Black Enterprise Driving Innovation Hackathon Champions

Chris Grant led the team behind Viza, the winning app in Black Enterprise’s Driving Innovation Hackathon.

Black Enterprise’s Driving Innovation Hackathon presented by Toyota has come to a close, with all four teams creating amazing environmentally friendly apps in as little as 24 hours.

The winner, team Viza, walked away as the champion, showing how to integrate environmental friendliness, conscious consumerism, and smart business decisions into a single app.

The Hackathon was hosted by Mary Pryor and Mike Street, who interviewed judges and developers throughout the Hackathon.

The fourth place spot went to StartupBoss, an app that helped potential black business owners create environmentally conscious business plans based on their personality or working style.

The team behind the app included game discovery service Bundlecamp founder Michael Piggott, General Assembly admissions producer Nena Ugwuomo, and freelance programmer Zachary Boyd.

Third place went to Makazi Mtingwa and Natasha’s Court founder Candida Haynes for their app Greenbux Trivia, an augmented reality gaming app that empowers small minority businesses and community networks to make lifestyle choices while they walk around and discover their neighborhood.

In second place came Elnerdo, the environmental platformer game by Andre Smith and Jason Scoon, who were acquaintances before the event took place. “I’m really glad to work with Andre,” Scoon said. “We talked about getting me more into game development since that’s more of my specialty as opposed to Andre being on the web…It was a pretty good opportunity to…start building our own product together.”

First place went to the Viza team, led by 16-year-old Chris Grant, an iOS and web developer, and student at Stuyvesant High School. Ruby programmer Rich Grundy, systems engineer Vietnhi Phuvan, and Silicon Harlem co-founder Bruce Lincoln were also team members.

Lincoln, a veteran in the programming community, let the younger developers and provided them with guidance. “I’m in the background, I’m letting these kids lead the way…we can learn a lot from them,” he said.

Viza is a data-driven, decision making app that uses a more mature gamification aspect to encourage environmentally conscious decision-making that will save money and give you points on a community-driven leaderboard for buying eco-friendly soap, carpooling, and using less water and electricity.

The hackathon winners were picked by six judges: Adobe’s Malcolm Jones, Tumblr developer and Black Techies founder Kyle Wanamaker, All Star Code founder Christina Lewis Halpern, Silicon Harlem co-founder Eric Hamilton, Verizon executive Michelle Dutton, Qeyno Labs co-founder Kalimah Priforce, and NYU’s Sumit Gupta.

All the judges grilled each team on various elements of their presentation, from the backend software behind the apps to the reason they chose certain elements and business plans.

Priforce gave a very essential piece of advice at the end of the presentation portion of the Hackathon. “Don’t be afraid to use the world ‘black’ in your ideas,” said Kalimah. “Silicon Valley is hungry for apps in smaller niches that cater to minority businesses.”

In the end, the Driving Innovation Hackathon helped bring diverse coders together to learn from one another and to help create the next killer apps for businesses looking to made green decisions while making some green in the process.

Black Enterprise would like to thank everyone who attended for making the event a success. Another Hackathon is most certainly on the way, and will be bigger and better, so make sure to check out Black Enterprise for more information and news on business, technology, and entrepreneurship.

Black Enterprise Driving Innovation Hackathon Morning Recap

Black Enterprise and Toyota stayed up late in the Driving Innovation Hackathon to keep track of our team of hackers and coders who were taking their best environmental ideas and making them a reality in a 24-hour timespan.

Throughout the night hackers stayed up to hack, slept in their chairs, and voiced their ideas for solutions to implementation problems.

With app submission time looming closer at 10AM, they were committed–the ones that were awake, at least–to finishing on time.

And after a hearty breakfast, the teams were refreshed and putting the finishing touches on their apps.

The four teams described their apps right before the submission.

Viza is a data-driven, decision making app that uses a more mature gamification aspect to encourage environmentally conscious decision-making that will save money and give you points on a community-driven leaderboard.

To encourage green choices, users are given coupons and rewards for being eco-friendly.

Greenbux Trivia is an augmented reality gaming app that empowers small minority businesses and community networks to make lifestyle choices while they walk around and discover their neighborhood.

