After a weekend-long scramble to develop apps that serve the state’s business community, two Colorado Springs teams were chosen to represent the region in this year’s Go Code Colorado challenge.
The second annual app-development event kicked off April 8 at the Denver Art Museum and was followed by “Challenge Weekend.” Beginning Friday evening, competitors in Denver-Boulder, Fort Collins, Grand Junction, Durango and Colorado Springs planned, designed and coded vigorously before their concepts were judged at 6 p.m. Sunday night.
Of the eight teams competing at Epicentral Coworking in downtown Colorado Springs, which hosted the inaugural regional competition last year, Quizata and the G-Team were victorious.
“These are the things that help Colorado Springs raise the bar,” said Hannah Parsons, a local Go Code organizer and Epicentral co-founder. “That’s our goal — to show up and to exceed expectations.”
In developing their apps, the teams used public data provided by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office to address four challenge prompts related to business intelligence, transportation solutions, higher-ed partnerships and tourism.
Quizata, which included two Magneti Marketing employees, a UCCS student and a 15-year-old high schooler, created an app billed as a cross between popular dating app Tinder and online content aggregator Buzzfeed. The app is designed to use quizzes to help Colorado tourists engineer their own vacations and provide helpful data to tourism agencies.
The G-Team, composed of Gazette staffers and led by reporter Maria St. Louis-Sanchez, designed an app to pair businesses with competent interns studying in applicable fields at nearby colleges and universities.
“It’s outstanding — better than hackathons I’ve been to in San Francisco and in Atlanta. … I think the quality was raised this year.”
– Spencer Norman
[/pullquote]Starting Friday evening, the teams had until 5 p.m. Sunday to polish their business and marketing plans as well as have a basic version of their applications. At 6 p.m. Sunday, the teams began their five-minute presentations before an audience of around 50 community members including Secretary of State Wayne Williams and a panel of judges. Judges for the local competition included J Chesney, general manager of Colorado Springs defense contractor TechWise; Aimee Cox, housing and community initiatives manager for the city of Colorado Springs; and Patrick Bultema, a venture capitalist who serves as executive director of the Innovation Institute at Colorado College.
Quizata team leader Mark Rantal, who was a member of 2014 Go Code finalist team Local Sage, said having had previous Go Code experience gave him an edge when it came to developing and presenting the team’s product.
“The angle that I was able to come into the competition with this year was slightly modified from the lessons I learned last year,” Rantal said. “I think, because of that, we were able to build a real strong, real tight team that honestly was such a blast to work with.”
Quizata and G-Team will join the other eight finalists in a final competition May 21. Each of Colorado’s three winning teams will walk away with $25,000 one-year contracts with the state.
To incentivize the challenge in southern Colorado, organizers also obtained $6,000 in funding from El Paso County and awarded $3,000 to each finalist after the judges announced their decisions Sunday night.
“This is the only one of the five sites that is passing out checks tonight,” said Williams, whose office hosts the event in concert with tech-industry sponsors such as Google.
Spencer Norman, a member of last year’s Local Sage and leader of team ThinkVocal in this year’s regional competition, said those things help Colorado Springs’ stature statewide.
“The organizers do an absolutely amazing job hosting the event,” he said. “It’s outstanding — better than hackathons I’ve been to in San Francisco and in Atlanta. … I think the quality was raised this year.”
The folks from Quizata and G-Team will spend the next two weeks continuing to work on their apps before attending a mentorship weekend in Boulder. The weekend will allow competitors a chance to have their progress reviewed by experts who might advise them on their business plans, software development or other aspects before the final competition.
At the May 21 finale, 10 teams will again present their apps, presumably improved, and be judged by a team consisting of:
• Bing Chou, vice president of product at tech firm Simpler;
• Ingrid Alongi, Boulder Chamber of Commerce’s Entrepreneur of the Year and co-founder/CEO of tech company Quick Left;
• Nicole Gravana, chief visionary at The Quandry Group and former director of operations for the Rockies Venture Club;
• Erik Mitisek, CEO of Colorado Technology Association; and
• Suma Nallapati, Colorado Secretary of Technology.
Fifteen-year-old Quizata team member Matthew Karley, a Pine Creek High School student who has been helping with data mining, said he looks forward to seeing what he can offer the team in preparation for the state-level competition.
He described this, his first competitive development experience, with just one word: