Outside the Brooklyn Navy Yard our team from Topcoder stood, unsure what we’d see and experience once we got inside. The iconic Manhattan skyline dominated the view just over the East River. This naval yard was first constructed all the way back in 1801, just 18 years after the end of the Revolutionary War. Now, 217 years later organizations from around the globe would gather to showcase their social good application solutions they built as part of Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Living Progress Challenge.
When this program began, HPE crowdsourced over 400 app ideas and over 130 detailed proposals answering the simple, but important question:
What software applications and digital services would you create to improve lives?
After careful vetting, HPE selected their top 20 finalists who would move on to the next phase of this program. These teams had just 12 weeks to take their solution from an early stage idea to a technical prototype. To execute, they would use crowdsourcing competitions in the Topcoder Marketplace to design and develop their app solutions.
Ten finalists were then invited to demo their solution at the HPE Living Progress Challenge Finals. Which brings us back to standing in this historic shipyard, moments away from stepping into the awe inspiring space that is New Lab.
First Impressions Matter – And New Lab Gets an A
From the moment you walk into the refabricated hangar-like facility you’re struck by a few things. The huge ceilings give the space a tremendous, grandiose feel. The industrial cathedral is bright, symmetric, metallic, yet welcoming. And overall the place is buzzing with energy, openness, and yes, plenty of caffeine.
The Teams, the Dreams, and the Live Pitches
Asking 20 teams to take their app concept from a proposal through to a working prototype in just 12 weeks is a huge ask. Having them execute on their ideas through design and development competitions on Topcoder, when they’ve likely never used crowdsourcing for technical projects before, is a new wrinkle! To then select a top 10, invite them to Brooklyn, NY and have them pitch in front of a live audience full of HPE executives, organizations, and media… well that’s exactly what HPE did.
These ten teams stepped up to the plate and with energy, preparation and overflowing passion, pitched the world on their Living Progress Challenge solution. We were blown away.
Note – some write-ups below use solution descriptions featured in this article.
AgriUp by the World Food Programme
The team from AgriUp – from the World Food Programme – delighted us with a great tale of a farmer named Gustavo from Guatemala. Through better, more accessible mobile data delivered through their app concept, Gustavo reduced the aphids destroying his crops by 95%. Now, to get this helpful technology and access into the hands of 1.4 million other Guatemalan farmers!
Great job, this was an inspiring start to the day of live pitches!
Civic CrowdAnalytics by Stanford University
Democracy is flourishing and as a result citizens have more ways to express their concerns and desires than ever before. With many governments turning to crowdsourcing to help gather citizen voices, ideas, and comments, this naturally causes a data bottleneck. Civic CrowdAnalytics’ solution is created to solve this bottleneck by applying sentiment analysis and easy to consume, visual dashboards, helping an administrator more clearly understand and act on the growing citizen data they now have access to.
The team behind Civic CrowdAnalytics – from Stanford University – pitched with passion and purpose, great job!
Mentor ME hit the stage with bravado, a great looking demo and an important reason to exist! Young adults who face an opportunity gap but have a mentor are 55% more likely to be enrolled in college than those who did not have a mentor.* Mentor ME increases and accelerates access to mentors for high school and college students with a user-friendly and appealing approach. It matches mentors and students based on a wide range of factors including interests, skills, geography, and more. The platform enables progress to be tracked and provides users with tools to measure program success.* The Mentoring Effect 2014 Report, The National Mentoring Partnership.
It was great to meet this inspirational team whose energy and passion matched their smart solution!
Dynamic Accessibility Maturity Model by Business Disability Forum
Lucy Ruck, the Technology Taskforce Manager at Business Disability Forum addressed the Living Progress Challenge audience with wit and a focus on a huge opportunity.
A one trillion dollar opportunity.
A great take away from her demo, beyond the financial opportunity, is that organizations can and should take an accessibility first approach to digital design and applications. For one, it’s way simpler to design solutions this way out of the gate versus retrofitting existing solutions. And secondly, taking an accessibility first approach can lead to better solutions for all!
Great job, your pitch and demo of your application were fantastic.
All For Good by Points of Light
What inspired me about this team’s presentation was the clear and bold goal they announced to the room and just how honest they were about the state of volunteering technology.
Their bold goal:
Double the number of volunteers in this world.
Their honest talk to the room:
That the approach to helping people get to volunteer work that matters to them can be improved and that through better design and analytics, they could change the game.
Their application looked fantastic and their pitch drew a ton of head nodding from the attentive audience. Job well done!
WORTH – Women’s Community Savings by Pact
The team from Pact told a powerful story focused on economic impact and democratization of economic opportunity. By creating a simple, beautiful banking and micro-lending mobile application, their team would help women across the globe by making community savings much easier, more efficient, and as a result, much more impactful!
