Finding the code to success at DeveloperWeek 2017

Equator couple Philippa Christie and Daniel Chapman took on Silicon Valley and won! Philippa shares her story on how they became Equator’s hackathon heroes.

DeveloperWeek was on a scale unlike anything I’d witnessed before. When I saw 800 hackers crammed into one room, typing away at the speed of light, I knew I wasn’t in Scotland anymore…

My partner Daniel and I both work at Equator – he’s a developer and I’m a production manager. In my role, I oversee the delivery of projects for the entire company so I’m always hearing about the newest trends in coding and for Daniel, programming isn’t only a job, it’s a way of life.

You might think with both of us working at one of Scotland’s largest digital companies, we get our fill of dev chat during the week. Not even close! That’s why we took a trip to San Francisco for Dan’s 30th birthday to attend industry-leading event, DeveloperWeek 2017.

Consisting of 60 mini-events, DeveloperWeek boasts a line-up of incredible speakers from renowned businesses like Google, Facebook and Tesla. We attended lots of insightful talks but the real reason we had travelled more than 5,000 miles to San Francisco was to test our skills in the DeveloperWeek Hackathon.

With 28 challenges, 180 teams and 800 attendees, the Hackathon is immense. After meeting fellow developer Qi and forming a team of three, we decided to take on the challenge hosted by Clover, a leading cloud-based payment platform for businesses. The brief asked us to creatively use Clover’s API (application program interface) and expand on the platform’s existing functionality.

We were keen to work on Clover as it has a brilliant API we could build into, allowing us to leverage all its different components. We built a peer to peer referral app resembling a loyalty scheme that utilises the hardware’s ability to scan referral codes, naming our app Unifi.

The winning idea had to help local merchants, solve a problem and be viable enough to become a business. Unifi’s main objective is to help local businesses attract new customers.

We drew inspiration from the referral bonus model used by leading San Francisco tech companies like Uber and Airbnb. Using rapid prototyping to create a minimum viable product, we built a demo app that allows you to refer friends to businesses and, as a bonus, you receive credit. The app is essentially a cost-effective solution to help business owners acquire customers.

The Hackathon lasted a lengthy 30 hours stretched over two days, ending with us pitching our idea to Clover. After a tense wait, we found out we won, beating 18 other teams – we were elated! It was a tough challenge but our hard work paid off.

We each won an amazing range of prizes worth $3,000 including $1,000 visa card, Google Home (a month before it was released in the UK) and GoPros. The most exciting prize, however, was meeting the founders of Clover at their headquarters in Silicon Valley.

We took an Uber to Clover HQ and were given a tour of the amazing premises. There was a spacious collaboration area, noise cancellation pods and plants everywhere – I felt creatively inspired just by being there!

Having lunch with the founders of a leading Silicon Valley business was a moment I won’t soon forget. The best part? They asked us to further develop our prototype and return to San Francisco in August 2017 so we can launch our app to Clover’s customers. We’re currently working on perfecting Unifi and getting it ready to introduce to the marketplace.

What stood out most to me at DeveloperWeek was the engaged, passionate and collaborative tech community I encountered there. I loved that, only a few hours after meeting Qi, the three of us were working together, putting everything we had into winning the Hackathon. It demonstrates how eager devs in San Francisco are to share ideas and work together to achieve something positive.

I’m so proud to be part of Equator as it leads the charge in building an exciting tech community in Scotland, similar to what we saw in Silicon Valley. Events like Techaus, Scotland’s largest digital festival which was launched by Equator and Digital Media Meetup last November, provide a fantastic platform for connecting developers and industry-leading businesses, just like DeveloperWeek does.

Seeing Golden Gate Bridge was impressive but the highlight of the trip was definitely winning the Hackathon and thrashing Silicon Valley heavyweights. It shows that the skills we’ve built up in Equator and the way we’ve learned to work has put us ahead of the game. Competing in the Hackathon was the perfect opportunity to see how Equator shapes up against the world’s leading tech talent – and we won!

By Philippa Christie, Production Manager. 

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