Welcome to our AlumNY Spotlight blog series! This winter, we’ll be profiling some hackNY AlumNY who have continued to do great things at the startup where they spent their hackNY Fellowship summer. In our last post, JS Tan (hackNY ’14) told us about starting a creative agency with his friends and going viral with speculative marketing – check it out.

In this post we interview Lisa Luo (Class of 2014), who interned at Kickstarter and has since impacted several important teams there. Lisa’s mentor, Dan, is impressed with her work as a Fellow and as a leader on the Android team. “Lisa‘s quickly become an important part of the Kickstarter family. During her summer here, Lisa helped build our site’s internal permission system which has evolved into a fundamental part of our application. After her exemplary work, she was invited back over her winter break, and was offered a job starting this past June, after her graduation. She’s now a core member of the team working on the Kickstarter Android app. In addition to cranking out Java, Lisa can be found hanging tote bags on lamps to ‘create the right mood’ at her desk, and creating Slack icons for all of her team members.”

Lisa at her desk at Kickstarter.

What are you up to at Kickstarter these days?

I am currently a junior android engineer on the native team (2 iOS and 2 android engineers including myself), working on our first android release. Since we’re currently building the app from ground-up, I work on building and fixing whatever we need to build and fix!

What did you work on when you were a hackNY Fellow there?

When I was an intern, I was a back end ruby/rails developer. I spent the beginning of my summer actually learning more in-depth rails and how to develop with a professional team. By the end of the summer, I shipped a simple admin roles and permissions internal tool that assigned roles which filtered admin permissions on the admin side of our website. After that I tinkered around with some android prototyping, inspired by some scratch work I did during a company hack day.

Lisa presenting a demo at Music Hack Day in 2014.

What was your favorite part of being a hackNY Fellow?

My favorite part was waking up every morning and not always knowing what I would be doing for the day: after work I often Google-mapped my way to a cool office somewhere in NYC for our HackNY Speakers Series event, where I listened to and chatted with some of the most influential New York tech figures. I also loved living with and getting to know my brilliant HackNY companions, many of whom I consider great friends today. Having the opportunity to spend time with influential people who shared my interests in technology, whether they be CEOs or dorm mates, really motivated and inspired me to explore my potential as a coder and creator.

How has your company grown or changed since your hackNY summer?

Kickstarter has changed quite a bit in the past year. The engineering team itself has nearly doubled in size, the company as a whole growing by about a third. This calls for a little more company structure, i.e. specifiying teams, rearranging the office, etc, but the supportive, open, and brilliant culture remains the same. I find it exciting to work with and know a variety of people with colorful backgrounds.

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What did you learn as a hackNY Fellow, and what have you learned since then?

As a hackNY Fellow I learned quite a bit of rails on the job and how to git like a pro. Since then, besides all of the philosophical self-learning through life and growing up, I’ve picked up a little bit of Swift through SpriteKit game development and have started to learn reactive programming paradigms through RxJava. In my last year of undergrad I learned a fair bit about computational fabrication (e.g. 3D printing), which was cool, and how to make cameraless films.

What do you enjoy doing away from the keyboard?

In a list, I like making films, traveling, collecting things, running, drawing, writing, wandering around New York, and surprisingly, cooking.

I’ve been into making weird little films and animations since I was a kid and have been in the process of putting together a short film based on my family and travels in China in 2013. I’m a music enthusiast who plays guitar, bass, and Chinese hammered dulcimer, have been to at least 20 concerts so far this year, and have a budding record collection ranging from Motown to Mac Demarco. I think I’m also a compulsive collector; I’m currently in a phase of collecting business cards because I love the quirks in their designs. Staying fit keeps me sane, running long distances clears my mind, as much so as writing, which I regrettably have much less time to do these days. Finally, I am surprised by my enjoyment in cooking because I believe that is my first step of accepting adult life.

TL;DR I love the keyboard, but I enjoy doing many things away from the keyboard.

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Applications for the Class of 2016 hackNY Fellows are now open. Do you have any advice for the hackers who are applying?

