Addressing Questions about the Salesforce $1 Million Hackathon

The Salesforce $1 Million Hackathon was incredibly exciting for us.  It was awesome to see thousands of developers register and come to Dreamforce to hack.  But, there have been some questions about the administration of the hackathon.  We’ve seen questions about why the winning team was allowed to submit an app that may have used pre-existing code, how the judging worked, and the eligibility of participants.  While we are conducting a thorough review of the final entries to ensure they complied with published rules and regulations, we wanted to address some of those concerns here.

Our hackathon was designed to challenge developers to create a new mobile app using the Salesforce1 Platform.  Great mobile apps use connected services to make their apps better.  We expected and encouraged teams to take advantage of existing APIs and services they’ve written to create a great mobile app.  For example, any Salesforce customer or developer is likely to have a whole set of existing customizations and logic that can be exposed to their mobile app via REST API.  We addressed the use of existing code, APIs and services in our discussion board:

When it came to judging the apps, we wanted to conduct multiple independent reviews of every eligible submission.  So we assembled a team of more than 80 judges, and used a team of expert developers to assist each judge’s evaluation of apps as needed.  Every eligible app entry was reviewed at least twice.  In addition, all of the final 5 teams met the eligibility requirements specified in the Official Rules:

We had many amazing apps submitted, and we wish they could all win $1 million.  I had my own personal favorites but was an observer, not a judge.  I want to personally extend an offer to everyone who participated in this hackathon, or really any developer with a great idea for an app on the Salesforce platform, to let us help you connect it with funding, technology and customers.  We have an entire team dedicated to helping mobile startups get their product funded, get it built, and grow revenue.  We are here to help you take these app ideas and turn them into businesses.

Thanks for being part of our community.  Once we complete our review of the final entries, we will post our findings here.  Thanks for giving us feedback, and we’ll use it to make the hackathon experience even better next time!  Keep the amazing apps coming.


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  • S L

    From your official rules:
    have been developed solely as part of this Hackathon

    How can an app meet this criteria is it already existed at this meetup held on October 8th:

    I think you should read over your own rules again.

    • I don’t have any opinion either way, but I would hold my judgment for now. That link doesn’t prove they were working on the *mobile app* before the hackathon.

      • Colabi

        The description is so qualitatively the same that all they would have been doing is moving around text fields or changing colors. Could google enter the competition by making the background black instead of white?

      • Daniel Llewellyn

        Making it ‘mobile’ would not have been difficult nor would it constitute a large percentage of the overall code base. Odds are it took less than a day to make their existing app have a mobile version. Bottom line is they demo’d their app on October 8th, long before the hackathon was ever announced.

        • CoderRed99

          Kim solicited a survey response on 9/15/13 asking which data people would like to see during the Oct. 8 demo and his meetup join comments on 9/6/2013 imply that he had already integrated his own product with Salesforce at that time.. unless he’s created other products for Salesforce.

    • Colabi

      Adam, I’m trying to understand exactly how you think adding a response in a forum is, in any way, like modifying “these Official rules” as stated in the Official Rules document. You did reserve the right to modify, but you didn’t modify the document that would have been required. Are we expected to continually troll the internet for modifications to the contest?

      That essentially invalidates the forum post and the decision to extend the check in deadline . That may actually affect up to two of the five finalists. Either that or you are undoing the agreement expectation, including limited liability. If salesforce said in a backwater of the internet that contestants are now expected to turn over any intellectual property they’ve written and their children as part of the contest, is that something everyone is magically bound to?

      This thing has gone south in just about every way it could. Much of it foreseeable. The only way to prevent this damage from growing worse is to accept that the entire thing has to be rejudged openly under a set of conditions formulated and agreed to by contestants – including those you baited in from out of state and out of country

    • Colabi

      You guys are really ROTTEN TO THE CORE. New news breaking. Second place comes from a salesforce INVESTED company.

      • Colabi

        Some have indicated that they are now seeing some activity on their apps. I honestly could not fathom that SF would actually be so stupid as to replace secret judging with secret review. But as they have not opened up the conversation with contestants yet, I will warn them in advance before their next statement about ‘re-reviewing all apps’ that all apps do not currently work.

