IT IS ON: Announcing the spring 2013 hackNY student hackathon!!

attention all members of the student-hacking population:

it is on!!!



save April 6-7, 2013 for the spring 2013 hackNY student hackathon.

Who: Code-loving students from all universities. NYC startups with awesome APIs to build on.
Where: We’re shaking things up this spring! New location: Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School for Engineering and Applied Science
When: April 6-7, 2013

Click here for more details and to register.

sincerely yours,

-Team hackNY

Welcoming Peter Bell to hackNY

This was originally posted on by Jesse Pollak (2012 hackNY Fellow).

Over the summer, hackNY had the good fortune of welcoming Peter Bell for one of our weekly tech/entrepreneurship talks. He spoke to us about choosing the right technologies for a project and we all left with a better understanding of what it meant to be a technical decision maker.

At the November NYTM, hackNY announced that thanks to Speaker Quinn and the NYC City Council we will be welcoming Peter into the family in an even bigger way: he will be working with the wonderful Manya Ellenberg as an evangelist to expand the hackNY community, improve the 2013 hackNY fellows program and build out the technology that powers hackNY behind the scenes.

I had the good fortune of talking to Peter about why he decided to join hackNY as an evangelist. I asked some questions, he gave some answers, and we had a grand old time:

How did you first get involved with hackNY?

Originally Evan (Korth) asked me to present to his class at NYU. Shortly thereafter I got a chance to present for the fellows over the summer this year.

What made you want to work with hackNY?

I was immediately impressed by the quality of the fellows and the kinds of projects they were working on. I also just love the mission of connecting students to jobs at local startups. I’ve been involved in building businesses for 20 years and I can’t imagine a better way to spend a career in technology.

What are you going to be doing for hackNY over the next few months?

I’ll be working with Evan and Chris to continue to refine the details of the role, but the focus of this evangelist position is to connect jobseekers with opportunities at local tech companies and serve as a bridge between the City’s colleges and universities and the tech industry. I’ll also be writing some code for hackNY to stay relevant as a developer!

What are some of the coolest hacks you’ve done in the past (technical or non technical)?

My favorite hack is around learning. The best way to learn is to teach, so I often commit to giving presentations at major tech conferences on technologies that I know very little about. It forces to me to learn the ins and outs of everything from git to neo4j to datomic in a way that I’d never do if I just had to use them for a project.

If you had to pick one programming language as your favorite, which would it be?

Despite resisting for years, I now use ruby for most of my day-to-day coding (although python has great math libraries and I love the groovy and grails community on the JVM). Over the next year or so I’m really excited to finally learn clojure and really get my head around the type system in Haskell. I also use javascript (client and server side) where it makes sense and java when I really, really have to.

emacs or vim?

IntelliJ for Java, sublime or textmate for day to day hacking and vim when I need to pair remotely. Emacs is on the list – I just need to find a spare decade to get over the initial learning curve! I think a great developer has some familiarity with a range of tools. On the JVM I’m a gradle fan, but I can work equally well with ant or maven.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’m really excited to bring my experience working with local CTO’s to build a bridge between students and startup job opportunities. Many smaller startups just don’t have the resources to do college tours and often students don’t know what to do to get a great startup job.

I can speak for everyone when I say that Peter will be a tremendous addition to the hackNY leadership taem and that we are very excited to welcome him to the hackNY community. If you want to follow Peter as he takes hackNY to a new level, follow him on twitter.

2013 hackNY Fellows Program Update, December 2012

Dear awesome student-hackers and NYC startups:

A quick update regarding the class of 2013 hackNY Fellows program:

Today we contacted applicants who submitted applications before November 30, 2012. We are now reviewing applications submitted between December 1 and December 15, 2012 and will continue to accept applications via rolling admissions until the class of 2013 hackNY Fellows is complete. We strongly encourage students to submit their applications as soon as possible via .

We will start taking applications from NYC startups in January. Awesome NYC startups that are interested in hosting a member of the class of 2013 hackNY Fellows should subscribe to hackNY’s newsletter as we plan to announce the opening of startup applications there first.

We continue to be very impressed with the quality of applicants this year!

Many thanks to the hackNY alumni who have spent (and continue to spend!) many hours helping us select the class of 2013 hackNY Fellows. And a special thanks to Tal Safran and Peter Bell for their work creating and improving Hacker Tracker, hackNY’s very own application and screening tool.

If you have ANY questions, drop us a line at [email protected]

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!


Team hackNY

Catching up with 2012 hackNY Fellow Sean Gransee

This is a guest post by 2012 hackNY Fellow Sean Gransee.

I wasn’t always a hacker.

There are some people who have always had it in them. Programmer by age 12. Software development internships in high school. A moderately successful business under their belt halfway through college.

I am not one of those people. I wasn’t a programmer in high school. Not even at the start of college. In fact, I went through my first year of college as a film major. Computer science? That was for the people much smarter than me.

My life has since taken a huge turn. I am now diving head first into the tech startup community. In less than half a year, I’ve developed a few small apps that have been seen by hundreds of thousands of people and gotten press ranging from Lifehacker to NBC. I’m now working on an idea that I hope to convert into a sustainable business, something that I wouldn’t have even dreamed of doing a little while ago.

