A few months ago, I was selected as one of a group of finalists of the FinCapDev app competition. It’s a nationwide challenge to develop new mobile apps that will help working Americans make smart financial choices. The finalist teams were all competing for a grand prize of $50k and a runner-up prize of $20k. My app name is “Thrifty Bunch”. It looks to recruit the power of crowdsourcing to help people figure out what to buy based on their detailed description of what they need.
The judges for the competition were:
- Meghan Casserly, Senior Writer, Forbes
- Kaaren Hanson, Vice President, Design Innovation, Intuit
- Jesse Middleton, Co-Founder, WeWork Labs
- Hans Roderich, Venture Partner, Azure Capital
- Matt Wallaert, Behavioral Scientist, Bing
I got a chance to speak with Matt and Meghan, both of whom were incredibly knowledgeable on everything from psychology to technology.
There were a lot of excellent apps among the finalist teams, so I didn’t think I had a chance to do well in the competition, especially given that I was the only one-man team. It didn’t matter though, because I already reached my two original goals of (1) learning the ins and outs of building an app for Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone and (2) taking an app to completion that actually has the potential to help a large number of people.
Somehow I did much better than I expected, winning the runner-up prize of $20,000. I was shocked and honored by that. To the left is a picture of me with Jennifer Tescher, CEO of CFSI, and to the right is a picture of me with Carolyn McMahon of D2D Fund. Both organizations were a big part of making this competition happen, but also a signficant amount of financial support came from the Ford Foundation, the Citi Foundations, and Omidyar Network.
For me, I will continue developing the app, and will officially open it to the public in the coming weeks. If you’re interested, please add your email to the list at thriftybunch.com. I have a publication in the works describing the architecture of a crowdsourced shopping system. I believe in the power of crowdsourcing and online reputation systems, and look forward to exploring its applicability in the financial space as well as in my other work on optimization, communication networks, robotics, and biometric authentication systems. My goal is to find ideas that work, and can actually help people.
As far as the $20k prize, I am going to invest that right back into the development of the app through partnering with other developers and organizations. I have a lot of things on my plate in my main work life in academia. So I can use all the help I can get.