Achievement Unlocked: Winning An API Prize At The World’s Largest Hackathon

I’ve spent the entire weekend – from Friday night at 6pm up until yesterday,  Sunday, at 11pm mostly hacking at the Launch Hackathon, the World’s Largest Hackathon to date!!!! This hackathon had over 1000 vetted builders – developers and designers, so it was an incredible experience just to be surrounded by such amazing people. The projects that I saw just by talking to people and seeing the final presentation really blew me away. People built just incredible things in a mere 48 hours – just check out the quality of these 148 projects submitted!

While most teams seemed to be closer to 4 people, my team was just me and my partner in crime Nick O’Neill. So in a hackathon where most teams were double our size and built incredibly great-looking and feature-rich applications, we were shocked and excited when we learned that we won the Parse API prize, which includes a lunch at Facebook HQ!!!!!! I first used Parse a few weeks ago and instantly fell in love. It’s going to be very hard to convince me to go back to building my own Rails API as a back-end for my iOS apps.

Anyway, back to our team. While we couldn’t compete with the incredibly feature-rich applications that everyone else was building, we decided to compete by creating something very simple and easy to use, yet powerful at the same time.

Nick organized a small dinner conference a few nights ago, and plans to organize many more events. He’s already planning to build tools to really help make the event experience a lot more seamless and incredible for both the attendees and the event organizers. I’m also interested in organizing events, but am terrified at the prospect of event planning with currently available tools!

So while our vision is massive and cannot be accomplished in just 48 hours, we decided to start by building an app to streamline the event check-in process for the event organizers and volunteers.

Introducing Holler Check-in…

Adding Walk-In’s

They’re every event-organizers worst nightmare, yet could be one of the biggest revenue generators for the event – the late-bird walk-ins! We’ve integrated Stripe to make it easy to charge credit cards. And, of course, the rest of the information – name, company, email, is saved to our Parse data store.

In the future, we’re like to integrate the Constant Contact API to get all the information we need on an attendee just from their email address to make the registration process even more simple! We currently get the images of the attendees via the Gravatar API.

photo 2

Detecting Nearby Attendees

One of the most annoying thing when you walk up to register for the event is that the event organizer has to ask you for your name, possibly even your ID, and then search for you. They might not get your name fully right, so the process might take a minute or two, which really adds up over all attendees and of course, is the first experience each attendee has to go through.

I’ve been fascinated by the new iOS7 iBeacon technology, and thought it would provide a perfect solution to the finding the attendee process. I created a very simple attendee app that, when downloaded, turns the attendee into a walking iBeacon.

The admin iPad app is listening for the iBeacon associated with each attendee’s device. So as the organized attendee walks up to the even registration area, with the event app already installed, the admin app detects them and moves the attendee up to the “nearby” section at the top of the attendee list, making it very easy for the event organizer to recognize them by their picture and know who they are immediately. Since the attendee app will have some kind of login authentication process, no ID checking is required:

photo (1)

Printing Badges

Event organizers spend tons of money on printing name badges. However, a lot of attendees might not even show up, and last-minute attendees could be added – meaning the badges printed the week or so before the event will be wasted (since not every one will show up) and not enough (since the newest registrants, especially the walk-ups, won’t get one). So we thought it would be cool to be able to print the badges as part of the registration process!

Nick went to Office Depot and got a sample name tag printer that supports wireless printing. He then went ahead, and got our app to actually print the badges!!!!

So the new seamless check-in process is as easy as:

  1. Check-in
  2. Slide
  3. Print

photo (2)

And voilà! you got yourself a name tag!


More To Come!

For each attendee, we added a More button, where the organizer can add notes, edit food references, update the attendee’s profile, and more! We haven’t fully built out the functionality of this, but imagine the possibilities!

Event organizers will be able to track attendee preferences across all of their events! This personalization of events will create a much better event experience for both the attendees and the organizers!

photo 3

That is it!! We focused on simplicity, and we really feel like we achieved it. I can’t wait to keep playing with the newest technology to really re-think the event experience. This is going to be fun!

P.S. I also had my first encounter with a 3D printer at the Launch Hackathon. Capital One Labs was printing out these really fun keychains on their MakerBot (I want one!!) 🙂


Enjoy the article? Join over 20,000+ Swift developers and enthusiasts who get my weekly updates.