Four months ago, I had never made and released any software on my own. I had spent a year building enterprise software and honing my (very new) programming skills, but I never had a project of my own. I always thought of starting my own projects, but never had the motivation.

Then hackNY happened.

I spent a summer living with hackers far more experienced than me. Most of them had been programming for many years, and I only had about 9 months of experience. I was one of the most inexperienced hackers in my class (the class of 2012 hackNY Fellows), and I quickly realized how far behind I was.

This lit a fire under my ass.

The people I lived with that summer are some of the most motivated, passionate people I’ve ever met. They were always working on some new tool or project. I was jealous of their ability to think of an idea and immediately execute it. What was this barrier all of them had crossed over that allowed them to build and launch products so quickly?

Turns out, there is no barrier. If you make something that you personally want to use, other people will want to use it as well. It can be twenty people or twenty thousand people, but no matter what, you’ll learn something from the experience and make the next project even better.

The key is to start small. The first piece of software I released was a small Google Chrome extension called Facebook Nanny. It’s very simple — less than 150 lines of code. All it does is stop you from aimlessly browsing Facebook, while still allowing you to communicate. I wrote Facebook Nanny in a couple of hours one night because I wanted it for myself. I built it, and I’ve been using it every day for over 4 months. The tool I built has been immensely helpful in making me more productive.

I didn’t think anyone else would want to use it. After all, I didn’t make it for other people – I made it for myself. When it came time for the hackNY DemoFest (an event where we all show off something we built that summer), I didn’t want to present Facebook Nanny. I thought no one would care about some little tool I had built in a night, since everyone else was showing off something they had spent weeks building.

I was completely wrong. The reception was overwhelmingly positive. The tool was simple, it solved a clear problem, and it was something that anyone could download and use when they got home. A couple of months later, Lifehacker featured Facebook Nanny on their home page. In the following week, it was picked up by dozens of smaller media sources, including a web show I’ve been watching for years. People loved it.

My next project was a fun little website called (Go to the website and play with it for a bit, then come back here and read the rest).

It started when I read a blog post about how the “first link” on Wikipedia works — it generally takes you to a higher level concept from the article you’re reading. Keep following the first link on a series of Wikipedia articles, and you’ll eventually get stuck in a loop of high-level concepts. When I found out about this, I was addicted. I wasted an entire day on Wikipedia playing with this concept.

Then I thought to myself, what if there was a way to see this network of first links without manually doing all the clicking. The idea fascinated me. So I built it that night. I went to bed and released it in the morning. In the next 24 hours it was visited 40,000 times and was featured in the NBC News tech blog. Dozens of people were posting links and screenshots of WikiLoopr on Twitter. Everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun with it.

These two projects share some important traits. First of all, they’re very simple. They’re both things that me, someone with less than a year of programming experience, could build in one night. I wasn’t trying to solve some big technical problem. It’s proof that you don’t need to think big or execute a massive project to get noticed. You just need to make something people want, no matter how small.

Which brings me to my second point. These are both tools that wanted to use. I didn’t make them for other people, I made them for myself. I wasn’t following any set of specifications, but rather tried to make something I would find fun and useful. With this mindset, there was no way I could fail. If no one looked at anything I built, it would still be a success because I had fun and learned a lot through the process of building.

The main thing I see that stops people from starting projects is lack of experience and lack of potential users. One great way to get over that mental hurdle is to make something small for yourself. If you make something small, your next project can be a bit bigger. If you make something that you find genuinely useful, other people will use it as well. This becomes a stepping stone to greater success.

So, where am I headed now? I’m working on a much bigger idea. It’s called Twichr, and you can sign up for the mailing list to learn more. Right now we’re a team of three people in Chicago and London, and we’re giving the public a taste of our tool on January 2, 2013. Stay tuned!

It’s weird to think back on what my life was like a few months ago. In a few short months, I went from working on other people’s projects to executing my own. I surrounded myself with great people in New York City this past summer, and great things followed from there. I wouldn’t call myself a major success. Far from it. Others in my hackNY class have worked on much bigger and more successful projects than I have (looking at you, Emmett). I hope to reach that level eventually. For now, I’ll just spend my time working on things that genuinely interest me and go along for the ride.

2012 hackNY Fellow Emmett Butler releases Heads Up! Hot Dogs with Adult Swim Games

During the 2012 hackNY Fellows program, Fellow Emmett Butler taught a workshop on iOS game development to the rest of the class of 2012 hackNY Fellows. This week Emmett releases his latest iOS game Heads Up! Hot Dogs with Adult Swim Games.

“We’re excited to be releasing Heads Up with Adult Swim games. We wanted to make a game that people would get addicted to and at the same time be unlike any other game out there, and so far it seems like people like it. During hackNY, I would come home from full days at Parsely and start working on Heads Up until early in the morning. I was doing it because it was fun, and it’s an incredible feeling to see people enjoying the game I spent so much time helping build.” — Emmett Butler

Congrats, Emmett!!!