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Going Global: Winning Masters of Code 2015

Gwen is a proud member of Team MoneyRemaid, the winners of MasterCard’s Masters of Code 2015.

“And the winner is…Team MoneyRemaid!”

The lack of fanfare when the announcement was made caught us off guard. It was a few heartbeats before we – four Malaysians, one Indonesian – registered that we were, in fact, MasterCard’s Masters of Code 2015.

Singapore-7

We’d met at a coding bootcamp just three weeks before the regional Masters of Code competition in Singapore. Winning that felt like a lucky break. But the Grand Finale? That was a whole different ball-game.

12 cities; 3,067 attendees; a US$100,000 prize; and only one winner.

What were the odds that it would be us?

Beating out 11 other teams to emerge as champion didn’t come easy, and we had our fair share of challenges along the way. However, there were some things we managed to get right that helped us bag the prize — and we’d like to share them with you.

Think inside the box

One of the ways Masters of Code was different from most hackathons is their focus on starting a ‘Real Business’. For the Grand Finale, we were given two themes to choose from: Social Good and The Next Big Thing. Looking at this, you can already see how The Next Big Thing track would have been hard. Brand-new tech already exists — it just hasn’t been brought to market. How was anyone going to do that effectively in 24 hours? With that in mind, we decided to base our idea on the theme we related more to – Social Good. Talk all you want about the box, but sometimes, constraints are necessary for good design.

Play to your strengths

Growing up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, we have always had to tread the fine line between Eastern conservatism and Western consumerism. We’d speak English with our peers and Mandarin with our parents. Sit in traditional coffee shops and read on our Kindles. The dichotomies are endless! Little did we know that this would give us the edge we needed to succeed.

Southeast Asia is a region that’s ripe for disruption. Where else can you find opportunities for change so diverse that exist at such scale?

Think globally, act locally

Domestic helpers. They are one of the world’s biggest contributors to global remittances – a US$200 billion market – but nonpayment of wages remains a debilitating issue. In fact, it was a casual everyday conversation between Daniel and his maid that served as the inspiration for our winning idea.

Our proposed solution, MoneyRemaid, is a software as a service (SaaS) to safeguard the rights of the estimated 300,000 foreign domestic helpers in Malaysia and to empower them with the knowledge to take control of their financial situation. Maids would have access to three things: guaranteed salaries, financial education, and reduced remittance rates of up to 60%, which will play a part in advancing financial inclusion. We believe the impact of this service can be expanded to foreign blue-collar workers, too.

Do your homework

Maybe it was good fortune that we had an ex-consultant on the team, but we put a lot of effort into our market research, resulting in a near-flawless executive summary. The developers also played their part to ensure our app was technologically feasible. Remember, your app has to work in real life. What use is a functioning sandbox if your app is not revved up and ready to go? 70 percent of the work is really done before the hackathon, and I’m thankful I have a team who understands that.

Keep the team diverse

Should I join a hackathon even if I don’t know how to code?” Yes! Not all of us had the same level of coding prowess. What we lacked in technical skills, we made up for in project management, product design, pitching and industry expertise. You need to embrace that diversity if you want to convince the judges to bet on your team.

For every argument our team had, we experienced twice the laughter. Sure, sometimes there were disagreements, but we always rose above it. Putting each other first. Supporting each other’s decisions. Having a grand ole time.

Look where that got us:

The Masters of Code title. And a US$100,000 grand prize.

Read more on Team MoneyRemaid’s inspiring win here or access the full blog post.