Eventr Captures Twilio Prize at Angel Hack SF

CAUTION: Intense Hacking in Progress

On March 3rd the startup communities in Boston and San Francisco converged on Angel Hack, a bi-coastal hackathon that attracted hundreds of developers who had 30 hours to build an app from scratch and pitch it to a panel of angel investors.  I attended the San Francisco event which was held at Adobe’s offices on Townsend St.  I had a font-row seat to a whirlwind of activity: teams forming, teams disbanding, rapid-fire brainstorming, ideas coming into focus and eventually a flurry of check-ins.  It was fun to see some great apps built using Twilio, including Download4me, Remedicine, Confession Call and Audiolyzer.

I had the pleasure of awarding the Twilio SF prize to Jesse Chen for building Eventr, an app that supercharges Eventbrite by letting event organizers ping and poll their attendees over SMS.  Here’s a quick Q&A that I had with Jesse following the event:

Jesse & his new Kindle Fire

Carter: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Jesse: I am a student at UC Berkeley studying Computer Science that is graduating this semester.  I am really passionate about mobile technology and entrepreneurship, which is why I will be joining Facebook after graduation!

C: How did you hear about Angel Hack SF?

J: I attended the first Angel Hack in December 2011 when I read about it on the Internet.  I had an awesome experience meeting other people and competing in the hackathon, which prompted me to immediately sign up for Angel Hack 2 in SF.

C: What inspired you to build Eventr?

J: I have previously attended events where communication between the event organizers and the attendees were minimal to nil, whether that is because of technical difficulties or the lack of efficient tools to communicate with attendees.  It becomes a frustrating experience for both the organizer as well as the attendees, and the end result is a negative perception of the event.  Eventr is built to solve that problem.  By providing a platform for event organizers to efficiently broadcast announcements via SMS as well as receiving feedback from attendees in real-time through the use of Eventr’s SMS Poll feature, it benefits both parties by creating a seamless communication channel between the event organizers and the attendees.

C: Tell me about all the technologies you used.

J: I used the Eventbrite API to pull the event details, and the twilio API for the SMS infrastructure.  For the frontend, it is built entirely on HTML5, jQuery and Twitter Bootstrap.  The backend is built using PHP for handling the outgoing/incoming text messages.  The best part about Eventr is the responsive design feature, which means Eventr is optimized for your desktop, tablet, or phone all at once!

C: What was the hardest part?

J: The hardest part was defining the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) since the hackathon was only 30 hours.  When I came up with the idea, I had a large list of awesome features that I would like to flesh out over the course of the hackathon.  When the hackathon kicked off, I was ready to get wired in, put my head down and start coding away, but it took a lot of effort to slow down and be patient by taking the first hour to define the set of core features that must be implemented by hour 30.

As a matter of fact, the twilio API was by far the easiest part of building Eventr, the API documentation was well written and I was able to send my first SMS within a matter of minutes!

C: What’s next for Eventr?

J: After receiving extremely positive feedback from multiple people, my goal is to polish it up and make it scalable so that event organizers can begin using Eventr for their own events.  Ironically, Angel Hack created hackathon.io for this event, which is an additional website that attendees have to register for to receive SMS updates.  Angel Hack already have our cell phone numbers from their Eventbrite event, so why not use Eventr which can send SMS updates to attendees without requiring them to create another account?  My hope is that Eventr can be used for future events to enable frictionless communicatation between event organizers and their attendees.