AT&T Mobile App Hackathon – SXSW Recap
The AT&T Mobile App Hackathon at SXSW 2012, which was insanity packaged in the form of a “conference,” was the first time that the AT&T Developer Program had held a hackathon during SXSW. Even with the torrential rain, traffic accidents and heavy competition, the AT&T Hackathon pulled through. The developers pumped out some awesome app designs for Lance Briggs & Viva Vision as well as our very own AT&T mHealth APIs. To top it off, AT&T Mobile App Hackathons was the top tweeted panel/event for SXSW Interactive, according to Radian6.
The hackathon was designed to focus on UI so that the developers could pop in and out of the room as needed because we knew that there would be competing talks and sessions vying for the attention of the developers at SXSW. Additionally, we offered up two different and very large cash prize pools, for a total of $46k, to really draw in the developer crowd: Lance Briggs and mHealth APIs.
With so many competing events at SXSW, we knew we had to go big with a celebrity name so we had Joe Tafoya and Kerry Carter of Viva Vision pull in Lance Briggs of the Chicago Bears to pitch his idea for an app. Joe and Kerry kicked off the event with a series of questions that really showed the softer, more gentler side of Lance that we knew existed, but never saw on TV. Lance’s answers were so heart-felt that after his moving talk, a number of the developers came up to thank him for such a stirring talk and vowed to create an awesome app for him.
For the mHealth APi prize track, we partnered up with Health2.0 to drive developers interested in health to the hackathon. Health 2.0 put JL Neptune up to speak on why we needed to build more health apps and boy did he get the crowd jumping. Everyone was practically at the edge of their seats and super excited about the possibilities of mhealth mobile apps by the time JL was finished. Needless to say, we hope to have JL back at future events and pitching mHealth APIs to other developers!
All told around 150+ developers showed up and pumped out 12 apps over the course of the two days for both the Lance Briggs and AT&T mHealth API prize tracks and they did not disappoint. Here are the apps in no particular order:
- BLUE 42
- The Berger
- Team Discoverful FitPet: Created a virtual pet to inspire people get out and exercise. Real step data would be used to effect the relative health of a cartoon dog. Depending on your activity, the digital puppy on your mobile phone could appear happy, sad, distracted or even dead. [1st Place – Cloud Track / 1st Place – mHealth Track – Robert Mao and Haitao Li]
- Team Moves.US: A twitter game where players earned points by connecting their twitter accounts via mobile phones and QR codes and collecting steps with their phone’s accelerometer. The more steps and social connections made, the higher a player’s score. [2nd Place – mHealth Track – Tayna Reis, Fred Trotter, & Ashish Patel]
- Team Boogie Up: An app that incentivises positive behavioral change and built Lance’s brand beyond the market of football. The app helped fanatics design a healthy life “just like Lance” by gamifying small activities endorsed by the football star himself. Users could replicate Lance’s breakfast to bicep work out. The team used the AT&T mHealth API and has plans to integrate the fitbit as well as other Lance Briggs products [1st Place – Sports Track]
- Briggs for Kids: Developed an app that allowed existing Briggs 4 Kidz community members (as well as Lance Briggs himself) to share and up-vote small acts of health and community involvement. [2nd Place – Sports Track]
- Team Lance Briggs Recipes: Leveraged Lance’s love of cooking and allowed him to share recipes with his fans via mobile devices. The app also allowed fans to share their own recipes and provide feedback for the community. [3rd Place – Sports Track]
- Team Real Heroes: Developed an iPad app that allowed fans to capture inspiring stories that they could share with Lance Briggs and other Lance Briggs fans. Using the idea of the internet’s “infinite screen,” the app let fans build a collaborative comic-book-style collection of photos and videos of small heroic acts. [4st Place – Sports Track]
- Team Everyday Heroes: Wanted to catalyze community involvement around emerging community events. The app allowed community members to vote on and geolocate upcoming events as well as awarded active community members with badges and points.
- Team Guardian Trace: Built a personal security app that allowed users to automatically send a text message of their last known location if they fail to check-in after a set period of time. Similar to a house alarm or a dead-man’s pedal, the absence of user involvement generates an alarm to a select social network. The app was designed to empower users to get out and exercise in their local neighborhoods by helping them feel safe.
- Team TheraBit: Used the profiling data from smartphone sensors to determine if a user was correctly performing an exercise. Interesting features included the ability for popular athletes or clinicians to upload exercise or rehabilitation techniques that could be remotely validated. The method used to validate motion did not require a user to hold the phone at a particular point on their body.
Here is also a quick list of media from the event:
Even with such a good turn out, media coverage and developer/Lance bonding, the event couldn’t have happened without serious hustling by all involved. If there was ever a manager’s worst nightmare, this was the event. Here is a short list of what went wrong behind the scenes:
- Rain that caused traffic that caused accidents that cause a lot of people to be late on Friday and Saturday
- Long registration lines and confusing registration rules
- Our event wasn’t listed in the official SXSW guide
- Information booths not knowing the location of our room
- Information booths not knowing the location of our room not being capable of finding “meeting room 2” on their own maps
- Information booths DIRECTING OUR DEVELOPERS TO THE COMPETING HACKATHON
- Attendees headed to the meeting rooms on the second floor because the meeting rooms are all up there except for room
I have to say, reading the above list still makes me see red. Through all of this, I have to commend specific people that really helped make the event go smoother:
- Ben Nelson – For keeping the event running smoothly and ensuring we kept on schedule
- Jessie Baker – For so effortlessly orchrastrating the media and PR
- Andrea Morton – For hustling by pulling in developers and getting Bloomberg into the room
- Pete Rembiszewski – For hustling to make sure the information booths had the right information when we found out they were sending our developers to a competing hackathon
- Elle Taberes & Lauren Hasson (BottleRocketapps.com) – For working the door and hustling to get the developers into the hackathon
- Brian Hutchinson – For pulling together so many different pieces of the base logistics related to the greater AT&T presence at SXSW in addition to the hackathon
So what did we learn from this SXSW? A whole heck of a lot. Tweet at me if you want to know more 😉 http://www.twitter.com/alex_donn. In short, I love SXSW because you need guerilla marketing tactics to break through the noise — It’s almost like real life Minecraft. So if you plan on hosting an event at SXSW next year, get ready to Macgyver the situation and fix that nuclear reactor with only a paper clip, gum and a thumb tack. Here are my quick tips for pulling off a successful SXSW event :
- Hire a Promotions Crew – Hire people to tell attendees where your event is, encourage tweeting and walk the attendees over to your event. With so much going on, people are always looking for the next hottest thing and if you can take the time to guide them, they will come.
- Only The Paranoid Survive – The hat tip here is to Andy Grove. With 20k attendees at SXSWi, it is difficult to have your event stand out of the crowd, so go for broke! Better yet, understand the customer and then figure out your strategy. Finally, pack three sets of everything and make sure you have a backup to the backup plan.
- It Is All About Social Media – FTW! Lance, Joe and Kerry, this is for you! Just read this report by Radian6 and here is the image to look for: