There were 11 teams and 11 impressive products. Obviously I’m not judging the same way that the judges would, but I’d like to talk about the products anyway – so many of them are great ideas – and then I’ll summarise what I’ve learned, and my thoughts overall.
Made by Jackie Antig, Quinnie Chan and Judith Gammie, this iPhone app sends you a notification first thing in the morning, tells you the weather forecast, and suggests an outfit for the day, based on outfits made by Australian designers like Veronika Maine and sass & bide.
There have been a few apps that try to do this, like Swackett, Three, and What Should I Wear. I’ve tried Swackett before and the main problem was that it was too repetitive and generic – it would show me a cartoon outfit that didn’t make much sense in relation to my wardrobe. Cloth comes from a different (and maybe more successful) angle, as it lets you catalogue your wardrobe, and then gives you suggestions based on your actual clothes.
I like the idea of Wake Up Dress Up and I think fans of fashion could really get into it, especially if it was supported and promoted by some key brands. If sass & bide, for example, promoted the app, their strong fan base would probably start using it. I think the only problem then would be keeping it interesting for users – if you just show an outfit each day, it might get a bit monotonous and not have enough engagement. Whereas, for example, if there were styling tips (“might be windy today – here are some scarf suggestions” or “purple lipstick is a hit at the runway shows – here are our top 5 purple lipsticks”) and time-relevant tips (“winter is around the corner – let’s look at winter coat ideas”) and build extra content/engagement around this, then it could have longevity.
Great idea, and I really like how the team shared their vision with us with a designed mockup. Wake Up Dress Up won the Second Prize at She Hacks.
2. Pet Friends
Made by Amelia Swenser-Smith, Katinka Kernutt, Zoe Dyson, this web application allows pet-owners to find a pet sitter for when they go away on holiday.
Again, I like how the designed MVP gave a good idea of the end vision. As for the product, thinking about it with even just 10 users in Melbourne who are looking for pet sitters for their pets, it starts to get tricky. For 10 pets needing sitting on very precise dates (e.g. when the owners are going on holiday), there would need to be enough pet sitters a) available on those dates, b) with profiles/reviews that met the pet owners’ satisfaction, and c) in locations relatively close to the pet owners, so that it wasn’t too much of a hassle to leave the pets with them. So let’s say there were 100 pet sitters on the site who were scattered around Melbourne and generally available – that might work, but it’s still a bit of a gamble. There are quite a few competitors, so you’d probably need to research their models and see how you could provide the service in an even better way.
It was a good pitch though, and I could easily imagine the product being real (and being liked).
Made by Lisy Kane, Amanda Watts and Stefania, this app is for kids! It’s like a game/challenge, and encourages kids to run around with their device-of-choice while creating “spots” – e.g. snapping a photo of a ladybird on a leaf, or a dog resting under a tree.
I love this idea! It has so much potential. The team briefly mentioned that it could be used for games, e.g. a group of kids could compete with each other in a scavenger hunt with SpotHop.
The SpotHop team really want to make this a real app, and they’ve set up a SpotHop website to find developers who would be willing to work on it with them. I hope they find the right people.
As with the other products so far, I really liked how the designed prototype was showing us the vision for the product.
(So far, I think this one is my favourite…)
Made by Annmarie McMath, Laura Brown and an unknown third person, Sprout tackles the problem of “What is there to do in <this town>?” It’s a mobile app that lets users search for things to do, and the app is fed by aggregated data from sources like Eventbrite and other event listing applications.
It’s a nice idea, and I completely understand the problem they’re trying to solve – the following apt screenshot was in the Sprout presentation…
…but as with Pet Friends, my first concern would be about finding users. There are lots of competitors in the event space, and you have to either do things better or differently (e.g. by finding a niche market, or by creating a groundbreaking product) to compete in busy markets. However, simply appearing in Google results for “things to do in richmond melbourne” might actually work, if the app is easy and useful (which would be a challenge, because it’s quite a complicated app when you get into the details!).
My second concern would be about relying heavily on the data from other products, because, as Jason Kottke found out, if third parties change their rules, it can make your life really hard. But their mockups show that they allow events to be added straight into the app, and maybe partnerships could be formed with other event services.
As with the other products above, I liked how they had a designed mockup for their vision of the product.
Made by Shristi Sharma, Sally Pryor and me (Fox Woods), SheLeads is a web application where conference and event organisers can, for a subscription fee, list their event and put the call-out for female speakers, workshop leaders, mentors, etc, so that there can be greater gender diversity at conferences and events.
The vision for the product is that:
- Females can sign up for email alerts, and when an event matches their preferences, they receive an email with events that might interest them, and they can get in touch with the event organiser and discuss a possible topic for a talk or workshop.
- Females can view the events and then nominate other female speakers who might be perfect for that event.
- It will expand into other sectors, e.g. Find a female developer, Find a female UX designer, etc.
The great benefits of using SheLeads are: a) gender diversity, b) greater gender diversity in the event audience, as more females are likely to come if there are female leaders at the event, and c) females encouraging other females to step up – if six of your female friends have signed up for SheLeads, it’s likely that you might start considering yourself speaker-material too!
So… remembering that this was my product, here’s my thoughts on it:
I think it’s trying to solve an important problem, and I can see it working – both having speaker-customers and event-organiser-customers – and being a commercially viable product. However, I don’t think the vision was communicated in the pitch presentation, and the barebones undesigned MVP also didn’t communicate anything from the vision, so in comparison with most of the other products here, it didn’t sell well.
Made by Magda, Victoria Cullen, Bei and AJ, Garage Sale Map set out to solve the problem: “How do I find the garage sales that are on?” The web/mobile app shows a map of your city, and you can then zoom into an area, and garage sales are marked with map flags, so you can tap on the flags to see details about the garage sale. Users can also view listings by date, so they can see garage sales that are on tomorrow, or next week, etc. Garage sale organisers can list their events in the app.
This app won First Prize at She Hacks, and I don’t understand why. I think the prototype they made was pretty cool, and the pitch was charismatic and entertaining, but there are a bunch of problems I see with the concept. I figure there must be something I’m missing… maybe it was coded in a really cool way.
If I was workshopping this product idea with the team (and I work with startups for real, as my job), this would be my feedback:
- This app requires a high critical mass of garage sale organisers to succeed. Garage Sale Map can’t work if only 10 users login each month and add their garage sales. It means that a new customer might log in and only see 1 garage sale listed on each Saturday and Sunday in the month, and even then, those garage sales might be far away. And it’s unlikely that there would be regular users, who constantly list garage sales… so there is a requirement for a high critical mass of new and changing users: every week, new people come to the app, and add their once-in-a-year garage sale event.
- After achieving a high critical mass of garage sale organisers, the app also needs garage sale customers. And to provide success for the organisers, it would need a high critical mass of customers, too. If there are only 10 customers browsing Garage Sale Map each weekend, and the likelihood of them finding and going to a garage sale is only 50%, then the garage sale organisers aren’t going to get any new customers. So there really needs to be multiple-hundreds of customers, and multiple-hundreds of organisers.
- Non-native maps are tricky on touch screens. E.g. if you go to a company’s website and then to their store locator page, it can be really frustrating using the map – frustrating to zoom in, frustrating to somehow scroll down past the map to see store details.
I hope that feedback makes sense. If someone had suggested this concept to me, I would have asked them about those three things.
Made by Rhiana Heath, Louise Angrilli and a third unknown person, Coffee House Mentor is:
A casual match making service helping mentors find mentees in a fun and casual environment.
This is a Melbourne based project, initially finding and targeting prominent women in technology, but could then branch out into other areas in science, technology and arts.
This provides a safe and structured environment for people to meet and share ideas.
You can see the Coffee House Mentor website, and here are some screenshots:
I like the problem that Coffee House Mentor is trying to solve, and I know that many young women out there would love to find a mentor, but I also acknowledge it’s a complicated problem:
- The user numbers need to be right – mentees need to be able to browse enough mentors to find someone who suits them.
- After a mentor has one mentee (or however many they will accept), they need to be able to hide their profile (or something similar), and if this is left up to the user, they will likely forget to do it, so it probably needs to be part of an automated system. There are likely more parts of the process that need to be automated.
- After being part of a mentor program myself, I know that lots of people can put their hands up to be mentors, but they aren’t necessarily going to be good mentors for the mentees. There needs to be a quick and easy option to quit the mentor/mentee relationship and start over – and interpersonal problems like this can have negative effects on people, so they have to be carefully planned.
While I admire the up-and-running web application that the Coffee House Mentor team created in one day, I think it suffers from the same problem that SheLeads had – it doesn’t show the vision of the product. We don’t know what the ideal future version of the product might be (and it might be amazing!). I remember in the pitch, the team talked about creating materials that the mentors could use to plan sessions with the mentees, and I thought this was a really good idea. Also, little video intros would be cool; I can’t remember if they were mentioned in the pitch.
I do hope that someone can build a good mentorship program for women, because the one that I experienced was hopeless!
8. Urban Field Guide
Made by Jess Cola, Liza Nguyen and a third unknown person, Urban Field Guide provides tourists, people who are new to an area, and people who want to explore with themed day trip itineraries. E.g. A day for foodies in Fitzroy, or Modern art in Melbourne, or A day of thrift store shopping and cheap eats!
I have wanted this exact product when travelling. I have wished, in the past, that someone would make it. I would have used it in San Francisco, LA, New York, Boston, Mexico… I would use it everywhere! Current “tour guide books” are really hopeless – out of date in a jiffy, hard to search and bookmark and plan, impossible to “click to see more” photos/reviews/information, and often not-to-my-taste. On last year’s Mexico trip, I went to a couple of places recommended in a Lonely Planet guide and I disagreed with the recommendations entirely! We ended up doing a few day tours with a local group, which were fantastic, and we really enjoyed the tour guides’ company, but as soon as we went to a new area in Mexico, we were back to painfully trawling the Lonely Planet book + Trip Advisor + Google + Wikipedia + Foursquare + a bunch of other resources.
So – I really like the Urban Field Guide idea, and while it might be difficult getting users unless there’s a strategic partnership (e.g. with Lonely Planet, or Yelp, etc), and it has the same problem as Sprout with a reliance on third party data (the prototype was only using Foursquare data), I think that this also answers the same question as Sprout: “What is there to do in <this town>?” and that has a lot of potential. If you used Google to ask that question, and it returned with the result of Urban Field Guide, you might be pleasantly surprised with your options.
What was particularly impressive with this team is that they not only showed us their designed vision of the end product, but they also had a working prototype using Foursquare data with a basic design!
What a great entry. Even though I really like the idea of SpotHop, Urban Field Guide is now the top entry for me. I can imagine that if they concentrated on getting the experience right for Melbourne and then expanded out to other cities, it could be commercially solving a problem for many, many users out there.
I know that it’s a vaguely similar idea to Out Trippin’ (and there are likely other competitors too) but I think the problem with Out Trippin’ (where members create personalised itineraries for customers, for a fee) is that it makes sense for special experiences (like honeymoons), but not for everyday experiences where you can probably have a selection of readymade day trip itineraries that will suit very different kinds of people.
9. Uniform Ethic
Made by Liz Blink, Michele McArdle and Kate Lanyon, Uniform Ethic is a web application where you can “find out if your uniform is ethically made or not, what to do about it if not, and then make a small donation to stamp your ethical footprint onto this moment and help out the women in our global community.”
These guys… they had payments hooked up! I might be wrong, but I think this is the only team that truly had a working MVP. A user could search for a company, see if it was ethical, and donate money. Now that is really impressive.
I like what this team was trying to do. It’s solving a specific problem, and helping out humankind at the same time. I do think the idea needs to be massaged further, though. It might be so niche that it won’t get much use – if there is somehow an awareness campaign to promote the website, any parents who visit will (maybe) look up their children’s uniform brands and (maybe) donate, but then they have no reason to come back again.
If, however, the site was open to all types of clothing (not just uniforms), then it might really gain some traction. Imagine if you could look up Kmart and see the locations of their manufacturing factories, and whether or not they were paying minimum wage or more, and what the working conditions were like! It would probably require a gung-ho team of activist researchers (unless there are other manufacturers’ watchdogs that you can hook into), but it could change a lot.
Made by Olga Dziemidowicz and two other unknown team members, OneStopRecycle is a mobile app that helps you to figure out how to recycle anything.
Users can set their location, then search by keyword, e.g. “cling wrap” or “tire” or “battery” to find out how to recycle that item. Users can also view a calendar of garbage/recycling collection dates, view information about recycling in Victoria, and list items that they want to give away on a message board.
I agree with the reason for making this app. The current lack of communication around recycling is frustrating and stupid. Mum saw me unwrapping a magazine one day, and I went to throw the cling wrap in the bin, and she said, “No, when it’s really thin clear plastic like that, it can be recycled!” I was like, “How do you find out about these things?!”
