administrator, announced the final awards.

Here are this year’s winners:

  • First place receiving $25,000: SnapShot, an app-based solution using bookkeeping APIs to help small businesses catalog their assets before a disaster, and then uses AI-based damage detection software to assess the value of damages through mobile photos.
  • Second place receiving $15,000: Disaster Recovery Score, this app solution digitally consolidates forms and disaster resources when filing for loans and claims. The app provided a disaster readiness score to determine a small businesses’s ability to recover from a natural disaster.
  • Third place receiving $10,000: Route7, an app using Amazon virtual assistant Alexa’s voice assistance and a visual recognition software to speed up the pre and post-inventory process.
  • Visa API Challenge Winner receiving $5,000: Disaster Recovery Score
  • API Winner receiving $5,000: SBAssist, a web platform that maps small businesses affected by federally and state declared disasters, giving users the ability to contribute to those businesses directly and receive social badges.

Simon told that Visa intends to continue this partnership with SBA to host the hackathon annually. He said the hackathon grew from the first event last year with 12 teams, to the 27 who presented this year.

“I think we learn something each time,” Simon said. “I think the most important thing to do is listen. It’s about what we learn and how we apply that. We also learned that the format needs to continue to evolve.”

With this year’s hackathon, Simon said the topic was more specific, compared to last year’s hackathon where teams didn’t have a specific target. The disaster recovery topic stemmed from Jucker and her experience bringing her company back from a natural disaster after her restaurant Three Brothers Bakery in Houston was flooded during Hurricane Harvey. Jucker told us that it took 17 days to reopen the bakery and at that time, they only had a shelf of baked goods available.

Ashwin Kumar and Sarah Han, both West Coast residents, told that they formed their team a few weeks prior to the hackathon and traveled to the District to ultimately win the grand prize with SnapShot. Han works in Los Angeles as a software engineer on web development, and Kumar works as a product manager in San Francisco at an AI startup. Both are developers with a few years of experience participating in hackathons.

“That’s how I learned how to code, just basically going to hackathons and doing it through that,” Kumar said. “I win sometimes, and I don’t win sometimes, but I think either way it’s just a great way to kind of develop new technologies, look at a problem that maybe we don’t generally think about in our own lives, and have a challenge and constraints and be like alright, for one weekend, we’re going to focus on this.”

Kumar and Han said they see themselves working together to flush out SnapShot’s business model to scale the company beyond this hackathon experience. Further, Simon said Visa and SBA will continue to work with the winning companies to help nurture their ideas further.

Companies: U.S. Small Business Administration

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