Hack Tairawhiti

Written on May 20, 2018

Start here, grow anywhere

I was lucky enough to be invited along to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise event Hack Tairawhiti this weekend in Gisborne and Microsoft offered to support this event and my trip. This event was part of the larger #Techweek event that is talking place this week.

The event was focused around Maori tech companies taking their ideas and products global. We followed the tried and trusted framework that Kerry Topp and his team at Datacom have formulated over their years of running their internal event Datacomp. This involves pitches from the companies on their idea to hack on for the weekend, team forming and mentorship. We has some amazing business mentors who travelled in to help the teams and I was part of the technical mentor team with Jason, Dave and Thivy from Datacom and Jonathan from AWS. Datacom also brought a whole raft of developers and designers who were assigned to each team to help them through prototyping their ideas.

Kick off

We kicked off on Friday night with a bang, pitches from the companies followed by teams forming around the ideas they liked the most or where they felt they could add value. Then we really got into it, a flurry of activity and ideas flying. I spent most of that time helping some of the teams understand what tech they could leverage to help them with their ideas. We had the standard web hosting, backend data and APIs covered easily, so it was interesting to see how we could use cognitive services like computer vision and speech to text.

Hack day 2

Friday night was gone in a flash and we were already into Saturday. I got up to get some fresh air and check out some more of Gisborne, the danger with these events and trips is that you get so immersed in the event itself you don’t get outside much. I managed to get a run up beach past the surf club and got this amazing photo.

So we were into day two and helping a number of teams, one was using Custom Vision service to recognize landmarks from photos on Xamarin Forms mobile app. We had another team using speech recognizer for a learning tool to help with kids literacy. One of the teams was building an Alexa skill to make a conversational app around Maori legends and another team was doing facial recognition for classroom attendance in schools.

I was lucky enough to spend some time with on of the teams and Candace Kinser Reed who shared her amazing experience and advice from the numerous organizations she has worked for, with and founded!

As part of Tech Week we were also luck to have Savannah Peterson (aka Savvy) fly all the way from San Fran, she got the prize for travelling the furthest to be their on the weekend. Savvy is an amazing human and has a string of accomplishments, super easy to talk to and more than happy to share her thoughts and ideas. She talked to us about design thinking, her unique take on business and shared some very personal stories which I will not forget.

After a full day of building prototypes most of the teams had something amazing to show for their efforts. We has some amazing food and entertainment and a few drinks to celebrate the royal wedding!

Hack day 3 and done

The final day and time was running out for a few teams, but most of the tech was done or close, so now it was time to practice the pitches and round this thing out. After a seeing first hand a number of pivots throughout the weekend it was great to see it all come together at the last minute.

This event was a precision operation and soon the room had been transformed from a haze of people and laptops, into presentation mode for the final events. We had local judges from Gisborne including Meng Foon the Mayor, Dr Michelle Dickinson (aka Nano Girl), Grant Straker and Linda Jenkinson. The teams were all given 15 minutes to pitch their idea, demo and business plan. It was great to see these ideas and prototypes given the stage and also give the other teams a glimpse of what the other teams had been working on.

The room electric and it was clear to see that in just under 48 hours everyone had made a difference. Congrats to all the teams and all the winners and I hope to see all of these projects go live.

Thanks to NZTE and Microsoft for the invite and the help getting me there, I had a truely great weekend, met some great people and new friends.

Written on May 20, 2018