TechSquare Labs review of HackGT. So, this weekend I had a chance to take my newly honed Code Academy skills down to Georgia Tech and watch in amazement as a group of students at Georgia Tech played host to 800+ hackers from 40 different universities. As I have shared over the last year all of this is Adam Ghetti’s fault. Not really but I am clearly in deep technical waters (I wonder if he thought I would do it). A new partner, new coding skills, and a new focus on technical founders all lead me to HackGT.
The event started on Friday at 5PM with an opening ceremony on campus in the Ferst Center. I can’t bullshit you, after running around town and raising money from sponsors I was nervous “will anyone show up”. I kept having this vision of a party, DJ bumping, and I’m the only person there, why, because Paul Judge scared the hell out of me. Then I turn the corner on campus and a line was already forming for registration (sigh of relief) – not only did people come – a ton of people came.
The student team at HackGT did an amazing job with the opening ceremony. They were confident, in control, even when all the buses got stuck in Music Midtown. To fill the time one of the directors started beatboxing and a Rap contest broke out (I threw in a $100 prize). At that moment I said to myself, I don’t care if anyone can code they are rapping, did you hear me they are rapping.
Next up everyone moved over to the Klaus Building and got settled in for two full nights of building, hacking, and dream chasing. As I walked around the building I couldn’t stop thinking – this is exactly what TechSquare Labs is all about. Technical founders creating something from nothing.
I didn’t go over Saturday during the day, that is my kids soccerthon. I did head back over on Sunday morning for the Expo and the Closing Ceremonies, Paul Judge and TechSquare Labs was giving away a $50,000 first place prize and I didn’t want to miss it. Over 100 teams presented during the Expo and I was blown away by what they built in a single weekend. One take away I had was, with all the tools available now, a good coder can make any product look amazing even if the idea is terrible.
Following the expo a group of sponsor judges selected the Top 10 that would present on stage at the closing ceremonies. The top 10 included a hologram machine that brought Tupac back to life, a CPR machine to save 68% of us, a framework as a service to make coding easier, a file syncing service built on ONEDrive (who knew Microsoft had a storage offering), an app that lets you pretend you are popular when you don’t have friends, a decision engine to help you make life choices, an app that detects your mood and takes you to a bar, technology to bring sign language to your phone, a web app that gamifies recommendations, and lastly analytics for android users.
My personal favorite was of course the hologram machine, come on, they brought Tupac to life right on stage, it was fire. In fairness what do you do with that? No idea. But it was amazing they built that in a weekend. The winning team was from PickMeUp. They had a demo, but really what they had was the best “big idea”. Can we add emotional intelligence to our technology? Will our phones and apps know our “mood” in the future – once I saw it, I have to admit I said “yes”. On top of that the team had all kinds of swag. Congrats to the HackGT team, congrats to Georgia Tech, congrats to the hackers, congrats to the Atlanta community, and lastly congrats to the dude in American flag pants that is holding that big check. I learned a ton, and I truly appreciate being a small part of this amazing event.