Over a thousand innovators from 13 cities in the Philippines gathered for Impact Hackathon, the country’s largest nationwide hackathon during the 2019 Philippine Startup Week. Global entrepreneur network Impact Hub Manila staged the Hackathon as the main platform of the multi-year Impact 2050 program dedicated for purpose-driven entrepreneurs whose venture ideas have the potential to impact the lives of Filipinos at large scale.
At least 186 new projects were generated in the hackathon as participants collaborated on solving social challenges in agriculture, health, education, smart cities, and climate change.
One of the most notable tech-enabled innovations from the hackathon was a mobile app that helps you assess the value of things you can recycle, and then connects you to recyclers who can buy the plastics from you.
Forming the team
Professional software developer Benjoe Vidal was searching for a hackathon to join when he stumbled upon the call for applications for Impact Hub Manila’s Impact Hackathon. Recognizing the need to come up with novel solutions to hack climate change, the 3 members (Benjoe, Warren, and Claire) came up with an idea that could help people earn a living while helping the environment. TrashCash was born.
“I was thinking of something that, if people can see the value of garbage instantly through computer vision or machine learning, they might collect it and improve the recycling rates,” Benjo recalled.
He then enlisted the help of his former officemates and fellow software developers, Claire Bayoda and Warren Lalata. Asked about their Impact Hackathon journey, here’s a glimpse at TrashCash team’s experience, and plans for the coming months.
Last year we participated in the largest hackathon here in the Philippines. With a team of 3 people. We only had 2 working days to devise the Hackathon Project and the instructions were very clear: 28 hour to define a technological solution related to Climate Change. Oh! And at this time we also had to prepare a presentation in order to convince a jury.
Our solution was to create a platform that will orient, educate and incentivize Filipinos to know the value and impact of their trash. To develop the idea, we organized the team according to the technological areas to be implemented.
During the early hours, the pace was rather slow. We decided to set deadlines to reach small goals. We would only meet if we detected some common problem that would not allow us to move forward.
Pitching the idea
After working for 28 hours, it was hard to explain all your work in just 3 minutes. Without a doubt, it was a new challenge. After the 10,000 developers all over the Philippines completed their presentations, we waited for deliberations. We were not expecting to be part of the finalists at the Araneta Coliseum since we knew that there were a lot of smart hackers that might move into the finals. The moment was really unforgettable after they called our name. We were shocked and couldn’t believe that we made it to the final 10.
Our only goal in joining the Impact Hackathon was for us to be one of the participants in the world’s largest hackathon. With all those people gathered at the Araneta Coliseum from different schools, teams and industries with crazy ideas, we had overwhelming feeling of gratitude becoming a finalist!
Even when we didn’t win as the grand champion, we still bagged the first runner up win on the National Pitch after competing with the top 15 finalists from all over the Philippines.
Beyond the hackathon
After the Hackathon, we’ve met a lot of people, most of them are also startup founders and tech enthusiasts. We also attended events and forums about recycling, like the one organized by Coca-Cola Philippines. We attended several meetings with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and some potential partners.
Currently we are looking for support from local government units to help us implement our solution to plastic pollution. We are planning to start in one community or barangay within Metro Manila for our pilot testing. Second, we are also seeking grants and funding so we can keep this venture sustainable. We also look forward to partnering with brands that are considered major producers of plastic waste as we have devised a reward system where our partner brands can promote their products.
Joining a hackathon forces you to get out of your comfort zone and grow. Warren, for one, is a developer who works on computer screens all day long. He knows nothing about business, much less pitching his own idea and explaining why he is a good candidate. The hackathon was a fantastic learning opportunity. We learned that collaboration is important when it comes to working on a specific solution.
It’s going to be a long journey for us, and we know for sure that this is only the start of something big that we would need to face in the future. We are hoping for the success of the company. Joining the largest hackathon in the Philippines is already an achievement for us. What more when you get to the finals. We are so honored to be part of this largest tech event in the Philippines.
Learn more about TrashCash here.