#seedhack #winning #holylight #jesusPosted: April 2, 2012
I’ve participated in Seedhack FinTech this weekend, together with Gil (@Don_Gil) and Reza (@rjzzleep) we won the best demo award. We wanted to own church donation market (~$50bn size in US alone). To achieve this we’ve created HolyLight – a platform for churches to manage their church goers & donors and a mobile app which enables to donate online, on-the-go, with social gamification elements to increase donations.
Was it worth it? Definitely! It was an amazing and super-intense weekend, I’ve met tons of smart people and learned a great deal about mobile payment technologies and also about pitching ideas. Many thanks to @sc_seedhack for organizing it and many thanks to Google Campus for hosting us!
Below is a quick summary of how we’ve pulled this off:
Thursday, 20:00 – I’m coming over for Pre-seedhack drinks. Google Campus is really looking great – where else can you see Atari, lava lamps, Darth Vader and books on x86 ASM in one place? Met Fred (@fredsters_s) who’s one of the organizers and chatted about last Seedhack. Also met Gil who explained his trading signal for private investors idea. I don’t have an idea yet and the list of ideas I’ve seen on the forum so far doesn’t seem too exciting, I’m considering going to Cambridge to see my family.
Friday, 12:00 – Chatting with my co-founder Rytis (@RytisVit) and trying to come up with some fun and interesting FinTech idea. We come up with three ideas:
- Mobile payment library using GoCardless so you don’t need to deal with Payment Gateways, Merchant Accounts etc. That’s exactly what we need now for our own startup, so doing this over a weekend seems like a viable way to prove if it’s possible or not. Fun factor: 2/10. Changes world for the better: 8/10. Business potential: 4/10.
- Financial data series visualisation and reporting. I remember back from my days at The Firm that we’ve spend hundreds of human-days to do some simple nice looking PDFs for clients, that contain performances for their funds and economic commentary, and if I could extend that for say iPads it could well be used both across big banks and hedge funds as well as smaller boutique shops that don’t have resources to build solutions like that themselves. Fun factor: 1/10. Changes world for the better: 2/10. Business potential: 6/10.
- Church donation app. I’ve heard people are donating to churches through mobiles in Nigeria, which has far more advanced mobile payment technology than we do here. So why not do something similar here in the “developed world”? Quick search reveals that the total size of donations market a year is around $50bn in US. In the UK, Church of England receives around £1bn in donations, of which £200-300mm comes from coin & paper money collection in churches. This is clearly a big and untapped market because no budding entrepreneur in their sane mind would attack something so old and arcane. Fun factor: 9/10. Changes world for the better: 6/10. Business potential: 8/10.
I know well that people like good visuals and good jokes, so the winner clearly is Church donation app. I know that I can quickly write an iPhone app, get some nice images and do some simple animations which would look professional and nice. It’s also a refreshing idea compared to mint.com clones, bank for the people, etc. none of which is really doable over a weekend. Even though I’m not at The Firm anymore I still want to continue help God do his work ;).
Friday, 20:00 – Time to present our ideas. I haven’t done public speaking in a while, so feeling a bit nervous I go up on stage and pitch it. Pitch is a roaring success, everyone’s clapping and laughing. I’m very excited, off to assemble a team and start going!
Friday, 21:00 – To my big surprise there’s no one who wants to work on this except Gil. Gil is a business guy, he would do more detailed market research and would prepare the presentation but I’m not feeling too good about coding & designing everything on my own. Why all these smart hackers & developers are so in the box, not seeing the holy light? Maybe I should really go to Cambridge instead? Fred keeps encouraging us to give it a go. He introduces us to Reza, who seems to be on 3 teams at a time. Fred says that bigger teams usually break up quickly, so we might get someone to join us later on. We decide to sit down with Gil, both upset that no one wants to work with us and try to sketch down some more thoughts on what we could do.
Friday, 23:30 – As we’re boarding the tube at Old Street with Gil, I get a call from Reza – his other teams didn’t work out so he wants to join us and wants to start working ASAP. The game is on! I’m telling him that I need a backend, a sort of CRM where we would store donor details and see all donations.
Saturday, 10:00 – I’m back at Google Campus. Reza got hit by a car last night when cycling home. Fortunately he’s all fine, it’s just that his bike is broken. We all start working. I’ve figured I want to try out Parse.com to see how easy is it to do backend & FB integration & push notifications with them. Reza is playing with a new Ruby version. We figure out we want to do payments with PayPal because we’ve got Saulius (@sauliuz) and Corrado (@Korrat) from PayPal on-site.
Saturday, 13:00 – I’ve got a very basic version of the app running after 3h. I go talk to Corrado about PayPal integration. I’m explaining them our church acquisition strategy: we take donations for them before they even sign up, and then go to them saying that we’ve got the money donated to them so they should sign up. Saulius and Corrado stare at me with blank faces – am I really thinking PayPal would let me do this? – that joke didn’t quite fly through.
Saturday, 16:00 – Mentors come over to talk to us. After an initial shock & awe we basically receive two types of feedback: a) how are we going to sell to such arcane institutions? b) they think it could really work!
Saturday, 23:00 – I’m done with Facebook integration (which I unfortunately didn’t show in the final pitch), and done with social gamification layer + animations. Parse.com is really really good, I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’ve used it to represent churches, store user and donation data. Facebook integration and push notifications are really seamless. It just works! Reza is still fighting the new Ruby version. Gil has tons of info about the market. We decide to call it a day and go home before the tube stops, Reza stays and continues working because his bike is broken.
Sunday, 11:00 – Back at Google Campus, Gil created some beautiful slides (as you have seen during the pitch), Reza got the basic dashboard working, I’ve added some more animations to the app. We continue polishing it for the next few hours. Reza is adding push notification support on the backend so we can send pushes from dashboard to donors who donated the most. Working text of the message you get is “Blessings from above!“
Sunday, 14:00 – Making final fixes to our slides. I know well that anything <30 size font is bad and I also know that projector stand in the hall is relatively low with a Google logo on the top left, so I’m trying to put most of the text on the top right. Our biggest concern is push notifications with blessings because these seem to take up to 10 secs to arrive. Transport protocols from heaven aren’t that reliable as we learn.
Sunday, 16:00 – Pitch time! Everyone’s giving nice pitches, people really worked hard over the weekend and we see a dozen of ideas from B2B ISDA / other contractual document language analytics to B2C crowd-betting. My favourite is financial education for children. Great work guys!
Sunday, 17:00 – Time to present our work! I’m feeling very nervous, but the pitch goes really well! (Click here for video - thanks to @nikitakorotaev) We get the best demo award & a t-shirt from Foursquare! It’s both funny and serious – as someone commented afterwards we’ve got the most solid business plan out of all pitches, while at the same time being the most engaging and fun pitch.
Sunday, 20:00 – Hanging out in Shoreditch at Floripa with the crowd. Great feeling having made a bunch new friends and a great feeling of accomplishment! The weekend is over and it’s time to rest and sleep a bit ;).
So what’s next?
Well, the possibilities are indeed endless If we really consider this further, the next step is to validate market and try to go sell it to a few churches / synagogues / mosques. It’s always handy to start by showing a nice looking app and tell about our Seedhack success. We would learn what their actual pain-points are and what problems actually need to be solved. Would any of this work? I don’t know but it’s up to us to go and figure it out!
I want to thank Seedcamp & Seedhack crowd again and finish this off with Joshua 1:9:
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
- Seedcamp’s Seedhack FinTech winner provides ‘smart contractual risk analysis solutions’. Let us explain… (thenextweb.com)