Author Archives: Peter Hogan-De Paul

About Peter Hogan-De Paul

I am the Developer Evangelist for Phone.com and a technology enthusiast. RIght now I am helping to get the word out about Phone.com's new RESTful API. I am very passionate about scientific discovery and technological developments and love to find out more about the universe every day. On the side, I love to play and watch reviews of video games, work on electronics and robotics, and improving my set of knowledge about the world. For those interested, I'm a Scorpio-Sagittarius cusp. ;)

NJ Startup Weekend – A Hackathon for Entrepreneurs

by Peter Hogan-De Paul

New Jersey Startup Weekend

While HackPrinceton was going on at the Princeton University campus, New Jersey hosted another large meetup for developing great ideas, the NJ Startup Weekend.

What Is Startup Weekend?

Part of a series powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, Startup Weekend focuses on entrepreneurs, developers and designers hacking together concepts for new products in under 72 hours! The goal is to come up with a complete proof of concept, with a simple working model for the product.

Startup Weekend

Last weekend’s event took place at the co-working space JuiceTank in Somerset, NJ, the perfect location for a large collaborative gathering like Startup Weekend. Open work areas, breakout rooms and personal workspaces abounded.

JuiceTank1

Everyone gathered Friday evening for an introduction and a couple of icebreakers, followed by the entrepreneurs presenting pitches for ideas to the group. Participants then voted on the concepts presented, and working teams formed around the different ideas.

Twenty teams were originally formed, but several merged due to lack of specific skills needed to get a concept off the ground. When the dust finally settled, the real fun began. Teams worked until JuiceTank closed both nights of the event, and many continued to work through the night outside of the venue.

JuiceTank2

Innovation Under Pressure 

A number of fantastic product ideas were pitched at Startup Weekend. Kwick was an application that used SMS messaging to facilitate financial transactions among users, similar to Venmo, but without the need for a smartphone application.

Plenty of Cats took a novel approach to helping animal shelters save cats by gamifying the process with their game “Meow or Hiss”, similar to Hot or Not. Using the Petfinder API, this group gained a lot of traction on Facebook over the weekend.

Winner! Winner!

The winners of the event, however, were clear favorites among everyone at the event!

The first spot went to Waddle, an app that integrates with social platforms, displaying a map of where the subscriber has traveled, based on posts to FourSquare, Facebook, Twitter and the like. By using date filtering to figure out when these events occur, the app lets users recall events by location, as opposed to having to sift through a timeline.

The second winner was Shop Smart, a tablet platform that can be mounted on shopping carts, providing consumers with their shopping lists as they travel through a store. Users can add items to their shopping lists before entering the store, and the same shopping list appears when they log in on the shopping-cart tablets. Location services in the store notify shoppers when they approach items they need and check the item off their lists by scanning the item using a barcode scanner attached to the device. In addition, the app could give users reminders about items they purchased before and may need to pick up, suggestions for recipes, and notifications of special promotions. This product really could revolutionize how consumers shop in supermarkets!

As winners, Waddle and Shop Smart will receive free co-working space at JuiceTank and were also made semi-finalists in the technology accelerator group TechLaunch. Both apps certainly promise to become much more with support from their teams and the generous support of sponsors.

Charging Station

Phone.com Supports Startup Weekend!

As a sponsor of the event, Phone.com offered both advice and support. Our popular device-charging station provided power for participants’ phones while they focused on honing their  concepts. I also threw my hat into the ring as a mentor for teams, to help with any unified communication questions or other technical questions team members may have had.

I strongly encourage anyone who has a  Startup Weekend going on in their area to participate and be inspired. Whether your team wins or loses, the relationships, ideas, skills and camaraderie built is well worth your time, sweat, and money. I’m looking forward to the next Startup Weekend myself, if only so that I can participate!

I’d also like to give a shout out to everyone who was involved in the sponsorship and organization of last weekend’s event, especially JuiceTank members Charlie Patel, Mason Carter, and Zion Kim. They and their team really delivered an excellent event in a wonderful space. Kudos to all!

Kindling New Ideas: NJ Spark Summit 2014

by Peter Hogan-De Paul

CEO Ari Rabban speaking at the NJ Spark Summit

CEO Ari Rabban speaking at the NJ Spark Summit

The brainchild of Aaron Price of the NJ Tech Meetup, Amit Baria of the new-tech school Fuel.am, and Bret Morgan of the Jersey Shore Tech Meetup, NJ Spark Summit hosted prominent speakers discussing strategies for building successful startups.

The conference covered many topics, including a discussion on the future of data security by Dr. Ed Amoroso of AT&T, entrepreneurial advice from attorney David Sorin, and information on entrepreneurial opportunities in the city of Hoboken by Mayor Dawn Zimmer.

Sessions addressed effective crowd funding, offered fundraising strategies from major seed investors and venture capital groups, and discussed upcoming trends for marketing, promotion, public relations and media. Panel members included legal and funding specialists, as well as technologists from Indiegogo, TechCrunch, StartupValley, Techstars NYC and VentureBeat.

Personally, I enjoyed hearing Brett Martin’s experiences working through his failed startup Sonar Media, as well as discussions on how to effectively crowdfund, by Stantt co-founder Matt Hornbuckle, and on the gamification of products by Gabe Zichermann.

Building Engagement Though LiveCube

A truly galvanizing element of Spark Summit was the LiveCube app, co-created by event host Aaron Price, speaker Gabe Zichermann and Justin Schier. Used as the social media aggregator for the event, the big benefit of LiveCube was that it allowed attendees to post and then return later to monitor and engage with content created that day.

Gamifying engagement and offering prizes from sponsors and speakers strongly encouraged NJ Spark Summit attendees to use LiveCube and delivered a memorable meta-experience on top of the conference talk. An added bonus for attendees is LiveCube’s persistence after the event, letting them engage with speakers they did not have time to speak to during the conference.

Plugging Into Phone.com

As a sponsor, Phone.com provided a much-needed service at Spark Summit—a device charging station! Manned by Aaron Rosenthal and myself of Phone.com’s upcoming API, the stylized idea box held USB, Apple and AC charging units to let attendees recharge the devices they were using at the event.

Phone.com CEO Ari Rabban also spoke briefly about the boost that Phone.com provides to startups with our professional, low-cost business phone service. Phone.com also offered a free year of service for attendees of the conference!

Overall, I think NJ Spark Summit was well executed and gave startups, investors and developers the chance to engage with the New Jersey business community. As a young business, we at Phone.com love it when startups reach out and promote each others’ services, thereby encouraging those partners to return the favor down the road. Paying it forward was never so much fun!