“LAN Hack 2015”, the hackathon we spoke about last week, was held at the YAMU Office over the weekend. It was the quintessential small hackathon: a total of 8 teams registered and spent 24 hours coming up with what they felt was the next big startup while the Takas.lk team went about coaching them and helping them battle-test their pitches.
Sunday, the 10th of May, was when the action happened: the teams were brought up to pitch to a panel of judges, venture capitalists who would then decide where the team was good enough to get into the Lankan Angel Network’s VentureEngine program. Each team was given 5 minutes to present their idea and application and a further 5 minutes for a Q&A session.
The first team pitched an online platform for a community to buy and sell products based on a geographic location, melding classifieds with elements of targeted, location-based marketing. Essentially the community within a certain locale provides prices for a product within that area.
Next up we have an individual presenter, Kaveen Rodrigo, creator of the (in)famous SiripalaBot on Twitter. His product, WiseMan Scanner, helps consumers make better decisions when buying products. You basically scan in the item’s barcode and are presented with all details related to it including product reviews and user feedback. You are also notified if there are better products in the market; it will, according to its creator, also allow you to track a product to a radius near you.
The third team was pitching an IPG (Internet Payment Gateway). The problem, they explain, was that implementing such a gateway is a costly affair and some tech startups lack the funding to do so. Implementing multiple payment methods such as Visa/Mastercard and Amex need to be done separately and thus there’s a high cost involved. Then again, there are affordable services out there as well, but they lack an impressive UX and UI. Their solution: provide an affordable payment gateway system that also looks and feels easy to use.
Next up is another individual presenter, Rehan Fernando. His idea was a complaints channel that allows customers to lodge feedback to companies. The judges threw a couple of curveballs at the idea but wished him luck.
Next up was team WhileLoop showcasing their app iMetYou. The app basically allows you to capture an image, add a description to is, and then share it online, without competing. Reminds us a lot of, well, Instagram, or Facebook, or Flickr, or any of the other photosharing services out there.
Next up we have a team called DWWD (Do What We Did). Its basic premise is to map out your travels, creating a shareable trail of places to go and people to see. Aimed at anyone who loves to travel, the app will list down all the activities your friends have done in a particular location and enable them to share their journey across social media. Mind you, we didn’t see an app, but rather, a fleshed-out concept pitch with ideas for scale throughout a decade.
The next team presented an app called Izone.lk. The premise of it is to promote products and services without actually accessing the internet. Simply install the app on your smartphone, place an advertisement for a product you wish to sell and the app will do the rest – via text messages.
After that, we saw a team presenting an e-Learning platform with online audio/video content: basically the whole classroom experience, online. The app is called MK (Mortal Kombat reference? Yes/No?). As for usage terms, the user only has to pay for the content he/she accesses, with user ratings and live lecture facilities built in. A few kinks to work out, but it was quite a nice concept.
The next team presented a social network where you brag about products that you have and also a place to share your favorite products and also to promote them. The concept revolves around involving customers actively in promoting products. We’re not entirely sure how this will work out, but there’s no denying plenty of people already do love to brag about their stuff.
The last team for the day was Gigantes, who demoed a platform for those about to tie the knot – a comprehensive wedding planning community, with a platform where buyers can browse for services such as venues, prices, dresses etc. the community is open and all services can be managed from one site.
It’s interesting to note that almost all of what was demoed here, idea-wise, was very much part of the slow but incremental growth in maturity we’ve been seeing at hackathons here over the years.
Perhaps the inspiration has improved, too. On the first day, Micheal Moonesinghe, CEO of Glover Daniels Research Solutions, stood up and delivered a rousing but sensible speech on things like establishing product identity, pricing, competition well and so on. But even better was this snippet, extracted from his speech:
“I’ve been headhunting for 25 years, and I’ve seen on thing: serial entrepreneurs never describe themselves as entrepreneurs. Whenever I see the words “serial entrepreneur” I laugh: it just means you’re a serial failure. Entrepreneurship is a spirit, not a title. It’s what gets you out of bed in the morning. And don’t think you have to know everything to do it – I don’t even have A/Ls, and yet here I am. The key to success is to surround yourself with talented, positive people and work together towards that horizon.”