It was early on a Saturday morning. The premises of Virtusa seemed to be deserted, everyone (sensible people that they are) taking a break in the weekend. But in one specific place, there was still a sleepy buzz of excitement. This was HaXmas 2018, organized by the Rotaract club of IIT.
A Christmas themed hackathon (apparently Christmas came early this year), it seemed perfect in the chilly air-conditioned auditorium of Virtusa. Kicking off on Friday night, 14 dedicated teams coded through the night to prep up for the morning pitching rounds. So here’s what happened there;
Starting off the day with e-parking
First up at HaXmas was team parky, presenting their idea of a smart parking system. Parky addressed the issue of movie theatre parking lots not being included in the current parking apps. Their solution proposed an app that would allow you to not only reserve your movie tickets online but your parking space as well. Alerts would be sent to the security guard at the lot, who will oversee your reservation.
They found several questions directed towards them by the judges who were concerned about how the real-life situation would sync with the online system and how one security guard would be able to handle an entire parking lot. Overall, we can say the response was pretty frosty.
Next came Zeroth to take you around the country
Team Zeroth recognized at HaXmas the need for Sri Lankans to have a social network dedicated to travel enthusiasts, without having to resort to subpages on Facebook. “Journey” is essentially your digital travel diary. It has features to make your own Travel Diary, explore new places in 3D, follow travelers, add places you love and get trip suggestions.
After careful calculations of cost and revenue, they have goals for 150 days and 180 days all the way up to one year. They’re also aiming to make this a platform for tour planning. While the idea was well received, the judges questioned how and why initial users would use the system. They also wondered why their marketing plan depended heavily on the user base.
Mindlabz wants to give garbage the cold shoulder
We all agree that garbage and drain blocks are a part of our daily life that we simply hate. Mindlabz state that this problem is not being solved because there is no direct reporting system (other than trekking to the Municipal Council). Even if we somehow report it, there is no incentive for the authorities to take necessary action.
Fixgreen is aimed at community service enthusiasts and competitive minds and serves to make garbage reporting and collection a fun game. It connects regular users and authorities in one platform, and urge them to report and act on garbage collection via leaderboards and a reward system.
The judges pointed out that they had no plans to generate revenue. They also asked what the plan would be if the authorities, despite having an incentive, still chose to ignore reports.
Temta discussed the future of blood donations
Temta finds pressing issues when it comes to supplying blood in an emergency. What happens if the closest blood bank doesn’t have the blood type they’re looking for? There is no real time link between blood banks, hospitals, and donors. And that’s where SaveLIFE comes into play.
Acting as a link between the above-mentioned parties, SaveLIFE has a shared database of blood banks and hospitals. Low stocks of blood send alerts to registered donors. As an added bonus, it’ll store donor records digitally via fingerprint, instead of a physical blood donation card.
The judge panels’ first question was if they were willing to go to jail if the sensitive information they were handling got leaked. They also pointed out the fact that the concept was extremely large, too large. The fact that the marketing plan covered only up to selling and not implementation was also discussed.
De-vibe is a device to let deaf people chill out
Team Leviathan at HaXmas pointed out the fact that in certain emergencies (say a car crash) a deaf person would take critical seconds to react if they didn’t see the looming disaster. The existing devices for hearing impaired people do nothing to circumvent this particular issue.
What team leviathan proposes is a device integrated into our normal clothing accessories that will detect sound direction and volume. Their plan is to develop a cap for males and a hair band for females. Seeing as my friend Mahesh is already rooting for a headband I’m not quite sure how that will work out.
The judges questioned how costly this product would be, since using low-quality components could result in an error that could very well be fatal. The team’s comment that “this is not a complex product” was met with skepticism. The marketing plan, which was two weeks to gather data, develop and implement the product, also got a lot of icy stares directed their way.
LockRon is a not-so-new solution for travelers
Team senzron presented lockron, an IoT based smart locker system that provides the traveler with a more secure method to safely lock up their backpacks when they travel. A mobile app that connects to the cloud, senzron says this will save money and time, and let travelers enjoy their journeys unburdened by the pack on their back.
They took pride in the fact that they’re the first team to market such a product in Sri Lanka. However, the team also pitched this idea at the Yarl Geek Challenge. But immediately, after pitched this idea at YGC, another team took the stage and pitched a similar idea.
The judges, however, felt that instead they would be burdened by having to communicate with a mobile app, which is not something a traveler in the middle of a journey likes to be bothered by.
BlooWhale takes up the challenge with GasoMeter
Taking a novel approach to pitching, team bloowhale took one generic Ms. Khalifa as an example to demonstrate our problems with the gas supply in our kitchens. (For some obscure reason this garnered a lot of giggles from the audience which they ignored). BlooWhale pointed out that Ms. Khalifa would be at a dead end in the kitchen if the gas ran out when she was halfway through preparing a meal, and observed that many others get this problem on a regular basis.
So to end all the hassle faced by the public, they present GasoMeter, a device that connects to your gas supply and measures it, but provides weekly, monthly and annual reports, facilities to order online, and online support. Their aim is to market this product and use it as a stepping stone to build smart kitchens by 2040.
