Every year, the Emory University Goizueta Business School hosts the largest business hackathon in the Southeast called HackATL. Now in its third year, HackATL has hosted more than 35 teams through a weekend of innovative startup ideas. Two Tech teams, Divy and NavLit, won 1st and 2nd place, respectively, with NavLit also winning the Microsoft Best Hack Award.
Backing Away from Big Corp
When coming up with a new idea, most often the most efficient solution is to draw from personal experience. Garrett Wallace, John Riley, and Ryan Brooks did exactly that when they came up with the idea of creating an app called Divy, which is “a simple way to settle up”. Divy reduces confusion by allowing large groups of people who have shared expenses to split the bills properly. As anyone who has ever travelled with friends can attest, figuring out who owes how much money can be a pain to figure out, often involving calculators and Excel charts.
Wallace came up with the winning idea after a similar experience during a road trip, and decided to work with Riley and Brooks to pitch it. The trio already knew each other through their fraternity and events like the 3 Day Startup, so they had a good team dynamic coming into the competition. This combined with experience from Neurolaunch, 7 Weeks, RenterUp, and their classes, the group had strong backgrounds that also helped them reach their potential. As Brooks worked on the technical aspects of making the app with his computer science experience, Riley and Wallace perfected a pitch deck, complete with a user survey, that truly impressed the judges and led to their eventual victory. According to Wallace, his BME background really helped with the group work aspect and helped him hone in on what problems still needed to be solved.
Although the initial idea was to make Divy an exclusive partner with Venmo, a mentor told them that it was possible for such a big corporation to cut off access to their API. The team has since decided against developing Divy further or making an entirely new company, because they don’t want to face the stiff odds against them from large corporations like Square or Venmo. Even though Divy has been shelved for now, the group assures us that they have new ideas in the works – perhaps in the near future we’ll see more of this trio’s ventures.
Work Hard, Sleep Less: NavLit’s Startup Story
Much like the Divy team, the NavLit team, consisting of Samir Jain, Sunny Patel, Ratchapong Tangkijvorakul, David Wang, Henry Wang, and Saeed Siddiqi, drew from previous experience to come up with their idea. Wang and Siddiqi, who had both worked internships, realized that few interns really got a chance to explore the city that they were working in outside of very typical tourist attractions. Thus the idea of NavLit, an “Uber for tour guides”, a matching service that allows visitors to match with and meet residents with similar interests who would serve as their tour guides.
HackATL was their first experience together at a hackathon, and the team came in with more than a little trepidation. However, they took full advantage of their different experiences through their majors, work, and interests to divide the daunting task of creating an award winning idea. While half the team tackled the project pitch, the other half tackled the technical aspects like website development. Even within the two divisions, each person had their own tasks. For example, Jain brought in his BME skills by breaking down tasks into measurable metrics and working effectively with an interdisciplinary team. Through the weekend, the team talked to every judge and most mentors and asked for advice on how to improve their model, and received helpful constructive criticism.
For the pitch itself, the team followed the “lean canvas” ideology, where they presented only the essentials and focused on the core concepts of their idea, as well as highlighted the use of different Microsoft technologies such as Bing Maps, to the judging panel. According to Wang, the key to their presentation was to “confidently say some BS.”
NavLit plans on launching itself as a full business, and they’ve already signed up for Startup Summer and Inventure. Going forward, they’re facing the same daunting task as every other young company – creating a solid, quality product under an environment of extreme uncertainty. The crew will be working hard to make NavLit a viable and commercial product – one that’s uniquely personalized and has the ability to expand its range of features. Their win at HackATL was a huge confidence boost that has pushed their already sky-high determination to make this venture a success even further. According to Siddiqi, the team “went ham” after the unexpected results. You can bet that there are many more three a.m. nights for this ensemble before “your global friends in travel” are ready to show off the underground attractions of their home city thanks to some smart matching from NavLit Co.