As the Money20/20 Hackathon came to a close, being one of the mentors and judges at the event brought an exciting insider perspective as to how the event would unfold. However, the amount of (good) surprises during the event will mark this hackathon as one to remember.
It started Friday night when I reconnected with two members of the team who won our MasterCard challenge last year at the Money20/20 Hackathon. Since that time, our OpenAPI team had been mentoring and advising them along the way, and they also had gone on to win the AT&T CES Hackathon in early 2015.
While prototyping prowess in 24 hours is impressive, commercialization is key. In a year, the team deployed their iPhone and Android charging devices at Green Grotto in downtown LA and received great reviews on Yelp.
With success using MasterCard APIs, the team was determined to again win our Money 2020 challenge – but also had its sights set on the main Money20/20 Hackathon title. With 620+ hackers and 150+ projects, the competition was clearly going to be much stronger this year.
Now named Team RePlay, the team (Messiah Jacobs, Jade Shyu, Tim Feng, Savalas Colbert and Jorge Mattei) decided they wanted to try and help small merchants leverage product placement on TV sets at a local level. Their vision: a merchant would tag a product similar or related to the one seen on the screen; a viewer would then see the product available in that specific scene and order in real-time using Simplify Commerce. It would then be delivered by the local merchant to your home in much the same way as traditional pizza delivery – in a matter of minutes/hours vs. days. In addition to having an innovative idea, they’d also be tapping into the latest functionality of the new Apple TV platform, enabling a user to pay outside of the usual iTunes platform.
The work was hard, and watching them at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning trying to isolate a major bug with the help of our very own Rahul Deshpande from Simplify Commerce was both humbling and terrifying. And then, with just hours left before the end of the hackathon, the moment of clarity happened and the root of the problem discovered and fixed.
So when MasterCard had to pick two finalists from the 14 projects submitted, I was ecstatic that RePlay was selected by our judges.
But that was only the beginning for the team – and for MasterCard APIs. Team RePlay went on to be named the overall winner by the Money20/20 Hackathon, which includes not only a $20,000 prize, but “the opportunity to present their solution as part of Money20/20’s exclusive Launchpad360°, a program that provides companies with a forum to showcase their leading-edge innovation in front of an audience of thousands of investors, media and other ecosystem participants.”
And so, from this hesitant pitch/idea on Friday night, Team RePlay went on to become the winning team of the largest fintech hackathon in the world. And that feat was not a wild gamble in a city of chances, but instead a display of pure talent, hard work and creativity.