My friend Anthony and I participated in a hackathon. We didn’t win, but we certainly did not lose. Let me elaborate. First and foremost I want to thank the folks at Valleyhackathon.com for having us at the event. It was a great experience.
What is a Hackathon?
There are several formats of this type of competitions, but the dominant characteristic is that they involve technology. What do we hack, the Pentagon? No, not at all. It’s not like that. To participate in a hackathon you have to come up with a project/idea and complete it within the deadline. Some hackathons are 72 hours, some are 48 hours, but the one we participated on was 24 hours. In this instance, the entry required that you had a project that involved writing software and our team could have up to four members. We could have a hardware component in our project, but a significant software portion was required. Once the clock started ticking and we had 24 hours to finish a working product.
What was the product idea?
It was Anthony who originally came up with the idea and we thought it was would be a perfect fit for the hackathon. Our goal was to create a web application that would allow people to know a bit more about what is going on in their towns. Local businesses would be able to register on the application, share the name of their business address and a short description of the services or products they offer. On the other hand, end-users could also register and choose the businesses they would like to receive notifications from. Notifications would be a way for businesses to let town folks know about a promotion or a new upcoming event. Registered businesses could schedule their announcements to be sent out to all subscribers at any specific time. We knew that this was not a novelty. I’m pretty sure that there are similar services out there, but we thought our grassroots approach would set as apart.
Why did we not win?
We bit more than we could chew. For one, we underestimated the amount of work required to complete two portals, one for the businesses and another for the end users. The second factor was that we did not stick to what we knew best. We set out to try a new code library that we were not completely proficient on. The hackathon started on a Friday roughly around 6:30 PM and it ended the following day at 6:30 PM. On Saturday around noon, I began to realize there was no way we were going to be able to finish the project by 6:30 PM. I had slept only 30 minutes since the competition had started and my thoughts we were getting blurred. Long story short, we did not have a project to present by the time judging came around.
Why did we not lose?
Even though we did not place in the event we were able to reconnect with fellow “hackers” from previous and events and met new faces. We were exposed to what other programmers are doing here in the Central Valley. Don’t get me wrong, it would have been nice to walk away with a prize, but the experience of being there was all worth it. I’m really looking forward to next year’s hackathon.
The journey started when we decided to start Edifica. I have written a post about the story of Edifica here, but I’ll do a short recap. I come from a background in construction. I worked for a drywall contractor for more than 10 years and one of the biggest challenges we had at that time was to be able to keep all information pertaining to contracted jobs in one place. I’m sure that to this day contractors still have this problem. In addition to that, when contractors are shopping for a software solution to solve this problem, they find software packages that claim to be suited for specialty contractors, but in reality they are not. Most of the project management software available is designed for general contractors and do not make a distinction between general contractors and subcontractors. Edifica’s goal is to provide a project management software solution genuinely designed for subcontractors in the construction industry and one of our main advantages is that we have experience in the construction field.
While Edifica was in the beta stages, feedback from companies who we presented the software to and although they liked the features Edifica provided. We kept finding a common denominator on most of the feedback. People really liked the time tracking capabilities offered by Edifica. Let me explain how the process works. Let’s assume that a construction company has foreman out at a job site overseeing 10 employees. Using Edifica that foreman can create timesheet entries for each of those employees daily which are sent to the cloud in real time and the main office can have access to this data immediately. At the end of the week or pay period, timecards are generated digitally and a text message is sent out automatically to each of the employees with a link which gives them private access to review and digitally sign their time card using their smartphone. No smartphone, no problem. The foreman can share their smartphone or tablet to let any employee review and sign his or her time card. All signatures are time-stamped, stored digitally and paired with their corresponding time tracking data. The company can also use this data to generate a flat file that can be forwarded to their payroll company to significantly reduce the time required to process payroll. Edifica also eliminates unnecessary trips to the office to drop timecards off and we stored time cards digitally for record keeping.
Soon after receiving all this feedback we realized that the time tracking features of Edifica could be useful to other industries other than the construction industry. We set out to extract the time tracking capabilities to create a new product and that’s how Cloudtimecards was born. We rushed to come up with a working product to get it into people’s hands and start gathering their thoughts about the product. Towards the end of 2016, we started working on a missing piece. Cloudtimecards needed a mobile application to allow individual employees to punch in and to share location data with their employers, so we created Android and iOS versions of the mobile application, which you can find here.
We want to announce that we are going to be allowing a 14 day trial of all the features offered by Edifica to new users signing up to our free plan.
After getting several requests from newly signed users, we have decided this is a good way to show our new users all the things that Edifica can actually do for your construction business.
Stay tuned, we will be making this change effective in the next few days.