The judges felt that they were planning to spend too much on advertising and that giving the app a small price would be more beneficial. They also felt that BlooWhale was not thinking about their business advantage.
Team HackEve wants to thaw our hearts
SMILE was a web system introduced by this team in order to build a community and organize charity events. They aim to make the world a better place by connecting individuals willing to dedicate their time to help the less fortunate. Their site comprises of features like event planning, and also integrate emotional videos from successful projects to motivate future project planners as well.
While overall the idea deserves credit, their revenue plans seemed lacking. Their marketing plans, like many other teams, also seemed to rely too much on the user base.
Give hand aims to give a hand to the right people
Sri Lankan families traditionally are people who donate to worthy charities and orphanages at least a few times in their lifetimes to help the less fortunate. Unfortunately, due to the lack of communication, we find that most of the time these donations go towards a select few well-known places, and even then that it’s usually the same thing. This leads to waste of common resources.
Give Hand aims to overcome this by connecting orphanages across the country to a system they share with potential donators. Orphanages can register to the system and update a list of needed resources and materials. Donators can also register and express their interest in donating items to orphanages.
Putting a flaming stop to deforestation
Next up at HaXmas was team firewire, aiming to combat the problem of the deforestation of the Wwilpattu reservation. Deforestation is a major problem in the current world, firewire states. The dwindling reservations threaten to take away the few existing places where wildlife is preserved in our country. Their solution? A game based on this disaster, playable on both Android phones and PC.
The game consists of two stages, one being attacking stage where you shoot all the loggers trying to cut down the trees. I’m sure most of us had in mind a more diplomatic solution, but we’ll just have to assume that players won’t also be influenced to use firearms in real life. Phase two was the replanting stage, where you take steps to restore the flora by replanting trees.
The judges questioned how they would be able to strongly convey the right message through a video game, which most people play for entertainment, not educational purposes. They also questioned what kind of capital cost the team was looking at.
Atenza’s winter wonderland
Winter Wonderland is a software designed to analyze student behavior and predict future behavioral patterns. Atenza believes that our country’s fast-growing suicide and crime rates, as well as low discipline, are due to the fact that children are influenced at a young age. They believe by implementing winter wonderland at primary schools across the country we can notice changing behavioral patterns with negative influences and take necessary measures.
The judges at HaXmas noted that this was a very big concept, and displayed concern over whether the team had an idea where to start, the expenditures, and the resources needed? They also questioned what method they would use to analyze the gathered data and how they would use it to predict future patterns.
Team cre8 wants to listen n dash
Inspired by their visit to the blind school, this team came up with a very different product. They talked to the kids there, and what they realized was that the students wanted to play games. Digital games, which they were missing out on. And thus, listen n’ dash was born, a 3D audio based endless runner game with IoT hand support.
It’s worth noting that this game has many similarities to the 2012 game Run, Zombies, Run, but that’s what makes it perfect for this purpose. They aim to market it through game vendors and distributors, as well as banking on good reviews from game critics.
Kode-aid wants to spark the change
Team code aid at HaXmas also identified the unbalanced donations given in Sri Lanka. They also pointed out that the same is true of blood donations. They state donations are always given to the known places, not places in need. Their system, targeted at donators, people in need, blood banks and charities aim to connect everyone and make sure all donations go towards those who need them.
The judges noted that the team used some technology and implemented features that are superb, but also felt that their marketing budget was too little for a successful startup.
Last but not least, Prarthana
Presented by the final team of HaXmas, Prarthana is a two function app that organizes blood and organ donations across the country. The two main functions specified are ‘requests to donate’ and ‘request for donations’. They aim for live resources organ-wise, which means organs a person can donate while they are still alive.
Their idea is to have requests to donate approved by volunteering doctors. Donors and doctors will have a level system as an incentive to be active. They plan to be a non-profit oriented business as well, generating revenue through advertisements and donations.
The judges considered this a bright idea but wondered how they plan to implement it. They also pointed out that their marketing plan, which relied on users, would be curbed as doctors are legally obliged to be neutral.
And away the HaXmas sleigh went
With that, the pitching was officially done and the judges spent 10 painful minutes deliberating who would be the winners. And the final results at HaXmas were as follows;
- Runners-up: Team Mindlabz
- Winner: Team Zeroth
The winning teams were awarded their certificates and the other teams soon received certificates of participation for their efforts as well. Then it was time for some important sessions by some important people.
Anish Wijesinghe of Motion Miracles spoke first, about how life is a game. He shared his story with the audience, how he started getting into games when he was 13 years old, and the problems he faced on his journey to where he is now. He urged the contestants to think commercially at first, then get to the fun stuff.
He was followed by Bhanuka Harischandra, CEO of Surge, who gave several tips to help the contestants in future startups. He pointed out that while everyone presented solutions to problems, not everyone understood their problem, or whether the said problem actually needed a solution.
He also explained the concept of pre-selling and encouraged everyone to use it as a strategy. He concluded by telling everyone to understand (or spend time trying to understand) your business.
And then, with a vote of thanks given by Sanidu Jayasinghe, HaXmas 2018 drew to a close, leaving the contestants with a lot of thoughts to ponder.