Ron Boger personal site + musings

Greylock Hackfest

I’m currently on the Caltrain to San Francisco, where I’ll be visiting my uncle for a road bike trip as well as friends competing in OutsideHacks and ChimeHack2 today. In the spirit of hackathons, I’ll write about the Greylock Hackfest, a hackathon I did 2 weeks ago.

My roommates and I competed in the Jun 27-28 Greylock hackathon. The hackfest brought together some of the most technically skilled interns in the Bay Area this summer, which was clearly showcased by the technical difficulty and creativity of all the finalists. We made NearMe, a location based professional/personal discovery application that helps you find who you don’t know but should. I think we all had better ideas, but needed to settle on a basic social application in interest of time.

The application itself was an iOS app which would theoretically find everyone in the same building as the user. There are obviously plenty of use cases, and some that we thought of inlcude:

  • At a tech event, where you’d like to meet people with similar interests in technology
  • An engineer searching for a designer with expertise in clean UI/UX
  • Finding friends of friends at a social gathering
  • etc, etc…. I’m not the biggest fan of appications that depend on the network effect to take off.

We used Swift for the frontend and Parse CloudCode for the backend and database. To throw a good hackathon, you need 3 things:

  • Venue
  • WiFi
  • Food

Greylock nailed the first two - They served quality food frequently in the spacious and open TellApart HQ. Regretabbly, every participant was limited to 5Mbps of WiFi, which lead to a lot of pair programming since only one of us already had Xcode installed.

If only we met the team who won honorable mention, who made a functional online Xcode editor.

Greylock also hosted many break activities, such as ping-pong, yoga, chocolate fondue, and even a carnival! Our team spent adequate time in every single one of these while hoping Xcode would download, which was likely why we did not have a fully functioning by the close of hacking.

###Pitching to judges and cool final projects

Teams had the opportunity to present three times: to other hackers (in a science fair type expo), to a distinguished panel of semi-finalist judges (all from Greylock portfolio companies, of course), and to a ridiculously distinguised panel of finalist judges (Greylock partners and accomplished CEOs). NearMe pitched in the “hacker’s alley” and semi-finalist rounds. We tried (and succeeded) in making everyone laugh, yet our product and idea were admittedly not at the same caliber of the finalists. Some of my favorite finalists included the aforementioned Xcode in the cloud, a smooth augmented reality home modeling application, a computer vision appication that enabled searching for objects in videos, and a hackable iOS keyboard that could call Ubers, send money, and give Yelp restaurant suggestions based on programmable commands.

Overall, the Greylock Hackfest was the most premiere hackathon I have participated in so far, and I can’t wait to do it again next year!

till next time,

ron