This weekend, aspiring appsters gathered for the Angelhack NYC 2013 AppHack. For those unfamiliar with Angelhack, it’s a global hackathon, similar to Startup Weekend, though a little more focused on developers and true “hacks” rather than more general startup ideas. People of all ages, as young as 14 years old and from places as far away as Toronto came together at the Alley in NYC, which often hosts events such as these.
Whether you’re an experienced developer, designer or entrepreneur, or just someone looking to dip your toe in the water, events such as these are a great opportunity. You can come in and pitch an idea, form a team and hack away or you can listen to pitches and then join an idea that you like. Often, a team will come in with an idea, though the rules are, no actual coding or design work can be done before the weekend starts.
This weekend, we saw teams playing in a myriad of verticals from fitness to education to the arts to dating. Some teams are aiming to jumpstart real businesses and others, just making something cool that people might like. There were several interesting ideas being demoed. Stash wants to create a gamified mobile crowdfunding platform, similar to Kickstarter but with more of a raffle feel, with real money at stake. Users vote on the apps they like best and to victor goes the spoils. It’s a flawed but ambitious idea that if it is legally viable and can gain traction, could be a game changer with all of the people out there looking to get funding for their apps. Four female high school juniors pitched their app called Uniplusplus, an app that helps you find the right colleges based on personality, rather than statistics or other academic indicators. Are you a hard core liberal? Well, there might be some colleges that just aren’t for you and vis versa. Uniplusplus acts as sort of a dating app for picking colleges and has potential as a larger platform for doing your college research. Sphere wants to let you create geo fenced events that target certain groups of people. Should they stumble into the right “zone” they will be alerted. If you’re in college hosting a frat party, this can be a perfect solution to getting that party rocking, without doing extensive legwork in terms of invites.
But the real winner of the night was Soiree, a video dating app. Before you yawn and go…another dating app? With video? Really? Soiree hits on something kinda unique. It’s no secret that video has been lacking in the online dating space, be it on web or on mobile for a long time. There are many reasons for this. However, Soiree takes a unique approach in a few ways. For one, instead of essentially selling yourself with a “hi, my name is Adam I’m from New York, blah blah blah”, that sits on yet another static profile, Soiree asks you to answer a quick question such as “What would you do if zombies took over the world”? This invites you to be fun and silly, relaxing yourself and thus making a good first impression (hopefully). In addition, the app will use an algorithm to match people initially so the videos are not seen by just anyone, but a highly targeted group of matches. If you’re worried about video of you answering some silly question finding its way on to Google for the rest of eternity, don’t fret, Soiree take the Snapchat approach here as videos are immediately disposed of. You have one crack to record your answer and one crack to view it. In a field that is highly saturated and increasingly specialized, Soiree offers a unique opportunity to not only offer consumers something different in terms of finding a potential mate, but also to entertain in the way of engaging content not taken so seriously.
As the grand prize winner, the Soiree team gets a spot in Angelhack’s spring HACKcelerator program which is a global pre-accelerator designed to help the teams turn their hacks into market ready products. This is an exciting opportunity for teams and somewhat of a whirl wind if you’re one of those people who just showed up and formed a team 24 hours ago. We’ll keep our eye on Soiree and see if they come away with something ready to shake up the online dating space.