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Mobile Marketing

Recapping the Via.Me Hackathon

Robi Ganguly  //  June 19, 2012  //  8 min read
Picture of Robi Ganguly and Sky Kelsey posing in a Back to the Future cutout of Marty McFly and Doc

Team Apptentive Goes Hack to the Future

Team Apptentive had the honor of participating in the Via.Me Hackathon, “Hack to the Future” the weekend before WWDC as a technical sponsor. We had an absolute blast and were really impressed with just how many ideas were built over the course of 24 hours, with a significant number of teams staying up all night to finish their ideas.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of a Hackathon is seeing how many different ways people take the highlighted APIs and SDKs to build an MVP for demonstration. From the overall winner (Talk to the Future) to our favorite app that used Apptentive (Movies with Friends) the field was full of ideas we could see using on a regular basis.

Here’s a recap of the companies that presented, starting with the 3 main prize winners, along with our notes

Talk to the Future
*grand prize winner*

One of the most effective presentation styles is to know what you’re going to say, but not exactly how you’re going to say it. Talk to the Future’s creator demonstrated this magnificently as he asked questions of himself in front of the audience to make us all “feel” the problem.

“Why can’t I wake up in the morning?” he asked.

“Because I’m dumb in the morning. I forget what I’m supposed to remember,” he answered.

“Here’s my solution: Talk to the future. Leave yourself a message in the future”.

And then he demonstrated it and it worked. He typed in a message, set a time and his phone number and sure enough, the phone rang and played him his message. For further awesomeness, he showed us that the product engaged people to come back again to see what they’d done previously and to hear the messages and responses.

This was the hands down winner of the Hackathon and the presentation and demo were a huge reason as to why.

Both Twilio and were ecstatic about the use of their APIs in building this idea.

* prize*

Like hipsters? Want to make your friends’ pictures look silly? Use Instahipster to instantly take a photo and add props and text to the photo. Using the API to pull and post data was a thorough method of demonstrating their mastery of the API and they walked away with the prize.

Want to see it in action? It’s live at: and you might recognize one of the folks on the home page :)
*Crowd favorite*

This smart chrome extension made posting to a 1 click process from anywhere on the web. The demo was excellent, really showing how slow the current process is and how much this would improve upon that. I loved that the demo involved Fergus from the team – it was exactly the kind of spontaneous interaction that a Hackathon can bring about. This was the crowd favorite and rightly so.

Two hackers at Xhack2012 fall asleep

Dedicated Xhackers

The Rest of the Hacks:

32 AR

Used Augmented Reality glasses to recognize faces, in the hopes that a store could better identify the customer and bring up data about what they’ve purchased and other information in the company’s customer database. This was a really cool idea, but felt a bit out of place for the Hackathon.


Wingpin’s premise seemed to be that you could publish to social media from a payphone, avoiding the requirement of a smartphone. It also enabled you to use a payphone to update your flight status.

Wingpin was ambitious in its use of the various tech sponsors’ offerings: they made use of the api, Twilio, Heroku and MongoHQ

Viameme (mobile app developers with lean mean tech)

A meme generator for the iPad? This one was a no-brainer and it probably would have done better if they’d been able to get their API calls to work correctly.

In addition to Via.Me the team used Sincerely, which I think would really help round this app into something fun and shareable.


Viathem’s creator was inspired by her grandfather: she wants to make it easier for him to visually interact with information, since text-based information is more challenging. The idea was really intriguing and I hope the team keeps making progress. Unfortunately the demo didn’t show something complete enough for me to really see how it worked.


Marquee’s biggest accomplishment was to reverse engineer so that they could figure out Turntable’s data and put a new interface on the site. I loved that the team was very enthusiastic about the technical accomplishment of one night’s work, their enthusiasm was infectious and many of us in the crowd were giggling by the end of their preso.


Happenin creates a profile for an event, scrapes Eventbrite for the attendee list and then shows related tweets. The idea is to show everything from an event in one place. I really liked the concept around Happenin and think that they have something if they can turn it into a great mobile experience and can cover enough of the requisite data sources to satisfy most consumers’ needs.

Intern Lunch

Intern Lunch was a fun concept from a few interns who are new to the Bay Area who are in search of more peer networking. As someone who organized intern lunches at RealNetworks when I was there this idea grabbed me, but their execution seemed a bit limited. The crowd didn’t seem to really get how it worked.