And in looking up competitors for this app, I have also just learned that regular batteries can be recycled at any Aldi store, and it seems, most Officeworks stores. I had no idea. Why can’t we get this right? People want to do the right thing, but they don’t have the time or the mental space to think: I will search Google to find out if I can recycle this cling wrap.
So, I agree that we need a better way. Looking at competitors, there are a couple of mobile recycle apps already, but they aren’t for the state of Victoria; however, there is a really good website for all of Australia, called Recycling Near You, run by Planet Ark. I think OneStopRecycle would ideally partner with Planet Ark and develop a mobile app using all the fantastic data that they already have… however, I don’t think this is going to solve the root problem, which is that it still requires people to have the time and mental space to think, “What should I do with this thing? I will open up the app and search for it.” To solve that, we’d need to address packaging. Our current recycling symbols and labelling system just don’t cut it anymore.
OneStopRecycle won the Social Good Prize at She Hacks.
Lucky last! Made by Sheree Rubinstein, Athy Giannopoulos and Natalie Rudolph, “Intersection aggregates events from popular event platforms, like Facebook, EventBrite, Meetup and more, in a clear and simple mobile interface.” You can see the Intersection prototype.
My thoughts on Intersection are similar to Sprout – finding users might be a problem, and relying on data from other sources might be, too. But as with Sprout and Urban Field Guide, I think there’s still a gap in the market for applications that can help people figure out: “What is there to do in <this town>?”, so even though it’s tackling a large and complicated problem, with a gorgeous design and nice experience, it could totally work.
WHEW! That’s all eleven projects!
What I’ve learned for next time
- Besides the process sketch, also sketch out each part of the process, so that you are all on the same page when it comes to what you are building. Agree on the priorities.
- Have an hourly review to:
- Check the sketches against the application
- Communicate, communicate, communicate! What is everyone working on for the next hour?
- Check if there are any bottlenecks. If only one person can access the prototype or application, then no one else can add content or design/style the product.
- Probably need to find a way to get more sleep. Somehow.
- Have a way (a sign?) to show mentors that we are in Do Not Disturb mode sometimes.
- Take jelly beans. I desperately needed sugar on the second day, and I wasn’t going to start eating sugar packets!
- Get feedback afterwards.
And, for the pitch
- It’s a gamble. The judges might be very business-like, like me, and be interested in a product that has real-world potential – OR they might be more like awards judges, and be more interested in “the show of it” – a charismatic pitch. So I need to take these both into account next time, and
- Tell the story of the product in an interesting and charismatic way
- Address the business aspects as well
- We needed to rehearse a 2.5 minute pitch. Even though we rehearsed and rehearsed our 3 minute pitch, when we were up, we were nervous and somehow went for 3.5 minutes.
- So, the 3-minute structure might have been better like this:
- 1st minute – A charismatic story, talking about the need for the product and what customers want
- 2nd minute – A charismatic story, talking about how the product works, the vision, and how customers will use and love it. We really needed to show the vision more… how people would receive email alerts with events that suited them, how people would be able to nominate female speakers who they think would be great to speak at particular events, how we would change the world…
- Last 30 seconds – Addressing marketing, money, and quickly wrapping up
- Give yourself permission to stand out. It might be because I was tired, but I don’t think I gave myself permission to stand out at the pitch. I don’t know if that makes sense, but this is a note for myself, for the future!
And, final thoughts
1. Can I find some makers?
Working on something just for a competition is, to me, really strange. I’m used to building real things – even if they’re not successful – but getting them live and testing them with real people. I would really like to find a group of people who want to make things, ongoing.
2. UX, please
In a situation like a hackathon, where you’re only working on an MVP, my skills don’t really come into play. Well, I definitely got to use my web savvy / web business skills, which was good. I know how to make a web product that is commercially viable. But my pitching and marketing skills… they are my least favourite. And I didn’t really get a chance to work on the UX. Hmm.
3. Mad props to the She Hacks crew
I am really glad I finally was able to try a hackathon. It was beautifully organised, there was delicious food, and the space was wonderful. We were given such special treatment; it made us feel so good. We were treated like kings.
For all my “in retrospect” commentary, I was pumped and passionate for almost the whole thing, and really excited and stimulated, and I would definitely do it again. Everyone was really nice and super interesting… I wish I was able to talk to everyone, rather than just my team. I hope, as Tammy has set up a Facebook group for us all, that we will keep making things together!
[Top image credit: Yishan Chan Photography]