With every question answered, the app brings them closer to their goal at a physical location.

Startup Boss is an app that entices potential black business owners to start a business based on their personality.

With classifications like hacker, hustler, and hipster, the app customizes the business creation process based on your answers. It encourages environmentally friendly concepts like going green by saving paperless.

Elnerdo is a Mario-style platform game where you control the titular character and help him vanquish the pollution-producing enemies.

You can collect leaves and stomp on garbage villains to transform the level into a more eco-friendly place.

Black Enterprise will post a recap of the entire event, so be sure to check in tomorrow for a full rundown of the event complete with a victor and the runner ups! You can support the event by tweeting #DrivingInnovation.

Black Enterprise Driving Innovation Hackathon Morning Recap

This Saturday, over 25 hackers and coders showed up at Black Enterprise headquarters to show off their skills in Black Enterprise’s Driving Innovation Hackathon presented by Toyota.

From the moment the hackers arrived, they began discussing ideas and working on the initial frameworks for their programs. The more outgoing programmers recruited their teams with a demo of a previous app they designed.

Three programmers were peppered with questions when they pulled out their Google Glass wearable devices, offering to show how it works and how it could be used in the event.

Community builders from Google were also in attendance, talking to programmers about the kind of programming languages they were planning on using in their apps.

One developer brought out his Android gaming console, the Ouya, for displaying his application on a TV.

When asked why they were participating in the hackathon, we got a variety of answers, ranging from community building to showing off their skills. “This is my second hackathon, and I wanted to join up with someone with a good idea and make it work,” one hacker said.

Over the next 24 hours, hackers will compete in teams to build an app dedicated to environmentalism and technology, essential to Toyota’s Green Initiative.

Keep checking in to the Black Enterprise Driving Innovation Livestream for more news, interviews, and check-ins on the coders.

Q&A With Black Enterprise’s Hackathon Judges

With Black Enterprise’s Driving Innovation Hackathon starting on Saturday, the anticipation was in the air. And since the event is all about encouraging diversity in the programming community, we wanted to get some professional opinions on the matter.

So we asked a few of our Hackathon judges to weigh in on the current situation in the tech community, and how they see people going from curious about programming to hardcore developers.

Answering questions for us is Malcolm Jones of Adobe, Mary Pryor of Urban Socialista, social media guru Mike Street, and Silicon Harlem’s Eric Hamilton, all of whom will be attending the Driving Innovation Hackathon this weekend.

What’s one thing everyone interested in programming should know?

Mike Street: Programming is FUN and helps turn you into a problem solver. Yes, it takes LONG hours and you have to really get into it, but once you have this skill set you can really open up a lot of new doors for yourself. So start learning ASAP! Visit sites like Code Academy and start learning the basics. Then find a project you can work on and get real world experience.

Malcolm Jones: Programming is a lot of fun, but it also requires great deal of dedication to honing your craft. Often times things will work/break for seemling “unknown” reasons. You have to be prepared for late nights hacking away. However, when you finally get it working, the feeling is unlike any other.

Eric Hamilton: It’s about having a natural curiosity about how things work that drives you to be a great software developer.

What should you avoid when trying to learn coding? What are the pitfalls and time sinks that will make you unproductive?

Malcolm: Don’t try to do too much in one sitting. Make small reachable goals. Get it working, refactor your code to make it better, then move on to a new feature. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Try to do something that someone has already done first. Next try to do it better than them. Finally, try your own thing once you feel ready.

Mary Pryor: Avoid things that are too good to be true. Learning how to code without any technical background is a challenge but very rewarding and you should make sure that whatever you invest in as a learning platform has a record of results.

Eric: When learning to code avoid relying on someone to teach you the latest technology. I started building websites in 1994 and I’ve never taken a web development class. The iPhone was released in 2007. One might ask the question “How did developers learn to code for the iPhone when there were no books or classes available at the time?” Those earlier developers were never taught, they were self taught. They downloaded the iPhone SDK (software development kit) and taught themselves. It’s okay to take a crash course, but to be most effective, the student should have a passion project ready to start working on immediately.

Mike: Don’t get frustrated! Coding can be very hard but you have to learn how to be patient and how to uncover errors in your code. The more your practice the better you’ll get. But getting frustrated will lead to you not completing projects. Keep at it and always ask for help when you get stuck.