They used the Github and Heroku services.

Picture of the demo of Movies with Friends which uses Apptentive's in-app feedback and ratings mechanismsMovies with Friends demos at Xhack

Movies with Friends

Movies with Friends is going to happen in some form, there’s no doubt about that. Using video capture, you can play charades with your friends across the world. Maybe this is better for tablets or connected TVs (maybe this is a Kinect hack) but without a doubt someone is going to get this idea right and be very popular. I hope this team executes on it.

This app really showed off the power of the Tokbox service and we were flattered that they used Apptentive from the outset to get feedback on their MVP.

Making super cool

It wasn’t clear if this product was actually built or was a series of mockups, but the basic gist was adding search, scheduling and tagging to posts was going to make even more useful to brands. I have to agree. webcam uploader

This made a ton of sense – using the API, the team built a webcam capture and upload tool on top of the Via.Me API. I think if the team expands upon this to certain interactions or use cases for webcam use (maybe focus on tablets?) there could be something there.


A fun use of the Tumblr api to create a tag based search for Tumblr, based on the premise that it’s hard to discover content across the network of Tumblr sites.


Remember the game Telephone from when we were kids? This team recreated it, on the web, powered by Twilio and it’s still live:

Go play it and tell me what you think in the comments. I would love to see this continue to evolve.

In addition to Twilio they used Heroku (obviously) and MongoDB


Fresh tag: hashtag based video chat. There were a lot of “concerns” that the interest areas of the hashtag would lead to adult content but it seemed like a really interesting way to use the Tokbox API to build a specific community. I could see networking conversations happening this way in the right execution, maybe somewhat like the burgeoning


A Japanese learning application that helps you learn characters/words by matching up characters with letters. This one was fun but it wasn’t clear if they had just built it over the weekend and it didn’t seem to use any of the highlighted technologies.


This was a really interesting project that the entire Apptentive team wanted to win something because the team clearly needed new laptops and were super capable. Over the course of the Hackathon they Used to catalog over 100,000 tweets related to health and mapped them to identify trends and potential outbreaks in health. They employed some NLP work to analyze the tweets and even used to post data/tweets. The prize was very well-deserved and we hope this goes live sometime soon.


In addition to being around to support the developers, the Zencoder team took it upon themselves to create a hack as well. Using, Tumblr and Heroku, they built an automatic tool to add a bit of class to your photos. Using Facial recognition they placed monocles and tophats on the people in the photo with surprising accuracy. My favorite feature: if the subject’s head was too close to the top of the photo, Fancygram didn’t add a tophat, so as not to have it be cut off.


Since Picplz is going away, Photohoarder is rising to fill the void: using the Dropbox API, Photohoarder is a one-click process to save all your photos before Picplz deletes the photos. This seems like an awesome tool for anyone with a Picplz account.

Why you should meet

This team wants to solve the problem of not knowing who people are based upon their FB photo. The idea is to share a video of yourself and to allow you to surf around based on people. It seemed like this team and the hashtag chat could have worked together on something.

Piece by piece

This app, which was built on and used Apptentive for feedback demonstrated some very impressive technology. The idea is to use augmented reality to make content, like photos, easy to manipulate like real objects. Creating a 3D alternate reality is really interesting, but the demo didn’t really drive home a use case that resonated.


Based on the idea that it’s hard to figure out what you’re hungry for, Hungry4 built an app that uses google geocoding to figure out where you are and then uses foodspotting to figure out visuals around you, so you can visually surf through options and then go based upon what strikes your fancy. I’d like to see this continue to get built, it seems like visual navigation around food could make a lot of sense.

Whew… that was a long list of hacks wasn’t it? Kudos to you if you made it this far – this is why Hackathons are so fun. Lots of ideas can be built in just 24 hours and some of them really deserve to become products to be tested and get feedback on. Speaking of which – we happily awarded 6 months of our Pro service to any of the participating hacks that launch in the app store. We’re looking forward to helping these ideas turn into successful products!

About Robi Ganguly

Robi Ganguly is the Co-founder and CEO at Apptentive. He is passionate about giving customers a voice via mobile. Follow Robi on Twitter @rganguly.
View all posts by Robi Ganguly >

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