Hackathons are becoming common place in Jamaica and the Caribbean over these last 5 years especially. Slashroots were one of the first, if not the first organisation to have organised local and Caribbean wide hackathons. Then came a bunch of them driven by the priorities of development agencies out of the America and Europe. Hackathons are also now being used as part of our Caribbean startup culture where entrepreneurs stage mini hackathons, also known as Code sprints to speed up the development of their products. Now we have Caribbean businesses getting involved big time as they search for fresh ideas and great digital talent for their internal Innovation Labs.
Enter BlueHack the IBM/ National Commercial Bank ( NCB) Fintech focused event that was held November 4–5, 2017 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica. The theme was “ Jamaica! AINation” and there were over 18 teams comprising 5 teams members were selected to participated. The teams were multi-disciplinary comprising developers, business modellers and designers which in effect shared the demanding workload of developing a viable concept within 30 hours.
Three areas of focus were:
1. Next Generation Consumer Solutions, building loyalty in financial markets
2. Blockchain Solutions, simplifying financial services
3. Learning Experience Solutions, transforming learning using AI technology
Tools such as IBM’s Watson,IBM’s Watson, NCB data, MonaGIS API and plethora of tools found within the IBM Bluemix Cloud platform were on offer for teams to use.
At the end of the weekend the top team that emerged was Credibly – a blockchain powered credit bureau for farmers in Jamaica. With other teams winning sectional prizes. It is good to know that this team was led by a Jamaican tech entrepreneur who is on his second startup Ganjagram, he was also a co-founder at Slashroots. His team was a balanced mix of newbies and seasoned developers. Congratulations to them all. They won $200,000JMD. I hope they use this to move Credibly into the market as it is needed here.
Now on the my message to all the participants using six Cs.
To the Participants
It’s not easy, to be huddled for an intense and focused period for 30hrs with both familiar faces and a number of strangers to learn new things and also apply what you do know to unique problems — even as it’s all worth it. So congratulations on choosing to spend your weekend, learning, connecting and putting yourself ahead of the pack when it comes to thinking differently about how technology can provide so many great solutions to so many problems.
I urge all of you who came as teams and others who came and formed teams with strangers and a few known tech community members to continue. Continue to work on the solutions you’ve created over the weekend-bearing in mind the following.
– Whether you won or not does not determine or guarantee your idea will be successful and that’s OK.
know that you created the idea together so if your idea morphs into a startup or into a viable product/service that IBM, NCB, Flow or other company wants to buy — you all own a piece of it, how you divide it must be based on the level of contribution to the solution-equal percentage all around seldom works. I’m happy to advise you on how to do this.
-Continue because you love learning, experimenting and growing — learn more about the companies that took part of this hackathon, the tools that were on offer for you to use and compare it to what you know and what else you want to learn. But please continue.
Some of you at the event I recognised, you’re already part of the Tech and Entrepreneurial community but I urge you to get more involved with tech community. How?
Events: Seek out information on the events that are happening for startups, entrepreneurs, tech enthusiasts, tech trends and go to as many of them as humanly possible. Get to know who’s doing what, why and when. It will change your life. Being part of a community of like minds is invaluable to you learning, growing, forming partnerships, building our an engaged network and for sharing what you know with others.
Join the Online groups. Want a list. Click here. Join in on the Facebook, Google and Linkedin Groups…listen in and share what your read, working on and what you know. You build relationships and your network by first giving of yourself.
Check Your Intentions
When The next hackathon or competition comes around and you are considering entering, sit with yourself and check your intentions and know what you want to get out of it.
Are you there to win a prize for the braggable points and for Social Media Glory?
There to learn?
There to meet amazingly talented people and expand your relationships ?
There to showcase your talent in the hopes of being hired by one of the businesses sponsoring?
There to test the validity of a new idea?
There to spot trends from how sponsoring companies are thinking?
There to build relationship with sponsoring companies in the hopes of selling them a product or service later?
Check your intentions as they will determine your experience and outcomes.
Consider : Doing Your Homework and Reading the fine print.
And before you every sign up for another business model, startup pitch, hackathon type of competition — go to the website and read the objectives terms of conditions of that competition-they are not all the same. Check for things like who owns the ideas, the code, the Intellectual Property of what is created during that event. Part of playing in this amazing Caribbean and Global Digital Economy is being informed and choosing the events and competitions that work for you. Empower yourself by knowing before you go.
Being in this fast growing Global Digital Economy demands that you remain informed and differently skilled. So I recommend that you read voraciously and continuously- spend time on blogs and online magazines. Watch conference and tech event videos aligned with and outside of your own areas of interest and industry. Listen to some great podcasts and take advantage of the plethora of free online courses and learn new digital skills. And no I am not gonna recommend any here, that list will be too damn long. So I may do another post just for that.
All that said, I hope you know you are awesome. You were selected from the 200 applications that came in for this NCB/IBM Hackathon, let that sink in. Additionally, your country, your region needs you, so I can’t say it enough…please continue to think more, think differently about how you can use technology to innovate and change the way we live, work and play in this world.
You have amazing power in your hands now- use it.
NB: All photos are the property of NCB Jamaica.