Edmunds Brings the Outside in at Hackomotive 2014

In the world of corporate innovation, hackathons have moved well beyond the technology-only focus that the word “hack” often conjures up. They’ve become a valid method of bringing a diverse and passionate group of people together over a short time to solve real world problems and produce a basket of strong ideas.

Today’s hackathon is no longer reserved for techies, programmers and coders. Rather, it draws designers, storytellers, marketers and entrepreneurs. The underlying premise is that creativity is a contact sport, and having dozens of talented individuals rub shoulders and put their heads together is bound to produce something profound.

Here at Edmunds.com, the only requirement to participate is a passion for changing the world, if only in some small way. As URBANTIMES points out, “A hacker is someone with an all-consuming desire to deconstruct and recreate…to see new potential within something already established, often within the rigid confines of dominant culture.”

From Hack Days to Ignite! to the annual public Hackomotive, Edmunds.com hackathons have become a popular means of creating high-altitude solutions to high-visibility challenges.

HACKOMOTIVE 2013 RECAP

Hackomotive 2013 was held over two days, and followed a wide open format: participants first huddled around pre-determined problem spaces, detailing as many issues and pain points. From hundreds of issues, facilitators prepared affinity maps to pull patterns from the myriad, and constructed discrete problem statements.

Individuals then signed up for the problem statement they wanted to tackle, and self-organized into hack teams. The innovation effort began after lunch the first day, and it continued overnight and through noon the next day. Teams presented their solutions late the second day. A panel of judges evaluated each idea against a set of well-defined criteria, and winners were declared.

While high energy, high enthusiasm, and high engagement characterized Hackomotive 2013, the Edmunds team decided to take Hackomotive 2014 to a new level.

HACKOMOTIVE 2014

Hackomotive 2014 took on a distinctly different feel: far more purposeful, far more competitive, and far more productive, owing to several new twists.

First, it was extended to three days, and it was by application only. Second, it encouraged teams with ideas already under development to enter, and it required some form of prototype concept accompanying a team’s application. Third, a series of “gates”–structured surprise challenges combined with a series of pitches designed to guide prototype development, replaced the single final team presentation format of the previous year. Fourth, the panel of judges wore two hats: evaluator and mentor.

Finally, but perhaps most importantly, Hackomotive 2014 narrowed the focus from 2013’s entire automotive experience to just the car shopping experience, in keeping with the Edmunds.com corporate purpose.

Running in tandem to the team competition was a series of innovation workshops in the form of trend sessions and design thinking training for invited guests.

This handful of key improvements produced a much higher level of excitement, passion, and commitment for all involved. Twelve teams entered, twelve teams finished, and each left the event with a more evolved concept than with which they walked in.

DAY 1

Not knowing exactly what to expect, a fair dose of shock and awe landed on the teams when they were presented with the first two surprise challenges: a 60-second, stand-up, no-prop pitch to the judges, followed by a one-minute video pitch later in the afternoon.

Both challenges were intended to accomplish two things. First, help teams clarify their message, leveraging a time constraint. Second, enable judges to decide which two teams they wished to mentor over the three days.

The pitches ran the gamut, from rusty and raw to funny and fun. But in the end, judges were able to reach consensus on their coaching druthers.

The sixth floor party was a wonderful and welcome reprieve for everyone!

DAY 2

The surprise challenge of the day was a live-event version of Kickstarter: a consumer tradeshow allowing each team to showcase their idea before twenty consumers specially recruited and armed with $15,000 each in fictional “EdBucks” to spend as they wished on their favorite ideas.

Each team felt that this was perhaps the most relevant, real-world challenge of all, and spent the better part of the day building their booths. Adding the creative tension was the fact that more than just bragging rights were on the line: the team receiving the most money would be awarded a competitive challenge in the form of professional resources to give them a true “leg up” on the surprise challenge of the final day.

Team Au.To, who fancied themselves “Google for cars,” won first place, followed closely by TireKickers, a team of mechanics that would inspect a car prior to purchase, in much the same fashion as home inspectors do.

To end the day on an entertaining note, and to test the mettle and conviction of team Au.To, they received a Let’s Make a Deal twist: an immediate cash prize of $1000, or the “leg up” prize inside a sealed envelope.

The decision was instantaneous: Team Au.To went with the sealed envelope; they were in it to win it!

Day 3

The prize for winning the consumer tradeshow was recognized by all when the surprise challenge of Day 3 was announced: a 1-minute video to be shot and shown as part of the team’s final presentation.

Team Au.To won the use of the Edmunds.com video crew, kit-and-kaboodle: cameras, lighting, direction and production…a true advantage.

It seemed Au.To was a lock to win Hackomotive 2014. Or were they?

During the evening between Day 2 and Day 3, several teams went back to the drawing board, with some teams completely pivoting to take a new direction based on consumer reaction, and others honing and enhancing their offering.

In the judges’ chambers a rather lengthy back-and-forth ensued. In the end, the judges agreed that in light of the mobile trend and the Hackomotive focus on improving “shopping” versus “purchasing,” CarCode offered the most impactful and relevant concept. CarCode was declared the $20,000 first place winner; Au.To the $10,000 second place winner; and Showroom the $5,000 third place winner.

If there is one word that describes the Hackomotive 2014 experience it is this: Surprise!

To learn more about Hackomotive 2014 visit Hackomotive.

What drives us?

At Edmunds we’re not just about making car buying easier, we're also passionate about technology!

As with any website that has millions of unique visitors, it's a necessity that we maintain a scalable and highly-available infrastructure with reliable services.

We are excited by software design and strive to create engaging exper-iences while using coding practices that promote streamlined website production and experimentation. We embrace continuous delivery, dev ops, and are constantly improving our processes so we can stay lean and innovative. We also prioritize giving back to the community by providing open APIs for our auto-motive data and open sourcing projects whenever possible.

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