Entrepreneurial Challenge by Qualcomm

(from left)Michelle, Aieswarya, Ankush, Ho-Wei, Long

Not getting enough of hacking after LA Hacks, several friends and I tackled another sleepless weekend at Rady School of Management, UCSD. This hackathon had a little twist: the business element. Not only did the product have to fit into the “gamification” theme, it also had to be marketable.

The night before, Ankush A., Aieswarya M., Michelle W., and I met briefly to discuss what we wanted to do for this hackathon. We had a hard time wrapping our head around the concept of gamification, a problem-solving methodology that uses game mentality and mechanics to improve users engagement. Fitness was the first field we ruled out, since we did not want to be part of the already exhausted market of thousands of “gamified” fitness applications.

I was first to pitch a potential idea; I called it “The Social Pole”. The idea was to create a platform that allowed users to anonymously post their troubling questions, provide options, and other users could vote on what they think would be most fitting. The platform would keep track of the top voters and put them on a ranking system. The way to monetize this model was to collect and sell users’ data (i.e what type of users vote on what type of questions). This was a $450,000 idea… only a little bit late.

We thought “The Social Pole” was a shaky idea, so we decided to run with Michelle’s “coupon” idea. Her idea was to crowdsource coupons. Often time, shoppers fail to take advantage of “Spend $100 to get 20% off” type of coupon because they do not want to spend the entire $100 to be eligible. If there was a platform to connect 2 people whose reservation price for their shopping trip was $50 each, they could take advantage of the coupon. For this model, ads was an obvious revenue stream.

On Friday May 2nd, the four of us skipped our classes to join other teams at the beautiful Rady school for 24 hours of hacking. A representative from Qualcomm, Mr. John W Noerenberg II, spoke to the participants about “gamification” and how it contributed to the community.

Mr. Noerenberg from Qualcomm giving the opening keynote

Shortly after, we started to implement an iOS application that would mock up our coupon-crowsourcing concept. The application had a very raw UI, since most of us were not yet familiar with Objective-C and iOS programming.

It had 2 tabs: one for displaying a list of available coupons, one for displaying a list of “starred” coupons that users had expressed interest in. As soon as a user has expressed interest in a particular coupon, his/her unique identifier would be added to a priority queue. The top 2 elements on the queue would be “paired up” and notfied. This required us to have some sort of backend infrastructure to implement the above task. This was when one of our friends, Ho-Wei K. came in and helped us set up a Rails server to handle the backend while we had to leave for an hour to take our Digital System Design midterm…

Although the application did not have the most elegant UI and most complex backend infrastructure, the team and I were very satisfied with what we learned; I felt more confident programming in Objective-C and using XCode. In addition, we also put thoughts into how market the product as though it was to be a real-world project. After 24 hours of development, we gathered again the next afternoon for the presentation. We were the first to present to the judges and other developers. It was quite casual since the judges simply stopped by our work station and listened to what we had to say. It was also my first time presenting barefoot…

The judges at the after-party at HomePlate Burger

Having a balanced split of effort between technical and business development was most likely what got us the 2nd place. We came in with a clear plan of what we wanted to achieve; we performed well as a team; and we preserved throughout the competition.

Shortly after the hackathon, Ankush and I learned about the RECESS Pitch Competition and decided to participate to improve our pitching skill. We learned how tedious video production was and we would definitely prefer pitching in person!

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