Bianor Supports HACK AUBG 4.0 – Reimagine Reality

Bianor’s Project Manager Anton Gavrailov shares his first-hand experience as a mentor at the event.

The Hackathon

On 1-3 April, American University in Bulgaria (AUBG) hosted an exciting event – HACK AUBG 4.0. Bianor was a partner of the event, and I had the honor and pleasure to be part of it as a mentor.

This year’s event was the fourth edition of this initiative. Due to the COVID19 restrictions that we all suffered from, the event was online last year. Luckily, it was back to normal this year, and it took part on the AUBG campus. The big sports hall of the student center was the place for brainstorming, mentoring, coding, and preparing for the final stage – the presentation of the ideas.

To allow an equal start and avoid pre-programmed projects, the organizers kept the topic of the hackathon secret until the beginning. At 5 pm on Friday, April 1, they announced it – “Making the everyday life easier.”

 

Raw diamonds

There were 12 teams, each consisting of 3-5 people. The participants were about 50 in their early twenties or even younger.

After the topic’s announcement, the teams had very limited time to come up with their project idea. Here’s a list of their initial, “unrefined” pitches.

Anything.jsA platform for financial education and predictive analysis into secure financial instruments.
ShqipetAubgAl platform detecting how urgent a specific medical condition is.
CyberStacyDeveloping a software solution for generating and analyzing the individual results of a mock job interview. Al mock interview platform which detects your performance and asks you relevant questions, followed by a report.
MLCGAAdvanced shopping app for ingredients of desired purchases.
UPGRADEMinimize screen time and maximize saving – through notification, the Finance app where you put all your credit cards, and it tracks spending.
PhoenixHardware stick that will help blind people navigate – glasses that can tell you what is in front of you.
a->bA system that lets you manage your info by structuring it.
Allow CookiesMental health helper web app.
The SquadA platform enabling users to rent out their vehicles – > Airbnb for vehicles.
Based in RealityUnification of all notes that they are given by their teacher so everyone can keep track.
MakaluNot scroll through so much information; web app Compressing information? Web App for filtering?
RoboclubSensors on-road detect when cars or animals are moving and will send signals to drivers; Solar Panel powered sensors preventing car crashes.

 

There were some unpolished diamonds in the raw ideas. Of course, it takes several iterations of refinement (and probably later pivoting) until a team nails a real market need. Part of the mentors’ job was to help them clarify their vision and specify what they are aiming at.
Another part was to help them improve their pitches. At the end of the hackathon, teams are judged by their pitch. This might be kind of oversimplified but it is also true.

Limited resources (as usual)

More or less, just like in a real-life business scenario, the resources are limited – few people have a fragment of time to solve a problem.

In our case, each team had:

48 exhausting hours;
Only one 30-minute mentorship session per mentor;
A narrow slot for presenting the demo and the idea.

Selection

There was a distinguished panel of 5 judges, each with considerable academic and business background in IT, business development, and marketing communications.

The main judging criteria were:

Complexity:
Scale;
Project Interface Design;
Relevance and Simplicity;
Scalability.

Project Realization:
Completeness.

Project Idea:
Originality;
Market Research;
Profitability.

Presentation:
Demo;
Handling criticism;
Clarity.

In my life, I have been in participants’ shoes several times, presenting to investors of different scales (from regional to global players). When it comes to judging people and business teams, it usually boils down to several things:

Trustfulness;
Ability to execute and deliver;
The integrity of values.

It isn’t very likely to believe that one can address all of the above-listed criteria in such a short time. This was the reason why I was more supportive, taking just a small set of the long list. For my selection, I narrowed it down to:

Relevance – why should people listen to you;
Scale – how significant is the idea (and the potential impact it brings);
Demo – Can they deliver it.

 

And the winner is…

I was sincerely glad that my top 3 picks were among the finalists; I was also mentoring all three. People tend to attach to the project they spend time and effort on.

1/ Phoenix won first place. They demoed a device prototype that gets attached to the glasses and guides blind people using image recognition and text-to-speech algorithms. They have used C++, CocoSSD, SpeechSynthesis, TensorFlow.js, React.Js, Firebase, ESP32 technologies for the development. Frankly speaking, a very ambitious hardware plan. I hope they make it happen, although it won’t be easy.

2/ Based In Reality, won second place with their data-organizing web app that makes online resources easily digestible. Their solution redefines notes taking by analyzing audio files and summarizing the information. I loved it because it might have a much broader impact, further than just taking notes. They have used JavaScript, CSS, and Python technologies in the development process.

3/ Team Upgrade got third place. They presented a personal fInancing and budgeting app. It gathers and analyzes one’s income and expenses and, using Machine Learning algorithms, creates personalized saving advice. Although this area is not lacking competitors, I believe they will manage to differentiate themselves. The used technologies were Node.Js, Android Studio, React, MongoDB, Java, Firebase, Plaid, and Python.

 

Bianor behind young professionals

Bianor’s success and long history have always depended on intelligent professionals who want to excel in their projects. The company has been among the pioneers in Bulgaria, offering internship opportunities to university students. Our experience working with young talents throughout the years proved very positive. That is why Bianor’s participation in Hack AUBG v.4.0 was a natural move. We believe that these young boys and girls are the future professionals that will contribute to the development of the IT industry in Bulgaria.

 

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About the author
Anton has been on both sides of the startup citadel.
As a mentor in Eleven’s first and second cohort, his startup Flyver pioneered video surveillance with remote-controlled aviation systems (drones). In Bianor, he is a Project Manager for an OTT video streaming solution for one of Bulgaria’s largest multi-platform media and technology companies – Nova Broadcasting Group. In addition, Anton is passionate about financial trading systems, where he has several projects going on.

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