23 January 2012

Cleanweb Hackathon Focuses on Killer Apps Built in a Day...or Two

Hackers hacking at Cleanweb Hackathon, NYC.
What if you put a bunch of developers in the room, gave them access to datasets and APIs and set them loose on the planet's resource problems over a weekend?

Well, the folks behind Cleanweb Hackathon did just that on Saturday and Sunday in New York City.

The result may just be the start of a revolution in cleanweb solutions. The cleanweb, as defined by the hackathon's organizers, uses information technology, the Internet, and social media to address the issues of energy, transportation, and smart grid.

"Information technology is the most powerful lever we have to address resource constraints," as Sunil Paul of Spring Ventures told the audience at NYU's Tisch Center of the Arts before Sunday's project presentations.

Some of the intriguing projects from this weekend include TripWatchers, which founder Ryan Rzepecki calls the "Weight Watchers for vehicle owners," allows drivers to log their routes, track vehicle-related expenses and receive suggestions for how to reduce the impact of their travel such as potential car pooling and public transportation alternatives.

The audience choice award and best overall hack went to Econofy "E-Star," a web-based rating system of consumer products that allows for visual comparison shopping around energy efficiency.

Another cool hack was NYC BLDG, which tracks the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions of city buildings in real-time and puts them into competition.
Hackers will hack for food.

And building on the "Occupy Rooftops" theme of its community solar day back in November, SolarMosaic created Mosaic Map, a web app that maps solar projects socially and in real-time. The idea is to allow project developers to find financing and generate leads for financiers such as, well, SolarMosaic.

The original Cleanweb Hackathon was held last September in San Francisco and another is planned for later  this year. There's even a Bay Area-based business incubator for the cleanweb called Greenstart.

Dave Graham, founder of Greenstart, said "If Y Combinator had a love child with IDEO at the intersection of energy and IT, it would be Greenstart." Greenstart has invested in nine companies so far, putting them through a 12-week intensive program. Graham noted there is a March 5th deadline for the next round of applicants.

I've long argued for more focus on the killer apps that will make a difference today in the cleantech and energy space. Cleanweb drives us closer to a more capital and energy efficient model. Events like this one may be the start of a cleanweb revolution.