The following interview was originally published in the HackNY FieldGuide for the tenth hackNY hackathon where hackNY celebrated the graduation of its fifth class of hackNY Fellows. Kyle Ryan ’14, interviewed a selection of fellows during the summer to discuss what made them tick.

Want to become a hackNY fellow this summer? Checkout


Walter Menendez goes to MIT and worked this summer as the hackNY fellow at MongoDB in Times Square

Where’d you grow up?

I was born in LA, but grew up in Maryland. My parents broke up when I was young and my mom remarried. Growing up, my mom was a housekeeper. She commuted back and forth to Washington DC working two jobs. I was the only one who learned English proficiently. When I went to school, I spoke English; Then, to communicate with my parents, I had to speak Spanish.

I remember when we got our first computer at the home when I was around 8 years old. My parents didn’t know anything about the internet. for school, all our assignments were posted on the internet. I think my curiosity pushed me a lot to just explore what the computer did. I would tinker around with different things. My parents realized they couldn’t help me as much as they wanted; When I would do homework, they would watch me do it even though they knew they couldn’t help me.

In high school, I went to a very academically challenging magnet school. When it came time to apply to college, I was a first generation college student. My parents knew they couldn’t help me but they promised to sign any forms and pay for tests. All of the colleges I got into promised to give me most of the cost off. They all saw my financial situation and were willing to help me. I chose MIT because I wanted to be at a place where I could just explore and absorb information. MIT was really the place for me to meet people and be free to explore things.

What’s your biggest struggle right now?

I want to take advantage of the time I have during my last year at MIT. The biggest thing that affected me growing up was my mom’s attitude towards me. She wanted me to have a better life, and she did everything she could for that. I feel an obligation to help her and give back in the work I do. Knowing everything will work out in the end is very important. Because no matter which way life turns, everything will be okay in the end.

The following is a selection of images created by Lisa Luo during the summer speaker series as a member of the class of 2014 hackNY fellows. We’ll be posting a selection of Lisa’s doodle’s every Wednesday for the next few weeks. Want to become a hackNY fellow this summer? Checkout

Speaker5 Speaker6 Speaker7

The following interview was originally published in the HackNY FieldGuide for the tenth hackNY hackathon where hackNY celebrated the graduation of its fifth class of hackNY Fellows. To mark this occasion, the class of 2014 sat down with hackNY co-founders and co-presidents Chris Wiggins and Evan Korth to discuss what brought them together.

Want to become a hackNY fellow this summer? Checkout


CW: Between 2001 and 2008, the NYC economy just kept growing. Back then, internships with banks were pretty common. It was the default location for bright young minds in NYC to start a career. Students that didn’t know what to do would go into banking because everyone else was. In the middle of all the change in the NYC economy, I thought it was the perfect time for NYC engineering faculty to lead a counternarrative. I really wanted to help keep kids off the street – Wall Street. Around that time, Nate Westheimer from NYTM told me I should talk to Evan Korth at NYU.

EK: Our different backgrounds brought us to the same place. I became a professor, well, the way most people do — I was a sports agent for 8 years.  For most of the 90s, I represented female basketball players.  I started before the WNBA so we sent our players all over the world.

Even as a sports agent I found I was always writing programs to solve problems in our business. I’d been passionate about programming since I used my money from delivering newspapers to buy a computer when I was 11. It was a TRS-80 with 16k RAM and no hard drive. I mostly stopped programming around 14 or 15 for a bunch of years, but it was missing from my life. I went back to NYU to get a masters in CS for fun.  I built software for a company as part of a class; then got hired by that company in 1999. It was sold in 2000 at the tail end of the dotcom bubble.

At the time I had a fear of public speaking, but was given the opportunity to teach a programing class in PASCAL, and that’s when I fell in love with teaching.  So I started teaching full time but still consulted a bit with startups around the city.  I also started being the faculty advisor for several student groups at NYU.  Startups weren’t popular at all then.  The image of startups was damaged quite a bit when the bubble popped. Our enrollment dropped.  The dominant story about tech jobs was that they were being outsourced overseas.

