I made two trips to Philadelphia in January. The first was for PennApps and a I took the Amtrak from NYC a second time for Philly Startup Weekend. I’ll be back again in April for Philly Tech Week and I’m really looking forward to it.
PennApps Mobile Hackathon
I’ve been to a lot of hackathons, and I was really impressed by the Dining Philosophers of UPenn for putting together such a quality event. The student organized double all-night hackfest was very well put together, the students were really driven and lots of them put in all nighters to make their apps shine.
I gave three API demos on Friday night: voice and SMS using the Twilio API, accessing the hivemind using the Wikipedia API, and a third on building cross platform mobile apps with Titanium Mobile. I was really hoping to see a team build a mashup using all three. On Saturday I held a Demo Bootcamp to walk the students through giving an effective demo in five minutes.
Over the course of the weekend, I spent a lot of time helping all of the teams and definitely left with a feeling of being incredibly productive. The overall winner was MeepMe with an app for anonymous SMS chat by event attendees using the Twilio API. The primary use case is for singles nights at bars, but the team has other plans for networking events.
MobLaundry took home the prize for best Twilio integration by building an SMS application for querying dorm room washer and dryer availability.
I was also really impressed by FactSnap and DroidXtend. FactSnap created a Mobile app that adds Snapple Fact like tidbits to any product with a barcode. They sourced the facts from Wikipedia and automatically tie each product to a specific category of facts. DroidXtend was a truly amazing app for manipulating 3D models using the orientation sensor of an android phone. You really have to check out the video to get it.
Philly Startup Weekend
There were some equally great apps created at Philly Startup Weekend. The event started with 48 one-minute pitches and ended on Sunday with 19 demos.
A group of students from UPenn who also attended PennApps conceived and built FindMeFor_ which uses the Twilio API to create an event based network for finding sharing contact information.
The overall event winner was GitHacking. They built a service on top of the Github API for projects to make contributing easier. They were definitely able to demonstrate demand, just take a look at this thread on Hacker News. Within two hours of launching, they were able to generate nearly 500 signups. Githacking even managed to get coverage in ReadWriteWeb.
Speaking of launching, another really interesting product that was created at Philly Startup Weekend is LaunchRock. The idea is dead simple: “Create a viral ‘launching soon’ page in minutes.” The LaunchRock team dogfood’d their product and started accepting beta signups using their viral landing page platform. The meta-ness of the whole thing landed them on the front page of TechCrunch. At present I’ve got the number one spot for referrers with nearly 1600 visits and 90 signups.
I’ve really enjoyed these last two trips to Philadelphia, and am looking forward to coming back in April. Shoot me an email (jdb at twilio dot com) if you know of any events in Philly that I should check out next time I’m in town.