The app didn’t just focus on savings, but on micro-lending intra-community so members of the group could take out loans to make investments like starting and growing a business of their own.
One of the more poignant moments of the day came when Carrie Keju, Senior Director, Livelihoods & Economic Opportunities at Pact, said the following when describing her emotions the first time she began to review the submissions coming from our Topcoder Community.
This pitch was authentic and clearly resonated with the room. Great job to the team from Pact!
The Samasource pitch was interesting in a very cool way because this team’s output was focused on an advancement of a machine learning algorithm. They have a great reason to do it too.
Samasource provides digital work to those in most need of economic opportunity. Samasource’s Barb Chang put it rather elegantly:
By using machine learning algorithms, Samasource solutions can be more efficient and in becoming more efficient, create more work.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Samasource pitch was that an astounding 84% of workers who do digital work through Samasource are either still employed, have gone back to school to further their education, or both! That is an impressive stat:
Good job team Samasource and very cool application of machine learning to create more opportunity for people around the globe!
MoBY by Jacaranda Health
MoBy had an intriguing pitch with a strong value proposition, so what was it?
MoBy, short for Mother-Baby, is an application to provide pregnant and new mothers with a small, closed social network of like individuals. By providing these mothers with timely updates and a forum to discuss challenges and share experiences with one another, the MoBy app can help to improve healthcare outcomes for both mothers and newborns. Talk about an important issue!!!
What I thought was really impressive about their live demo was the app’s ability not just to create a social messaging environment for the mothers, but to also be able to guide these mothers through purposeful content, while gathering feedback directly from them as they engaged the app over time. You can see some of this rating style interface in action in the shot below:
Their pitch was a great balance of identifying a real problem, one that can be solved, and applying technology in an elegant manner to solve it – well done!
Ready4Business – by Global Disaster Preparedness Center
When you understand what Ready4Business provides, you understand the huge value they can create for small business owners across the globe.
This app offers business owners a gamified way to check all the needed boxes to prepare for disaster. How will businesses stay connected to their suppliers during disaster? How will businesses ship their goods, stay open, and continue to serve their communities when the community likely needs them most? How will a small business bounce back as quickly as possible from a natural disaster?
These are just some of the scenarios their mobile application Ready4Business helps a user work through before a disaster strikes.
What I thought was especially interesting about this solution was the discussion that took place with the judges post-pitch, live on stage. All agreed that getting small business owners to use this app might be difficult since they already have so much on their proverbial plate. The suggestion that businesses that attain a ‘Disaster Preparation Certificate’ via the app could receive a healthy cost reduction on various insurances was a winning one. This certification idea helped answer the challenge that an app like this might suffer from user uptake, and I agree.
The team from Ready4Business did a wonderful job on stage, kudos to their team.
Detect IT: Fish by World Wildlife Federation
Fish is such an important food source the world over and yet it is extremely vulnerable to illegal activities. Illegal fishing, illegal and dishonest labeling of fish and seafood types, and beyond creates big problems for both those in the industry and the consumer.
From the aforementioned article:
WWF is leveraging HPE Vertica technology to develop a web-based tool that can identify potential trade flows of illegal products by highlighting discrepancies in reported trade data of fisheries products between countries. The tool enables automated data collection, comparison, and analytical assessments to detect and tackle illegal trade of fisheries products, the most heavily traded food commodity, at a global scale.
The Detect IT: Fish solution is a shining example of applying better data analytics to an identified problem in order to affect change. The team from WWF drove home the point as to why this effort is just so important for so many millions and millions of people across the globe!
And the Winners Are …
With about an hour or two long break after the final pitch of the day, a few cocktails flowed, numerous business cards were exchanged, and the HPE judges emerged from a room after careful deliberation. You could see the nervous excitement on the faces of all participants. Getting to this stage was a big deal, moving on to the Build Phase of the Living Progress Challenge could be life changing for these teams and their respective purposes.
New Lab captured a great image as the effervescent crowd gathered to hear the big news.
And then … the winners were announced:
From our team and our community at Topcoder, we want to congratulate the 4 winners, MentorME: Connecting People to Better Lives by HPE Business Process Improvement Team Guadalajara; Social Volunteer Discovery With All For Good by Points of Light, Detect IT: Fish – Using trade data to fight illegal fishing by World Wildlife Foundation, and Helping people increase their WORTH by Pact. Though there are 4 winners moving on to the next phase, we believe a round of applause is well deserved, not just for the 4 winners or the 10 finalists that were invited to demo day, but also extended to all 20 teams that made it into this prestigious Design Phase of the HPE Living Progress Challenge.
We can’t wait to help bring the 4 winning application ideas towards market. Congrats and let’s get to it!