That changed when the economy collapsed in 2008 and momentum started turning back towards people wanting to build new companies again.  By early 2010, we both thought there was an opportunity to do things differently — to build something lasting in NYC. First, we could improve the connective tissue between academia and the startup community. Second, we could help foster a community of people with a love of building, who aren’t just doing startups for the money.  Both these things might help make the community more resilient.

CW: We read and thought a lot about what happened/happens in Silicon Valley. Everyone has different stories about why Silicon Valley happened. Each group X says “it was the groundbreaking people of X”. I’m an academic so I credit the academics, they were the earliest to move things, in 1930’s in Silicon Valley, and it created a tight talented network of engineers sustaining the SV ecosystem.  Look at the story of HP: one of their first customers, Disney, was another former student of Professor Terman. When Shockley Transistors went down, there was a strong network of engineers, who could go to Fairchild, and then they left and formed Intel.

We realized we can help engineers find each other, build a community, and then get out of the way. Really a lot of the best programs from my technical background were in this style. And as an educator, I think that’s really the best thing I see happen in higher ed — the opportunity for talented students to find out that there’s other like-minded talented students, to learn and bring out the best in themselves and each other. It’s a very different kind of learning from reading a book, or watching a video, or even from solitary coding.

EK: Within weeks of meeting, hackNY was founded. Two months later, we held the first hackathon — the first student hackathon ever. There we announced the summer intern program which quickly became the summer fellowship program after we received sufficient funding from the Kauffman Foundation to provide housing. The pitch was “we’ll save kids from the Street.”

As for school advice, do one thing well.  Kick ass at what you love. At hackNY, we look for students who love to build no matter what major they choose. We want to build a resilient network, regardless of the economics of the day. We want to empower people who enjoy building.  We would like to see a community of people who are good at what they do and share what they love with others in the community.


The following is a selection of images created by Lisa Luo during the summer speaker series as a member of the class of 2014 hackNY fellows. We’ll be posting a selection of Lisa’s doodle’s every Wednesday for the next few weeks. Want to become a hackNY fellow this summer? Checkout




The following is a guest blog post by Matt Condon about his summer as a member of the class of 2014 hackNY fellows. The original article can be found at Matt’s blog. Want to become a hackNY fellow this summer? Checkout

The presentation was under 3 minutes. Reading this blog post will probably take longer. I’m sorry I got your hopes up.

At Magnetic I built SmartTags with Patrick. If you want to learn more about what Magnetic does, check out this blog post!

We also worked on some data science related tasks where we found the most popular categories that Magnetic served ads for.

This blog also happened. I went from about 200 words at the beginning of the summer to almost 40,000. In single-spaced, 12pt Helvetica, that’s 80 pages.

I released FiveStar in late May. This happened during my daily blogging phase, so there’s a wealth of talk about it:

Relevant blog post.

Humans and Places of New York (Flickr)

Relevant blog post.

Another relevant blog post.

Twitch Plays Typing Tutor

Relevant blog post.

Relevant blog post.

The FindTheBest Saga:

Relevant blog post.

Relevant blog post.

Relevant blog post.

Relevant site.

Relevant blog post.

Relevant blog post.

Very relevant blog post.

Thank you to Chris, Evan, and Whitney for making HackNY a thing.

And thanks to the Fellows for doing the thing.


A Summary:

All of the HackNY Speaker Series notes:

All of the New York Daily Posts

Whit Pic form Etsy

Whitney in Etsy’s Photobooth during hackNY Speakers Series event with Hilary Parker


We are pleased to announce that Whitney Green, hackNY’s General Manager, will be joining the ranks of the hackNY alumni!  After working with hackNY to recruit some of the country’s top student-hackers as part of the hackNY Fellows program, Whitney is taking her recruitment talents nation-wide and will be working in campus recruitment at PwC.   She will continue to engage her interests in programming, recruiting, and mentoring engineering students as they consider their career choices and opportunities.