When I applied to hackNY for the Class of 2014, I thought there was no way I would get accepted. But I did, and quickly learned that I was silly to have so much self-doubt at that point. I say, believe in yourself and be confident, but most importantly, be thoughtful in writing your essays and expressing yourself — your written words are pretty much the one window we have as reviewers to get to know who you are, behind your Github stats and LinkedIn skills and tweets and whatnot. If you’re worried about your code, experience, or projects, just be genuine about sharing something you care about!

Today we’re featuring a guest post by JS Tan (hackNY ’14). Along with two classmates, he founded Hello Velocity, a creative agency in New York. In this post he shares the story of Hello Velocity’s founding, some of their strangest and most exciting work, and what he’s learned about art, viral marketing, and working on a team. 

My name is JS and I was part of hackNY 2014, where I interned with Buzzfeed! I graduated this past May from the Brown+RISD Dual Degree program where I studied Computer Science at Brown and Furniture Design at RISD. After graduating, I founded Hello Velocity, a digital marketing agency X creative studio, with my classmates, Lukas and Kevin. We’ve been working out of NewInc, the New Museum’s incubator since September.

Being a part of hackNY was an invaluable experience. It not only provided me with the technical competency and confidence to take on any of our projects, but also exposed me to a community of talented and incredibly generous people. Coming into hackNY, I didn’t expect the community to interested in the kind of work I, as part of Hello Velocity, was doing – making marketing campaigns for celebrity meat (bitelabs.org), trying to buy McDonald franchises to put in churches (mcmass.com), making fake Chinese artists for political commentary (godplayground.com). But my hackNY class flipped those expectations; throughout that summer, I ended up having many fun and useful conversations about each project.

BiteLabs' homepage looks surprisingly believable.

Hello Velocity began in 2014 with the creation of a project: Bitelabs, a satirical marketing campaign advertising meat grown from celebrity tissue samples and made into artisanal salami. At that time, the three of us, Lukas Bentel, Kevin Wiesner and I were still 4th year students in the Brown | RISD Dual Degree Program. Having already collaborated on many art projects, from making large scale installations to building in-browser art games, we already had years of experience working with each other. But unlike those other projects, we knew Bitelabs was different.

Within 2 weeks of launching the campaign, we were tweeted about tens of thousands of times and had been picked up by Wired, Vice, LA Times, Huffington Post, USA Today and many other international publications. We even got written about in the hardcopy of Time Magazine. Shortly after the campaign, we created “Hi Sorry We Died”, an anonymous art collective who would claim Bitelabs, which would eventually grow up to become Hello Velocity.

What began as an art project about celebrity culture in the social age led us to larger question that we spent our final year of school trying to answer: how do ideas spread in the social age? After Bitelabs, we went on to create The McMass Project, an indiegogo campaign with the goal of raising 1 million dollars to buy a McDonalds franchise to put into a church, as well as Genecoin, a startup that wanted to store customer DNA into the bitcoin blockchain. Like Bitelabs, both these projects went viral.

JS with the Class of 2014 hackNY Fellows. His internship at Buzzfeed helped him something something

In the midst of these projects, I had joined hackNY 2014 and been paired with Buzzfeed. Aside from having a wonderful experience as a software engineer and a fantastic mentor at Buzzfeed, I was also immersed in an environment obsessed with the mechanics of sharability, and discovered that it was a great space for me to explore how ideas spread in the social age. By the end of that summer, the hacker-centric environment of hackNY had given me the confidence to be the technical spine for Hello Velocity, and Buzzfeed’s sensibility for sharable content had became part of Hello Velocity’s everyday practice.

Today Hello Velocity works out of NEWINC on 231 Bowery, an art incubator hosted by the New Museum. We spend half our time doing client work, creating brand identities and marketing campaigns for customers. And we spend the rest of our time developing our own research projects, where our topic of research has shifted from how ideas spread in the social age to more specifically how do brands command identity in the social age.

The Hello Velocity team at BYU, where they were invited to speak about digital marketing.

In February of 2015, we were invited to Brigham Young University, Utah, to give a lecture in a bio-tech entrepreneurial seminar series about bringing emerging technologies into the media’s attention and the power of the speculative image.

Having only graduated 6 months ago, we’re still trying to figure out what it means to run our own digital marketing agency / creative studio. We’ve grown from a small group of 3, to a slightly bigger team of 5, and do projects that range anywhere from developing toilet seats to web services. In the coming year, we plan on working with bigger and more exciting clients, as well as working more closely with startups.