While everyone is focusing on coding as a skill, how do you think we can improve the underlying skills like mathematics, science, and critical thinking?

Mike: We have to really highlight and reward those taking up those fields of study. STEM is a hot buzz word but we still have a long way to get into getting our kids further into STEM programs. People like Neil deGrasse Tyson are helping to make science and mathematics fun and accessible and inspiring a new generation to enter into these fields of practice.

Mary: We need to get back to driving institutions and school into making these items prerequisite to students before they hit college. Math and science are important to focus on and everyone should try to brush up on this as a part of continuing education throughout their lives and careers.

Eric: We’ve got this wonderful think called the internet. The world’s information is readily available and most would rather use it to see what Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are up to. One can learn about anything and everything from Google.

How important is a college degree or certification when learning how to program and getting into the coding field?

Mike: A college degree is important but so is experience. I strongly encourage everyone to get a degree but to ALSO work on real world projects show that you can work and solve problems for real businesses.

Mary: A college degree can stand out on paper, but everything I learned about coding was self-taught, and not through college.

Do you have an inspiration or idol in the programming community?

Mike: I have to shout out (Hackathon Judge) Kyle Wanamaker from Black’s in Tech and a lead programmer a Tumblr! He’s one of the coolest guys I know and his drive and love for this space is an inspiration.

How can a small business owner use coding to improve their business or start a new one?

Malcolm: Small business owner can save THOUSANDS of dollars simply by learning what it takes to maintain a website etc. Often times, you need to contract out this work and pay someone large sums of money per hour to fix something that might take simply 20 mins to fix.

Mike: Small business owners can use coding to streamline their processes and make their businesses more efficient. For examples, small businesses could explore using MongoDB, a Non-SQL database system, to help streamline backend processes and store files in the cloud allowing them to save time and money.

Who SHOULDN’T learn how to program?

Malcolm: People who don’t like challenges. People who don’t like creating things. People who are in it just for a paycheck. You need to be in it for the experience and the journey of making something from scratch.

Eric: People with no burning curiosity need not apply. Non self starters need not apply.

Mary: Anyone that’s lazy and scared to try something new. To put it bluntly code is not for the fearful at heart. It will definitely change and aide in how you think of the world and work that you produce.

Join Black Enterprise’s #DrivingInnovation Hackathon Twitter Chat Tomorrow on STEM

To kick off this weekend’s Black Enterprise Driving Innovation Hackathon presented by Toyota, Black Enterprise is hosting a Twitter chat Thursday, March 27 from 1:30PM to 2:30PM, focusing on programming, STEM, and why coding could be a useful skill.

Technology is affecting everyone’s careers, and with the rise of startups and entrepreneurs using programming and tech to start new ventures worth millions (or even billions) of dollars, knowing a skill like programming could help your business take off.

There are a ton of resources available for the budding programmer, from tutorials that hold your hand to hardcore boot camps that make you work 10-hour days until you’re skills are top notch.

With an entry point for every skill level, it’s no wonder everyone, including President Barack Obama, is encouraging people to build new skills through coding.

The #DrivingInnovation Twitter chat will be hosted by Black Enterprise’s own Technology Editor, Patrick Austin (@Patbits).

We’ll be discussing ways to get into programming, why STEM is important for today’s budding coders, and what the pros and cons of learning a new programming language are, among other topics.

In addition, the conversation will be joined by Hackathon judge and Adobe’s own Malcolm Jones (@BossJones), and Hackathon host and co-host Mary Pryor (@MsMaryPryor) and Mike Street (@MrMikeStreet).

Want to join in on the conversation? Check out @BlackEnterprise and @Patbits around 1:30 and tweet #DrivingInnovation to make your voice heard.

Join Black Enterprise’s Driving Innovation Hackathon Livestream This Weekend



You can watch the Hackathon live from on your smartphone or computer.

Want to see Black Enterprise’s team of hackers build an app in 24 hours, but don’t live in the New York area? We’ve got you covered. Black Enterprise’s Driving Innovation Hackathon presented by Toyota will be livestreaming the event this Saturday from 2-6pm and Sunday from 9am-12pm.

