In early 2013, Dialexa cofounders Mark Haidar and Scott Harper along with Matt Himelfarb, Managing Partner of Dallas Venture Partners “DVP”, came up with an idea for a hackathon that would tackle 20 problems that have not been addressed by the internet revolution of the past 20 years. The result was the 20over20 hackathon, which lasted 72 hours starting Thursday September 19th at 12 noon. It was the first of its kind in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and was named by Startups FM as one of the top hackathons happening across the globe. The winning team had a choice between a $10,000 cash prize or a $10,000 investment from DVP as well as incorporation by 20over20’s in-kind sponsor, Strasburger and Price..

The 20over20 website received hundreds of problems from around the world. On Wednesday September 18th, Dialexa and DVP presented the top 20 problems to the seven competing teams. The teams would then have 18 hours to decide which problem they each wanted to tackle. The hackathon began the next day at noon and the teams had 72 hours to hack a solution to the problem.

Video includes highlights of 20 Over 20 Hackathon at Dialexa’s office in Dallas, Texas.

There were four academic teams and three open teams.  The academic teams were Southern Methodist University advised by Greg Needel, the University of Texas at Dallas advised by Jey Veerasamy, the University of North Texas advised by Nancy Hong and Southern Methodist University’s Guildhall advised by Squirrel Eiserloh.  The open teams were selected from an application process and the teams were assigned a seasoned technologist and/or entrepreneur as their advisor.  The open teams were Delta Force advised by Jason Lochhead, Nerd Power advised by Alexander Muse and Black Hole advised by Lauren Hasson.

Each team was given a designated space to work at Dialexa’s headquarters in Dallas, Texas.  Dialexa engineers and designers stood on-deck providing support to the teams and advisors.  20over20 sponsors Cloud Elements, Microsoft, Rockfish, Nokia and Taco Joint generously provided meals over the course of the event making sure nobody went hungry.  Throughout the hackathon, leaders from the technology and startup community came to support the teams including leadership from the Dallas Entrepreneur Center, Digital Dallas, and Tech Wildcatters.

Overall, it was impressive to see what these teams, mostly made up of students including one high school team, were able to accomplish in 72 hours.  The majority of the teams had a working prototype, some of which included both a hardware and software component.

Team Nerd Power decided to address the problem “How can two people sharing the same bed keep separate alarms without disturbing the other person's sleep?” The solution was quite clever.  The team built and tested a wristband that a person could wear to bed and the wristband would vibrate or send an electric shock (don’t worry, nothing dangerous) at the time a person needed to wake up.

The SMU Guildhall team, which finished in 3rd place, took on one of the most ambitious problems: a new approach to our educational standard models particularly as it relates to STEAM education.  They decided to tackle the problem by creating a dynamic educational engine that analyzed students based on the type of games they currently play.  Once collected, this information would be used to determine their personality.  The classes would then be customized to the individual’s personality.

2nd place finisher UNT decided to create a solution for addressing the problem of helping people find their cars in a parking garage.  The team developed an app that would drop a pin and remember where you parked.  A simple mobile app would point to where you left your car.  The biggest surprise of the evening was learning this team was actually several high school students ranging from 16 to 17 years old who were taking advanced courses at UNT.

The winning team was from SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering.  They provided a solution for finding items you could lose easily.  The team had originally picked another problem but the first night of the hackathon one of the team member’s lost his keys and spent an hour looking for them.  The team then switched problems having experienced the pain point first hand.  They researched the market thoroughly and found a competitor;  however, the solution SMU crafted was less expensive and unique in its approach.  The team is considering incorporating the solution into a company and continue working on the idea.

 Over 70 people attended the final presentations.  The judge’s panel included some of Dallas’s most highly accomplished entrepreneurs: David Bettner cofounder of Words With Friends, Lea Nesbit who sold her previous company to 3M, Derek Chapin the CFO of Woot! which sold to Amazon, Daniel Nelson cofounder of Datical and Mark Haidar cofounder of Dialexa.  Dialexa and DVP are already in discussions to make this an annual event.

Related articles

  1. Nibletz: 20 Over 20 - One Of The Coolest Hackathons We’ve Heard About - July 15, 2013
  2. Dallas Business Journal: Hackathon to solve 20 problems existing over 20 years - August 18, 2013
  3. StartupsFM : This September buckle up to be a part of top 5 Hackathons happening across the globe - September 10, 2013
  4. Dallas Morning News: 20over20 hackathon unveils crowdsourced problems for $10,000 challenge - September 18, 2013
  5. Dallas Business Journal: Hackathon winners create solution to track lost items - September 23, 2013
  6. Dallas Morning News: SMU’s Lyle School students win 20over20 hackathon and $10k prize - September 25, 2013

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