Five years down the road, I think Hello Velocity will be completely different. I think that my founding partners and I will continue to challenge what it means to be working as a creative business, and will continue to explore how brands exist an increasingly social world. I’ve also been thinking about what it means for Hello Velocity to scale – but unlike software startups that typically have a user base, there isn’t a clear model for how digital marketing startups or creative studios should grow. Do we scale out by get more customers and hiring more people? Or do we scale up by becoming more selective and charging higher premiums? No matter which it is, I’m sure Hello Velocity will continue to grow.

Two winning teams from the Fall 2015 hackNY Student Hackathon presented their projects at the November New York Tech Meetup this Tuesday. Team Roam, our First Place winners, and team Lights, Camera, Location, winners of the 8-Breaker creativity prize, demoed as smoothly and impressively as the startups on the program. After their demos, they answered questions from the audience about their technical processes and plans for the future.

Here’s a full video of the NYTM demo lineup. Skip to 47:08 for the hackNY demos! You can also view all the photos from the night on NYTM’s Facebook page here.

Team Roam, winner of First Prize at the Fall 2015 hackNY hackathon, and team Lights, Camera, Location, winner of the 8-Breaker prize, getting ready to present at NYTM.

Team Roam, winner of First Prize at the Fall 2015 hackNY Student Hackathon, and team Lights, Camera, Location, winner of the 8-Breaker prize, getting ready to present at NYTM.

Roam, a team of Stony Brook students Amit Bapat, Bethann Polinsky, Philippe Kimura-Thollander, and Varun Sayal (Bethann wan’t able to attend the meetup), impressed us at the hackathon with their Android app that allows users to get directions, check the weather, and call an Uber all without using phone data or wifi. Their polished app hides the details of interacting with APIs using SMS, and presents data beautifully and naturally.

Roam preparing to present their app.

Lights, Camera, Location’s team, Alina Lalji and Zain Hemani of the University of Western Ontario, flew all the way from Toronto to present their hack. Their app scrapes internet databases all over the Web to provide filming location data for any movie you search – all in under 9 seconds. The NYTM audience especially enjoyed their visualization of NYC filming locations.

Photo credit: Craig Williston of QoolFoto / qoolfoto.com

Photo credit: Craig Williston of QoolFoto / qoolfoto.com

After the demos and Q&A, the hackers attended the NYTM afterparty where they talked with attendees about their projects with cake and swag. Many of their visitors had to ask again how long they’d spent on the projects, barely able to believe that they’d completed so much in 24 hours! We are very proud of our hackers, and hope to see them again at future hackNY events.

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Welcome to our AlumNY Spotlight blog series! This November, we’ll be profiling some hackNY AlumNY who have continued to do great things at the startup where they spent their hackNY Fellows summer.

In this post we interview Emmett Butler (Class of 2012), who worked at Parse.ly as a hackNY Fellow and has helped it grow into one of NYC’s hottest startups. Parse.ly provides an analytics platform for digital publishers, helping them to act on audience insights with a data-driven approach. Emmett is a great contributor to open source projects, and develops games when he’s not working. He also has great advice for applicants to our incoming hackNY class!

Emmett at his home workstation, where he works remotely as a software engineer at Parse.ly

Emmett at his home workstation, where he works remotely as a software engineer at Parse.ly

Read more…

Last weekend we celebrated our 12th hackNY Student Hackathon! Over 220 students, representing over 50 schools, journeyed to New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences to build projects for 24 hours. At our opening ceremony, we opened applications for our Summer 2016 hackNY Fellowship – apply now!

Hacks ranged from civic hacks using NYC Open Data to hilarious API mashups and adventurous hardware hacks. One team even worked with a Keurig machine hackNY donated to NYU years ago, fixing its mechanical problems and adding their own functionality. Throughout the hacking, 25 technical ambassadors from local startups and companies were there to mentor, debug, and help develop ideas. Volunteers from NYU’s ACM chapter as well as hackNY Fellowship alumNY made sure the event ran smoothly.

