DeVice Wins the Hack4Colorado Pot for App that Helps Feed ‘Vices’

6/3/13Follow @MichaelXBD

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communities have opted to keep sales illegal. Other helpful features let users summon a cab and pulls data from police reports so they know how safe an area they’re in.

DeVice also won the $2,000 prize for best tourism app.

Along with handing out prizes, the hackathon helped promote the idea of civic hacking, said Jason Lally, one of Hack4Colorado’s organizers.

The key concept of civic hacking is that entrepreneurs, coders, and designers can use their expertise to build tools that help connect citizens with each other and government officials, Lally said. The government’s contribution often is releasing some of the voluminous economic and demographic data it collects. Civic hackers can use that to build apps or even companies.

The idea resonated with the Hack4Colorado crowd.

“I saw a lot of heads nodding as people were presenting. I think a lot of teams got the idea of using public data sets and about trying to build something from them,” Lally said.

Companies trying to capitalize on big data have been around for a while, but getting that data from publicly available government sources is new and potentially fertile ground for businesses.

“I think we’re in the middle of its emergence. It’s really, really new,” Lally said. “There are definitely precedents, but we’re defining an industry.”

Prominent local startups like ReadyTalk, SendGrid, and iTriage sponsored Hack4Colorado and sent employees to help teams during the hackathon and judge the event. Many also provided cash prizes to the teams that best used their public APIs.

Getting government officials on board was another matter, largely because of the impression that hackers always have bad intentions. Some communities seemed to understand the benefit a hackathon could provide faster than others.

“I think people here really got that. In other cities, they didn’t get that at all,” Spoor said. With Colorado officials, “we had to explain it, but it wasn’t a difficult conversation.”

The idea seems to be here to stay. While this is the first hackathon under the Hack4Colorado banner, it’s not the first civic hackfest in Colorado. That honor belongs to the one organized last year by Colorado Code for Communities.

That event drew about 30 people, Lally said.

After about 48 hours of work, organizers were a bit burned out. When they’ve recovered, they’ll make some decisions about the future of the event, but it doesn’t look like civic hackathons are going away in Colorado. The city of Denver and the state government are planning hackathons of their own, Spoor said.

“We’re hoping this event is the launching pad and will create momentum for future events, like the city and state’s hackathons,” Spoor said.

Michael Davidson is the editor of Xconomy Boulder/Denver. He covers startups, venture capital, clean tech, energy, aerospace, telecoms, and whatever else happens above 5,280 feet. Contact him at mdavidson@xconomy.com. Follow @MichaelXBD

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