The Hackathon will take place at Black Enterprise headquarters, 260 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016 on March 29th -30th, 2014. The event will be open to the public from 10-2pm and 3-7pm on Saturday and 9am-noon on Sunday. Technologists, innovators and coders will form teams to design and develop their solutions.

Select teams will then hack it out to see who can create the best interactive digital game for Toyota. The winner’s game will serve as an exciting method of educating users on how to make positive sustainability choices in connection with the Toyota Green Initiative (TGI).

Black Enterprise, Toyota to Host ‘Hackathon’ for Black Techies in NYC

*Register for the Hackathon here*

Black Enterprise will host its first Driving Innovation Hackathon presented by Toyota, where technology and creative minds will come together to build tools that demonstrate the advantages of sustainability. The Driving Innovation program was created by Black Enterprise in partnership with Toyota to shine light on African Americans in technology.

The Hackathon will take place at Black Enterprise headquarters, 260 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016 on March 29th -30th, 2014. Technologists, innovators and coders will form teams to design and develop their solutions.

Select teams will then hack it out to see who can create the best interactive digital game for Toyota. The winner’s game will serve as an exciting method of educating users on how to make positive sustainability choices in connection with the Toyota Green Initiative (TGI).

RELATED: Black Techies Host Hackathon to Honor Martin Luther King

This program was created to help the African American community find smart, simple ideas that can make a positive environmental impact in their community. The technology created may be utilized at TGI tour events via tablet, flat screen monitors, and interactive tabletops or online at

Leaders of the technology and innovation communities will judge which team was most successful. The experience of the Hackathon will also be livestreamed and available to everyone. The winner of the contest will receive exclusive coverage in Black Enterprise Magazine and featured on

“Black Enterprise is committed to gathering people of diverse backgrounds together to experience the joys and discovery of digital game building with a twist,” said Shelly Jones, V.P/Director of Digital at Black Enterprise. “With our wonderful partners at Toyota, we will help you explore ways in which technology can help give life a richer experience while you educate and encourage people to live an environmentally green lifestyle.”

We encourage those who want to stop by and see the event in action to register for a free ticket on Eventbrite to let us know you’ll be in attendance.

If you’re a coder who wants to put your skills to the test, check out the Hacker League page to get more information about the event and apply.

‘Black Techies’ Hosts Hackathon to Honor Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLK Dream Code organizer Kyle Wanamaker addresses hackers at Tumblr headquarters (Image: Kevin Steck)

Seeking to mobilize technophiles in hacks that further Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s values, Black Techies joined forces with Tumblr to organize the MLK Dream Code Hackathon.  Beginning the morning of January 18, the 30-plus-hour coding event attracted a mixed crowd of approximately 30 programming newbies and seasoned developers, graphic and interface designers, and engineers, among others to Tumblr headquarters in the Flatiron District in New York City’s Silicon Alley.  In true collaborative spirit, organizations such as All Star Code, Blacks in Tech and Silicon Harlem showed their support for Black Techies’ first overnight event.

The brainchild of Tumblr engineer Kyle Wanamaker, Black Techies was birthed in 2011 in response to the lack of tech startup founders and techies of color at meetups. In an effort to diversify the space, specifically engineering, Wanamaker created Black Techies to create a comfortable landscape where programmers could build and learn from one another.

“If you’re in an environment where you’re the only Black programmer, it’s really tough to say, ‘Hold up! I don’t understand this,’ because you don’t want to be seen as incompetent,” said Wanamaker to “I wanted there to be a safe place for people to learn, for people to admit sort of what they don’t know, and to build a community of learning and mentorship and entrepreneurship so that hopefully in the next 10-15 years, we can create wealth through startups and have an intellectual vision that’s going to come through technology.”

Wanamaker’s vision was evident during the weekend event, where seven teams hacked it out in the name of social good.

Web developer Georgianna Pinto and team members created Our Black Box, a site that would visualize statistics like graduation rates, the wealth gap, and other data involving the African-American demographic via an interactive map. The sextet envisioned an online portal that housed this data so that solutions can be made. As Pinto phrased it, the platform would highlight the small marches in your community that you can participate in.