When our hackers weren’t coding, they had plenty to do. Our Ladies Storm Hackathons Meetup was a great success, including our traditional cupcake decorating and crazy LSH selfie! MLH organized a cup stacking competition. Several late night runs to NYC classics like Halal Guys were organized among hackers. To keep our energy up, we ate delicious tacos (and 4am nachos) from Five Tacos, sandwiches from Perfect Picnic and The Schnitz, and kolaches cooked on-site by the incredible Kings Kolache. Our midnight surprise was Insomnia Cookies plus mooncakes to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. 中秋節快樂!

Once hacking ended, our team of judges (meet them here and here) used their technical knowledge and startup experience to pick our Top 3 hacks and 7 special awards, 5 of which were completely new! Sponsors and community members also gave awards for API and hardware excellence, the best domain name, Rube-Goldberg-tasticness, and creativity with Unhackathon’s Springboard Projects. Check out our prizes below, and all the hacks on Devpost!

We’ll update this post, and our Flickr account, with more photos this week! Thank you again for a great event – we’ll see you in the spring at our next Student Hackathon!

Winners

Our Top 3 hacks get to present at one of the next New York Tech Meetup events!

First Place

Roam, an Android app for getting directions, checking the weather, and calling an Uber – all without using any of your phone’s data. Instead, it cleverly compresses the data used by each API so it can run on nothing but text messages!

First place winners, Roam!

Second Place

Informant, a Chrome extension designed to enhance YouTube videos. It links to more information on celebrities after identifying them with facial recognition, and performs sentiment analysis on the speakers’ tone and content, indicating the overall relationships expressed throughout a conversation.

Our 2nd Place winners, Informant!

Third Place

Project Horus aims to make language learning more natural, letting users learn new words by seeing pictures of them in context. Users can circle an object in a photo they take, and see it identified with the Clarifai API with several different translation options.

Our 3rd Place winners, Project Horus!

NYU Hackathon 2015 Date: 9/26/2015 AND 9/27/2015

The 8-Breaker

This award is given to an extremely creative hack that isn’t one of Tess Rinearson’s 8 Kinds of Projects You Meet at Hackathons.

Lights, Camera, Location displays movie filming locations on an interactive map. Users can view all the locations a movie was filmed at, or see what movies filmed near their current location.

Most Technically Impressive Hack 

This award is given to a hack with serious technical work on hardware or software, even if it isn’t flashy on the outside.  

Vizu is an augmented reality application that inserts 3D images into any scene. It is especially useful for educators, who can insert symbols that correspond to 3D models into any document and have Vizu display them when it recognizes them.

Best Hack Design

This award recognizes great visual design and UX. Judges look at user interface, graphics, and product design.

HackHub is a central hub where hackathon organizers can post information and announcements about their hackathons. Participants can view it without having to create accounts, and receive desktop notifications for important announcements.

Best Hack Using an NYC API 

Supporting the NYC Tech Community is very important to hackNY. This award goes to the best hack using a local startup’s API to do something awesome.

CoWork24 is a mobile app that allows users to create coworking spaces on the go by setting a location and inviting others to work in their shared environment.

Best Civic Tech Hack

This award was created by our judges during this Fall’s event! 

WaterNY uses inexpensive tools compatible with any smartphone to allow NYC residents to analyze their water for microscopic contaminants.

Best Hardware Hack 

Webapps don’t have all the fun. This award goes to the hack that best incorporates hardware.

After their first hack idea failed, the Keurig Machine team took apart an old and broken NYU Keurig coffee maker, fixed it, and created a hack that allows users to brew a cup of coffee with a simple gesture detected by a Myo armband.

Best First Hack 

This award recognizes technical and creative impressiveness of hacks by first-time hackathon participants, and their learning over the 24-hour hack.

NYC Vehicle Collision displays collision information from NYC Open Data in a visually striking and easy to read format. Users can sort by location and date to view information about incidents and their causes.

Community Prizes

These prizes are created by our sponsors and NYC tech community members.

Best Use of MongoDB

Encabulator, a webapp that maps the best place to hail a taxi – without machine learning.

Best PayPal Hack

PhoneWTF connnects two people over the phone without telling them who is calling, and then records the ensuing hilarious conversations in exchange for PayPal donations.

