Last month Context.IO was a sponsor at BattleHack Boston 2014. It’s one of a series of global hackathon contests organized by PayPal. The competitors are tasked with solving a local problem by coding. A battle axe is awarded to the first prize winners along with admission to the world finals where competitors compete for a $100,000 grand prize.
Our fearless Developer Evangelist, Tony Blank, was on hand to present special viking drinking horns to the team with the best application that incorporated the Context.IO API. The winning application was FundMatch: Efficient Giving for Effective NonProfits. We interviewed Darren Tseng from the winning team to hear how they came up with the idea for FundMatch and what problem it sought to resolve.
Who was on your team and what were their roles?
Our Backend Developer was John Rodley, the CTO of Twiage which is a Google Glass platform that allows EMTs to communicate live with doctors. Kirstian Tran from Carbonite was the Frontend Developer while I was the Designer and Data Scraper. Every good team needs a solid strategist and Product Manager, which is where Tammy Sanders came in.
Where did the idea for FundMatch come from?
The seed of our idea came from #IdeaHack, 24 hour hackathon at the StartUp Institute in which teams competed to assist Dave Delmar from resilientcoders.org. The volunteer program helps teach kids from Department of Youth Services and Boston Public Schools how to code so that they can better their lives with their new skills. One of the main deliverables for #IdeaHack was to gather a list of the most appropriate grants that ResilientCoders should apply for.
My team won the hackathon but I realized two pain points – early nonprofits have difficulty sourcing grants and that the directories we discovered either cost money or only had one level of categorization.
I presented this to the rest of the team and Tammy came up with the refined version of our idea. A platform that allowed Foundations that are overwhelmed by grant proposals to filter and rank nonprofits based on the amount of money they put towards their cause over money put towards operations.
What was the value proposition of FundMatch?
We sought to assist both the foundations seeking productive nonprofits and worthy nonprofits looking to demonstrate their effectiveness to foundations.
Effective nonprofits spend more on their cause than their operations. Their level of public openness and transparency also comes into play. On the other side, nonprofits have difficulty sourcing and receiving appropriate grants and many of them are not technologically savvy.
Understanding this, we decided to create a platform to allow foundations to filter the best fit nonprofit candidates to fund and allow nonprofits to send us their IRS 990 forms (which include financial data) to pull into the platform for ranking and approval. Thus, FundMatch.org was born.
How did you create FundMatch?
I started by finding an online directory of nonprofits and scraping their data for a half hour. I stopped the script after and we had a dataset of 350 registered nonprofits and their financial information. I spent some time designing the logo and registering the domain while John and Kirstian worked on setting up the front and backend architecture.
Next we integrated with the Paypal API to allow donations to nonprofits and to FundMatch. We also integrated with Context.IO to allow our platform to receive emails. John also hooked it up to a pdf parser to pull in all the data into the platform for approval.
Did you run into any issues during the BattleHack or the final presentation?
We did have one hiccup: during the later parts of the night, “Grunt Dist” was used incorrectly and screwed up minification of our code and prevented us from using the domain to present. Fortunately, we were still able to present using the localhost.
Near the end of the gruelingly delightful experience FundMatch was as ready as it was going to be and it was Time for Tammy to hone and practice the pitch and Kirstian to drive the visuals. Knowing that timing is often part of key to winning, they both set off to practice and perfect their timing and delivery. When it came our time to pitch Tammy and Kirstian did awesome and delivered everything right before the 3 minute buzzer went off. We honestly didn’t think the other teams had a chance just because we served a solution to a serious problem for an approx. $300 billion market of nonprofits and foundations.
Have you continued your work on FundMatch?
After winning the awesome viking drinking horn that Context.IO awarded us, we felt a sense of waste. We didn’t want to leave this platform as it really would be useful for society. But, we are all too busy with our current projects.
A few days later on the way to Boston I ran into a kid who was fascinated with my Google Glass and also just graduated from the same highschool I went to. He told me that him and his friends wanted to do a startup, but never had a proper idea. I decided this was the perfect moment to hand off the flag…a Google Hangout, a Facebook chat, and a shared repository later, they’re taking it to the next level.
Congratulations to Darren and the entire team for their well deserved victory. Congratulations also go out to the Pothole Sonar team which created an application that gives auditory alerts to bikers when potholes are nearby. They recently contacted the CIO of Boston City Government and gave a demo of the app at the Mayor’s Office!