Whitney notes that the hackNY alumni, the NYC tech community, and hackNY’s work building community within both is “a mission that will stay close to her heart”.  Thankfully, Whitney will remain in NYC and will continue to champion the NYC startup community, the hackNY Fellows, and the hackNY mission!


We all will miss her and wish her the best!



Team hackNY

About the DemoFest:   hackNY is excited to announce this summer’s DemoFest for the class of 2014 hackNY Fellows — our fifth cohort of awesome hackNY Fellows!  See project demos from the work they’ve done this summer at a wide variety of stellar NYC startup.  Admission is free. Register here.

About the Fellows: Our 33 Fellows come from 25 universities as far west as Pomona College, as far south as Louisiana Tech University, and as far east as NYU Shanghai! Thanks to the generosity of a diverse community of supporters, the Fellows program includes community-style housing in Union Square as well as a series of pedagogical lectures introducing the hackNY Fellows to founders, investors, journalists, technologists, and all-around leaders from the NYC startup community.

The members of the class of 2014 hackNY Fellows and their host startups are:

Name School Startup
Abhishek Gadiraju University of Pennsylvania  flatiron_black_text_with_white_bg
Alex Wheeler Boston University Magnetic_LogoType_Pantone_2
Amelia Winger-Bearskin NYU TISCH-ITP Canary Logo
Calvin Chan UCLA Magnetic_LogoType_Pantone_2
Catherine Moresco University of Chicago Oscar Logo
David Lu Carnegie Mellon University ChatID Logo
Deepak Kumar University of Michigan REDI Logo
Emily Zhang Massachusetts Institute of Technology Oyster logo
Evan Casey Claremont McKenna College Magnetic_LogoType_Pantone_2
Garrett Parrish Harvard University Foursquare Logo
Hanne Paine Stony Brook University Betterpath Logo
Jamis Johnson Columbia University Seen Logo
Jennifer Nordquist University of Maryland Betterpath Logo
Jian Shen Tan Brown University and RiSD Magnetic_LogoType_Pantone_2
Jing Xiao Carnegie Mellon University NextJump Logo
Kenny Song NYU Shanghai Magnetic_LogoType_Pantone_2
Kyle Johnson Rutgers New Brunswick Cafe Logo
Kyle Ryan University of Rochester instapaper_logo
Lisa Luo Dartmouth College Kickstarter Logo
Manuel Lopez Rutgers University Chartbeat Logo
Maria van Keulen Columbia University MongoDB Logo
Matt Condon Louisiana Tech University Magnetic_LogoType_Pantone_2
Matt Dahl Pomona College Magnetic_LogoType_Pantone_2
Michael Garate NYU Gallatin Wildcard Logo
Nina Freeman NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering Kickstarter Logo
Patrick Facheris Columbia University Magnetic_LogoType_Pantone_2
Quinn Liu Virginia Tech Magnetic_LogoType_Pantone_2
Sam Agnew Rutgers University ordrin-logo-transp-220x64
Sandile Keswa Temple University Meetup logo
Shyamal Ruparel University of Cincinnati Datadog Logo
Sruti Modekurty Carnegie Mellon University Birchbox Logo
Walter Menendez Massachusetts Institute of Technology MongoDB Logo
Wayne Chang Rutgers University BoardRounds Logo

The spring 2014 hackNY student hackathon was nothing short of AWESOME as over 200 students formed over 40 teams to hack with NYC startup APIs over the span of 24 hours!  There were great API presentations from startups, an API 101 session hosted by Rob Spectre of Twilio, awesome technical talks in our Masters Series:, a midnight surprise of Wafles and Dinges, hammocks and lounge chairs for resting and relaxing, lots of food, free t-shirts, spontaneously given Droid squishables, and of course lots of hacking!

Check-out photos from the event: Click Here.  For API demos and student project demos: Click Here.

Thank you to our awesome sponsors for their support of the spring 2014 hackNY student hackathon!


2014 Sponsors Slide


Congrats to the spring 2014 hackNY student hackathon winners!