Most Rube-Goldberg-tastic Hack (Sponsored by Datto) 

The Keurig Machine gets a very simple job done with many complicated and technical steps, leading to hacktastic awesomeness.

Best Use of Twilio

Roam uses text messages instead of data to get directions, check the weather, and request Uber.

Most Creative Hack Starting from an Unhackathon Springboard Project

Draw Anything started from a simple Springboard Project designed to teach websocket programming, and developed into a fully-formed and cleanly designed webapp with multiplayer Pictionary-style gameplay and in-game chat.

Best Use of Presto 

Awkscape helps you escape from awkward conversations by calling your phone when you snap your fingers, detected by Presto’s gesture detection API on Android Wear.

Best Use of Pebble

Pebble Vote lets users easily rate places from their Pebble watch.

Best Use of AWS

Project Horus uses Clarifai, Yandex.translate, and AWS to power a photo identification and translation webapp.

Coolest Use of Domain.com

Domain.com chose Bruhzzfeed‘s bruhhh.co as the coolest domain of the day.

hackNY’s Fall 2015 Student Hackathon is less than a week away! We are especially excited about the knowledgeable and influential judges we have lined up for the event. Read more about three of our judges here, and see our our previous blog post to meet the rest of the judging team.

Catt Small
Product Designer at SoundCloud and Independent Game Designer

Catt is an expert UX and product designer at SoundCloud. She develops games at Buttered Toast Studios and Brooklyn Gamery, teaches coding and game development with The Code Liberation Foundation; and speaks about the future of gaming and web design. She says, “Hackathons helped me grow tremendously as both a designer and developer. I hope to see lots of designers collaborating with people who have other skillsets to make amazing things!”
Christina Wallace
Founder of BridgeUp: STEM @ AMNH

Christina Wallace is the founding director of BridgeUp: STEM, a new educational initiative at the American Museum of Natural History with a mission to captivate, inspire, and propel girls and minorities into computer science. Previously Christina was the founding director of Startup Institute New York, the Founder and CEO of venture-backed fashion company Quincy Apparel, a management consultant with the Boston Consulting Group, and an arts manager at the Metropolitan Opera. She brings expertise in technology, education, and design to our judging panel. She says, “I’m thrilled to join the judging team for the hackNY hackathon — I’ve attended the demos for several years now and am continually impressed with and inspired by the projects that arise. Looking forward to seeing what the students create this year!
Minerva Tantoco
Chief Technology Officer for the City of New York

As NYC’s first-ever CTO, Tantoco directs the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation with responsibility for the development and implementation of a coordinated citywide strategy on technology and innovation and encouraging collaboration across agencies and with the wider New York City technology ecosystem. While still in college, Ms. Tantoco co-founded technology startup, Manageware Inc, which was successfully sold five years later. Since then, Ms. Tantoco has led emerging technology initiatives including artificial intelligence, e-commerce, virtualization, online marketing and mobile applications. She holds four US patents on intelligent workflow and is a speaker and author on mobile, security, big data, and innovation.

Thank you again to all our wonderful judges. We are so looking forward to this weekend!

hackNY’s Fall 2015 Student Hackathon is coming up in less than three weeks, and we’re looking forward to our hackers experiencing the activities we have planned. We are especially excited about the knowledgeable and influential judges we have lined up for the event. Read more about three of our judges here, and meet the rest of our judges in Part 2!


Samantha John
Co-Founder of Hopscotch Technologies

While an engineer at Pivotal Labs, Samantha taught programming classes to beginners. She then co-founded Hopscotch, an iPad app that teaches kids to code by creating and sharing simple games. She spoke about her experience as a startup founder to our hackNY Fellows this summer as part of our Speakers Series. She says, “It’s an incredible honor to be chosen as a judge, I’ve been a big fan of HackNY since its inception. I just got an Amazon echo and I’m interested to see what kind of hacks people could do with their API.”

