'Hackers' compete for funds in Silicon Valley

Updated: 2014-08-11 12:32

By Lian Zi in San Francisco (China Daily USA)

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'Hackers' compete for funds in Silicon Valley

The word "hacker" may have a negative connotation, conjuring images of identity thieves and cyber spies, but a "hackathon" is an event where computer whizzes get together and develop awesome problem-solving projects against the clock.

More than 140 developers, designers and programmers anxious to showcase their skills and network with entrepreneurs, influential investors and industry visionaries joined the 3rd US-China iHackathon hosted by Innospring in Silicon Valley on Aug 8.

The aim of the hack-fest is to provide Chinese engineers and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley an opportunity to show-off their cutting-edge ideas and technical skills to local high-tech investors, said Wang Xiao, CEO of Innospring.

"We also want to hunt for talent and great teams from this competition for our incubator," Wang added.

According to the rules, designers and innovators must create technical solutions and products in 48 hours based on their personal interests, such as software and hardware combinations, cloud computing, voice-recognition technology or E-commerce.

"Competitors can either work on their own or put together a team with a back-end developer, a database whiz, and a front-end designer," Wang explained. "Building a great team allows them to divide responsibilities and spend more time on their strongest areas. We definitely recommend having a combination."

A panel of judges consisting of experts and representatives from Innospring and other sponsors evaluate projects from three perspectives: creativity, execution and team collaboration. Wang believes that "collaboration is a big part of fostering innovation".

Participants don't really need to finish their projects in two days. The organizers are mainly interested in seeing how much the teams accomplish and how each person contributes to the team, either as a leader or a member, said Wang.

Li Weihan, a participant told his teammates: "During the 48-hour non-stop hackathon, we need to come up with a creative idea, prototype it with more details, implement our design and then introduce our solution and product to audiences during a demo presentation session on Sunday."

He told China Daily that there were five members on his team, adding, "We will create a location-based anonymous social networking mobile app for people to share activities and pictures with nearby strangers".

Innospring announced Sunday night that Li Weihan and his team had won the competition and were awarded $5,000 packages, sponsored by IBM, GitHub, Unity, Windows Azure and Canva.

Lennart Frantzell, a cloud and mobile architect with IBM told China Daily, "Silicon Valley is an international area. There are lots of well-educated Chinese talents coming here. By sponsoring this event, we would like to help Chinese startups in Silicon Valley to understand what IBM can offer for them. Maybe we can get some teams here to cooperate with IBM."

The entire event was free for participants, including food and drinks. Sleeping was optional.

InnoSpring, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, is the first US-China technology startup accelerator for global-minded companies. They facilitate startups interested in opportunities on both sides of the Pacific. Founded in 2012, InnoSpring is a joint project between Tsinghua University Science Park Northern Light Venture Capital (NLVC), Shui On Group and Silicon Valley Bank (SVB).


(China Daily USA 08/11/2014 page2)