1st Place

Flyer Penguin

Michael Garate (New York University) and Emily Pakulski (Columbia University)


2nd Place

2048 Against Cancer

Sam Agnew (Rutgers University)


3rd Place


Sean Yeh (The Juilliard School) and Alexandra Berke (Brown University)


Funniest Hack


Nick Mostowich (University of Waterloo) and Christopher Ngan (University of Waterloo)


Most APIs

Fiesta House

Samurdha Jayasinghe (Columbia University), Johan Mena (Columbia University), and Katherine Sandoval


Best User Interface

Violet Food

Danny Padawer (New York University), Kelly Martin (New York University), and Jed Borovik (New York University)


Most Technically Impressive


Thomas Millar (University of Waterloo)


The 8 Breaker


Chris Mulligan (Columbia University)


Best Pitch

Spacebook Invaders

Harry Stern (Rutgers University) and Wayne Chang (Rutgers University)


When in Doubt, Blame Twilio


Ashish Pandhi (Hofstra University)


Best Command Line

Automated Punditry

Hassler Thurston (Rochester University) and Daniel Scarafoni (Rochester University)


Lastly, a HUGE thank you to all participants!  See you in the Fall for the fall 2014 hackNY student hackathon!


Team hackNY


Attention awesome NYC startups: hackNY is pleased to announce that applications are now open for hosting a member of NYC’s next generation of talented developers and engineers: the class of 2014 hackNY Fellows!  The deadline is Monday, March 31st, at 11:59 EST via .

A few things to keep in mind:

 Startups applying to work with a hackNY Fellow are making a commitment to the following:

  • to provide a concrete problem for the Fellow to work on
  • to provide a specific person to mentor the fellow
  • to provide a place for the Fellow to work — the startup must at least have dedicated coworking space if not an office.

 Startups are eligible to work with hackNY if they

  • are independent (i.e. not acquired)
  • have their development team headquartered in NYC

The hackNY Fellows program, now entering its fifth year, is an intense program designed to introduce students to NYC’s startup community by pairing the best technical minds with the best NYC startups. The hackNY Fellows program includes housing as well as a pedagogical lecture series covering all aspects of founding or joining a startup. Previous fellows have come from all over the US and Canada, majoring in a variety of subjects, with skills including front-end, back-end, data science, and design. Don’t take our word for it though: please see this video created by the class of 2011 hackNY Fellows:, or this description of ‘Why You Should Do hackNY’ by a member of the class of 2012 hackNY Fellows:


Please to do contact us at with your questions.  Also, hackNY appreciates any feedback on the timing of the process hosting a hackNY Fellow or anyway other ways we can better partner with you.  Please let us know by email (at if you have any suggestions for future processes.



Team hackNY

The following is a guest blog post by Abe Stanway, a 2011 hackNY Fellow and founder of Hacker League, recently acquired by Intel.


I remember when Ian and I first thought of the idea for Hacker League: we were on the train back from a YCombinator event in New York and we were so inspired to start building that we came up with the idea of a hackathon management tool and started making mockups on the spot.  When we explained the idea to Swift, his immediate reaction was, “I’m in. Let’s build.”


The fall 2011 hackNY student hackathon was a week away. Ian and I excitedly called Chris and Evan, the founders of hackNY, and asked them if we could use Hacker League to run the event. They agreed, sight unseen, and we went on to ditch our classes that week and whip out the first version of Hacker League. We had to keep hacking on it during the hackathon itself to make sure it was ready to accept submissions in time. It was quite the meta-hack!


But we pulled it off, and the event ran smoothly. Over the following two years, we would go on to graduate and find full-time jobs, nurturing Hacker League on the side. It has remained a constant presence in our lives, growing alongside hackNY and the broader hackathon community.


The hackNY mission has always been to federate the next generation of NYC hacker youth. We are so grateful to be a part of this community, and we are honored to have been granted the opportunity to give back. Hacker League’s success does not belong to myself and my co-founders – it belongs to hackNY.


May this be the first of many hackNY exits!


The Hacker League co-founders are Ian Jennings (2010 hackNY Fellow), Abe Stanway (2011 hackNY Fellow), and Mike Swift.  Congratulations from Team hackNY on this awesome accomplishment!!