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Our First Hack-A-Thon: Joys & Lessons Learned

UPDATE: Our presentation at Innovations in Healthy Food at The Federal Reserve Bank on December 14, 2016.

See Slide Deck

This past weekend a few of our Rootid co-hort and friends participated in the first hackathon ever organized in Richmond, California. Its purpose was to provide real solutions that both the Mayor’s Office and citizens could use on a day-to-day basis to improve the city. The focus was to build an application that improves the livability, sustainability and connectedness of Richmond, and let’s just say we had an amazing time. The hackathon was part of the Meeting of the Minds Annual Summit which convenes 400+ VIPs from 25+ countries to discuss the future of sustainable and smart cities and the top 3 teams from the hackathon got to present what they built during the conference.

Well, Rootid had a pretty good showing and made it to the top 3 with our idea (The Stalk Exchange)—not too shabby for our first go at this kind of thing. We planned, designed and built a web application that allows neighbors to trade their produce and skills with one another through a simple search and messaging system. Richmond is considered a food desert and to combat this, a lot of community gardens, urban farms and home planter boxes are cropping up. The Stalk Exchange would not only encourage this, but help people learn how to gain greater yields and then swap what they grow with one another. Our hope is that this kind of application could help strengthen community amongst neighbors while also filling a gap in a serious health issue.


Great presentation! We may not have won the check but top 3 ain’t shabby! #motm 2015 and we met some great people. Congrats! @stridecenter

Posted by rootid on Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Our Building Experience…what we found interesting, difficult, exciting and suprising.

  1. Realistic Timelines & Setting Priorities:
    From a development stand point, Jason and JP thought maintaining a realistic timeline proved more difficult than anticipated. Normally, when you fall behind in one area, you can make it up elsewhere during a project. They didn’t expect that in such a short timeframe, that the inability to make up time elsewhere would make such a big impact in the final product. We really had to scale down our vision to the most basic essentials and work on getting that out the door.
  2. Organization is Key: 
    Though we built quickly and relatively efficiently, we all agree that we had to leave out some functionality that maybe we would not have if we had planned a little better at the beginning. We ended up spending time working on functionality that we didn’t include in the end product. We all agree, that this is where talking through with one of the mentors we were provided would have been helpful. We never thought to discuss our overall game plan with them, only specific ideas for feedback.
  3. The Ideal Team:
    Though we were able to build our product, we all felt there was one key component missing—an additional back-end developer. Our team needed 5 people and only had 4—1 back-end developer, 1 front-end developer, 1 IA/UX/designer and 1 research/content strategist. Even though we had all our bases covered, we got held up on fuctionality and a little bit on front-end development when it came to application of the theming. With an additional back-end developer this would have increased our efficiency in the implementation of components and would have allowed our front-end developer to have a little support to get the theming done more quickly.
  4. Suprising Successes:
    What was most exciting/surprising to us, is that 4 people were able to build an operational web application including visual branding and content in less than 2 days. It is not perfect of course, but it works, you can login through Facebook or G+, create a profile, search and initiate a swap through a simple messaging system. The design is responsive so can be viewed and interacted with across any device…and looks pretty cute as well! This is the kind of project that would take our firm 4-6 weeks to complete under normal conditions, so it was exciting that we were able to come up with a relevant idea, organize and build it all in such a short amount of time.