Code Academy Startup Weekend

Half-way through their course, Code Academy‘s students are already rocking out complete apps in a weekend.

Code Academy is a Chicago based school teaching web development by way of Ruby on Rails. It says something about the kind of students the school is attracting that the students organized their own unofficial Code Academy Startup Weekend a few days ago. I only found out about the event when they started tweeting and posting pictures. It was only Sunday afternoon that I saw the opening for spectators and headed down to Chicago.

I arrived about a half hour before judgment time. Neal threw me into one of the team rooms to see if I could help a last bug. In reality, that close to ending it’s at least as easy to get in the way as it is to understand all the background and become helpful. Since it was primarily an internal event, there weren’t very many non-participants, and I got pulled into the judging panel.

Tell Me When

The idea for Tell Me When started with running races: get notified when registration opens without having to check back at all the pages. Further possibilities include movies, performances, and anything else that you might know about before you know the relevant dates.

Winner: Most likely to be acquired by Apple for Siri

Hangar 18

“Hacker News” for Code Academy. Pretty much what you expect – articles pulled from @CodeAcademy, #CA, and direct submissions with voting and comments. Future plans include profiles, job postings, and easter eggs.

Winner: “Ship It” – the app was live and usable by Sunday evening


Sort of a localized Etsy. The app managed users, postings, photos, geocoding, and displaying maps. There wasn’t anything technically spectacular – except that the entire team was on the beginner track, and put it all together after only six weeks in the class.

Winner: Code Academy Poster Children


Group travel planning with a great looking front page and streamlined getting started process. The design was really slick, but much of the wireframing had been done beforehand, and I gathered that they brought in some outside help.

Winner: Pretty Girl at the Dance

Send Five Now

Send $5 SMS gift cards. Not only did this team have an almost fully-functional product (they just needed to take payment), but they actually got out of the building (or at least around the building) and talked to some local businesses. They also had a plan to bootstrap by buying gift cards and typing in numbers.

Winner: Hustle

Send Five Now brings us to an interesting point All the teams had something mostly functional to show off. This isn’t too surprising – it’s Code Academy, so everyone involved had some development knowledge, and it was in the same framework – I’ve been to several Startup Weekends were we had an even split between PHP and Ruby, and at most half the team development. There was some ambiguity, at the beginning and as we prepared for judging, whether it was a unofficial “Startup Weekend” (customer development) or a “hackathon” (product development) Most people focused on product development, and we mostly left monitization out of the judging criteria.

Despite differences in the experience levels of the people involved, all the teams delivered something within a few steps of a usable web service. It will be interesting to see what they can deliver once they’ve got the other half of their Code Academy education.

Posted Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 under Conference.

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