Whitney Green
Assistant Director and Director of Science Recruitment at Columbia University, and Former General Manager at hackNY

Whitney ran hackNY’s Fellowship and Hackathons for a year, so she brings valuable hackathon experience to the judging team. She is also the former President of Columbia Engineering Young Alumni. As a Campus Recruiter at PWC, she worked with college students from all over the country. Looking forward to her first time attending hackNY as a judge, she says “Yay!”
Yael Elmatad
Yael Elmatad
Data Scientist at Tapad

Yael works on Graph Problems related to building Tapad’s Device Graph. Before coming to Tapad, Yael was an Assistant Professor and researcher at NYU, working with high performance computing to study physical systems. She spoke to this summer’s hackNY Fellows about Tapad’s data science as part of our Speakers Series. She says, “I am very eager to meet more intelligent young computer scientists through hackNY and looking forward to seeing what creative solutions they have come up with.”

In our next post, we’ll introduce more of our judges – Catt Small, Christina Wallace, and more!

On Wednesday, five of our alumNY spoke at one of NYC Generation Tech‘s mentorship nights. After sharing their stories and answering questions, they received a standing ovation from the students! Cheryl Wu, Class of 2012, wrote a guest post for our blog reflecting on the evening. Cheryl is a designer and creative coder, who currently works as a Product Designer at Nasdaq while on leave from NYU Gallatin. She is the Swiss Army Knife of Tech@NYU , where she connects New York City’s student tech leaders as the first community lead. She is passionate about improving lives through design, ecology, and education. Be sure to check out our other recent guest posts, from 2015 Fellows Kim, Keeyon, Chris, Merry, and Shloka!

Cheryl Wu, Class of 2012

 

Cheryl Wu, Class of 2012

On August 5th, I was one of five hackNY AlumNY honored to speak on a panel and Q&A with the students of NYC Generation Tech. Like hackNY, GenTech nurtures the next generation of technologists and entrepreneurs. GenTech’s free summer program gives curious, motivated public high school students from all five boroughs hands-on experience in building and shipping. GenTech students take a mini-bootcamp in frontend code, imagine an app that helps their communities, learn to pitch and collaborate, and work with mentors from top companies to prototype their mobile apps. As with hackNY’s summer fellowship, the students also get incredible private tours and lectures – tours of Warby Parker and Google, and CEO and VC talks – and make lifelong friendships with peers who want to change the world by building new things.

AlumNY Gerard O’Neill (’12), Valentin Perez (’15), Dan Cadden (’15), Cheryl Wu (’12), and Alan Lin (’13) shared personal stories and insights about the tech industry with students from local high schools

Read more…

Update: Applications for the Class of 2016 are now open!

If this looks like your kind of summer, apply now. 
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It’s been a week since hackNY Fellowship ended with a spectacular Demo Night, and we’re already missing our Class of 2015 Fellows. Our 34 Fellows had an action-packed 10 weeks of interning at local startups and attending our Speaker Series talks, workshops, mixers with the alumNY, and activities around the city. Applications for the Class of 2016 will open on September 26th, at the hackNY Fall Hackathon!

The Class of 2015 at Demo Night

Our Startups this year were exciting and diverse, ranging from small, early-stage startups like Betterpath and Ufora to household names like Buzzfeed, Kickstarter, and Foursquare. Every startup came with a project or series of projects for their Fellow to work on – each Fellow shipped real code this summer! – and a mentor to guide them and answer their questions. Our students worked on projects from data visualization to ad fraud detection to tools for their dev teams. Read more…

The Centre for Social Innovation welcomed us for Demo Night.

The Centre for Social Innovation welcomed us for Demo Night.

On Friday night we celebrated the close of the 6th hackNY Fellowship summer with demos, dinner, and 120 of our favorite people. Demo Night has been a tradition since hackNY’s first year, with Fellows demoing their work and personal projects at the end of their 10-week internships. This year, though, we shook things up a little by inviting our alumNY, Fellows’ colleagues, families, and mentors, and luminaries from our Speakers Series. We mingled over snacks at the Centre for Social Innovation, where our 34 graduating Fellows demoed 20 projects to an enthusiastic audience. After demoing, each Fellow received their graduation regalia – our traditional I HACK NY t-shirt, and a track jacket customized for their graduating class and designed by Hanne. After taking a group picture, we headed to Pennsylvania 6 for a celebratory dinner with Fellows and their loved ones. Well past midnight, we ate our last pieces of cake and said goodbye. We look forward to seeing our newly minted alumNY at the upcoming Fall Hackathon!

Read more…