Report From #HackathonPune

By Stephen Forte,
We took over Twitter

A year ago Fresco Capital and e-Zest organized the first ever Hackathon to take place in Pune, India. It was such a great success that we decided to do it again. This year’s Hackathon was September 23–24th and and it was incredible.

As the prize was sponsored by the Laudato Si’ Challenge, the theme of the Hackathon was “Chasing a Billion Dreams — Building uncommon apps for common people” and the guidance I gave at the beginning of the Hackaton was the seven categories of the Laudato Si’ Challenge.

Explaining the Laudato Si

After we did the opening and set the ground rules, e-Zest CEO Devendra and I had to go and personally sign the 250 certificates of completion for the attendees. It took a while for us to sign all the certificates, but we had a lot of fun doing it. We joked and said this is what it must be like when the president takes office and immediately has to sit down and sign a bunch of stuff.

No event in India is complete without the certificate! 😉

As the day started to turn to night, I went to visit as many of the 100+ teams as I could. The standout teams to me where:

  • Emergency response: increase ambulance and police response time via location services, GPS, etc (the goal was to get an ambulance faster than an Uber)
  • Job and skill learning/improvement using machine learning (ML)
  • Augmented reality social media like Pokemon Go for social activists
  • Crop health app via image analysis of drone photos
  • Car lane sensor and software for the masses
  • A Firefighting robot
  • Wheelchair automation and navigation
  • Governmental services for the masses
  • Solar power installation chatbot
  • Farming automation and instrumentation via Industrial IoT

As you can see there was a healthy mix of software and hardware solutions. The trends were around some of the major problems in India: traffic, farm yields, competitive job market, and governmental services. It was great to see the Laudato Si’ values being implemented at a Hackathon in India.

We have a problem with not enough women in IT jobs in the United States. That is not the case in India: about half of the Hackathon participants were women. 50% of the winners at the Hackathon were women as well.

About 12 hours after we started, the developers started to get tired. That is when we took a break and had the live band come out and play. We temporarily turned the office into a nightclub.

Developers getting down

After midnight the sleeping bags came out and some people crashed for an hour or two. I was struggling with jet lag and cheated and went back to the hotel for about 4 hours of sleep.

Its not a hackathon without sleeping bags

At 6:30am the judges started to arrive and talk to each team, taking a few hours to narrow the field down from 100+ teams to a short list of about 10.

Final presentations

The final teams made their presentations and we chose the top three winners. While there was a lot of impressive hardware, all the shortlisted apps were software apps with the themes of: farming, social activism, governmental and emergency services, and traffic.

Looking forward to next year.


Report From #HackathonPune was originally published in Fusion by Fresco Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Why is a Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist Running a Developer Hackathon in India-Again?

By Stephen Forte,
Presentation of the check to the winning team at Pune Hackathon 2016

A year ago Fresco Capital and e-Zest organized the first Hackathon in Pune, India. It was such a great success that we decided to do it again. This year’s Hackathon will be on September 23–24th and you can register here.

Besides having a lot of fun, we have three goals for organizing another Hackathon in India:

· Engaging with the developer ecosystem

· Learning about new technologies

· Seeing the Laudato Si’ in action

Engaging with the Developer Ecosystem

Spending a weekend side by side with the most motivated developers in an ecosystem for a weekend is best way to engage. We did the same last year and learned things that you can only learn by hanging out with the developers (what technologies they like, what technologies their customers like, how Agile is embraced, what companies are the best to work for, what companies are based in an area that is hard to get to, etc.) Looking forward to the full emersion experience again.

Learning about new technologies

Last year, we learned a lot about the bot market and hope to learn just as much as last year. This year the tech theme is a little more focused on Cloud, so we are excited about what kind of applications 150+ Indian developers will unleash. I usually find the most creativity at Hackathons and expect the same here.

Laudato Si’ In Action

The non-tech theme of the hackathon is “Chasing a Billion Dreams — Building uncommon apps for common people” and the guidance given at the hackaton will be the six categories of the Laudato Si’ Challenge. As Fresco Capital is one of the organizers of the Laudato Si’ Challenge, we’re eager to see how the Indian market responds to Pope Francis’ call to action.

See you in India!


Why is a Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist Running a Developer Hackathon in India-Again? was originally published in Fusion by Fresco Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Why You Should Start Experimenting with AR and VR Today

By Fusion by Fresco Capital,

Those of us paying attention all knew it was only a matter of time before augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) became mainstream. Now, thanks to the rise of Oculus Rift and Pokémon Go, we’re beginning to arrive at that point.

First, some brief definitions so we are on the same page:

  • Virtual reality is technology that generates a three-dimensional digital environment, tricking users into “believing” they’re inside that environment when interacting with the technology. MarketsandMarkets says the VR market will grow 57.8% each year between now and 2022. The market realized $1.37 billion in 2015 and is projected to bring in$33.9 billion by 2022.

If you or your company is in any position to create AR and VR products, now’s the time to get started. Even if you fail during your first attempt, you’ll get a head start on claiming as big a chunk of the AR and VR pies as you can.

I Couldn’t Jump

I am advising a company in the space, so recently I was lucky enough to visit an AR/VR accelerator and interact with the exciting new technologies that many businesses are building. I started playing with the Oculus Rift and thought it was pretty cool. I also got to try an HTC Vive (which I liked much better). Even though I knew what I was seeing was a digitalized environment, I wouldn’t “jump off of a cliff” when presented with the opportunity. It all seemed too real. Psychologically, I couldn’t do it.

My experiences, coupled with the media frenzy over Pokémon Go — which provides the first mainstream AR experience — have led me to one conclusion: you need to simply get involved and start building products now, rather than later. Because there’s really no such thing as failure in this case.

If you fail, it’ll probably be because the market isn’t big enough and the tech isn’t as popular as it will be one day. But you can learn from those shortcomings. And in two or three years when the market is booming, you’ll succeed because you’ll have learned a ton of helpful lessons while failing.

An Enormous Opportunity

Pokémon Go represents a breakout moment for augmented reality. But we’re still in the super-early stages of seeing the true power of the technology. It’s where mobile was when Michael Douglas was blabbing on an enormous cell phone in Wall Street.

So before you get turned off on AR because of how annoying you perceive Pokémon Go to be, it’s worth your while to consider how the technology can transform your company. If you’re a startup founder, there’s a good chance your first stab at AR or VR will be unsuccessful. But three to five years from now, you’ll be in one of the best positions to build the technology.

Need more convincing? F1 recently signed a deal that will allow its races to be streamed via VR devices. Racing fans will be able to see the course as if they were sitting in the driver’s seat themselves (which might be a way for racing to attract new fans — folks who previously couldn’t understand the sport’s appeal).

Despite these breakthroughs, there are very few masters of AR and VR technologies right now. Developers are going to AR/VR hackathons to learn more skills. The industry isn’t yet full of geniuses who are building the surefire next big thing.

But it will be sometime in the near future.

If you’re a technical startup person interested in the space, go out and start turning your AR and VR ideas into reality. While it might not be monetarily successful for you right off the bat, your efforts will undoubtedly help AR and VR technologies move forward. As an added bonus, you’ll become more intimate with the space — which should put you in a great position to claim a big chunk of the market through your subsequent AR and VR efforts.

First Photo by flickr user UTKnightCenter

Second Photo by Stephen Forte

  Category: Thematic
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