        Many developers have shut off services. Many apps will break. That will not be an excuse for disqualifying anyone as the contest has ended and the only way to add insult to injury is to expect developers to pay to keep services running when you have not opened up any communications channels to discuss your intentions, actions, or duration of operation.

        I have extended this before. There is a way forward if you will reach out to discuss an accord. Do not continually seek the worst path. You do not know the way out of this tunnel.

    • Chad Gomes

      The problem is that the judges didn’t know this. The winners were only scrutinized AFTER they had already won.

  • Paul Benjamin

    Thank you for being transparent and being open to re-review. As a developer who put a lot of time and effort developing on the sf platform, its appreciated to even get a response.

  • Jim Raynor

    You mention – ‘each eligible entry was judged twice’ – this is another
    joke – right? How on earth can you judge a mobile app from TestFlight
    without installing it? Same question – how can you view an app’s video
    and the YouTube Analytics show no video hits. I think it’s time
    Salesforce stops covering up and takes some corrective action. Or else I
    hope some brave folks have the power to sue you for this. I hope sanity
    prevails, you look at the forum postings such as the one I made – and
    take a re-look at all submissions and hopefully award prizes based on
    merit. Even if UpShot wasn’t built before the conference, what kind of a
    stupid message are you sending by awarding the 1st prize to an
    ex-employee. The Dreamforce conference was great but you guys completely
    ruined it with such below the belt tactics with the hackathon. I also
    encourage folks to go checkout YouTube videos of the apps I listed and
    see for themselves as to how good these were.

    • Colabi

      Let’s just shop finishing this thing up at oracle.

  • TM

    Developers are outraged by this unfair conduct by Salesforce during the hackathon:

  • Colabi

    “We expected and encouraged teams to take advantage of existing APIs and services they’ve written to create a great mobile app. ”

    Without their rest service which is the interesting part, you have google voice translating text? So, you can just enter the google search bar?

    But I have a simpler idea for us. most developers just wanted to show off what they poured energy into. You can’t expect salesforce to treat anyone you has been vocal fairly now. Let’s offer all of the entries to Microsoft or Oracle or Google so that we can finish out the competition . It looks like there weren’t that many entries anyway.

  • Johnathan_Irish

    Look people, hackathons are about making cool ideas that most people have not already built and which is presented in a visually appealing way. THATS IT. Whether people rip off code from others or even built it in the past and reused it, that’s sort of irrelevant. I know since I have used past hackathon developed ideas in other hackathons and WON !!! Its sweet since I get to win with ease while all the other Mofo’s work their as_s es off slogging away. I’m a cheater like that but dont hate the playa, hate the game.

    • Johnathan_Irish

      Also, any true developer knows that there is no way in motherf ing hell that you can develop ANYTHING from scratch. Using 3rd party libraries and previous code is almost a MUST. So what the f is everyone on about the winning team?? THey had an awesome salesforce idea that is better than yours. DEAL WITH IT. Doesnt mean your idea is not a great business. Infact, personally I think their idea is a great feature but not a buisness. The 1M is probably the most their business will ever make…

      • Johnathan_Irish

        Just FYI – I hate benioff. He and the idiot jim kramer walked around the hackathon area on Monday and just acted like these big arrogant show offs with bodyguards all over the place. Ughh…Just shows elitism. They got rich off us poor folks.. Kramer is a cheat and a liar too.Ughh..

  • freddy

    I personally talked to judges who thought they should vote against the winning application just because one of the team members was a former employee. That also didn’t strike me as fair… if the rules say no former employees – great. If they don’t – then in shouldn’t be a consideration.

    Bottom line is they seem to be doing the right thing now (and thank God they aren’t just knee-jerking the prize away from the current winner without an investigation).

    Personally, I think the fact that they gave away a million plus in prizes is pretty awesome, and shouldn’t really entitle people to whine and complain extra-loudly.

    • Colabi

      Are you saying they thought they should vote against the winning app but didn’t ?

      • freddy

        I got the impression he did vote against it and that he knew others who felt the same. But I only talked to one about this particular app. I don’t know how many judges judged the final round.

        • Colabi

          got it. thanks for elaborating. it’s a real all the president’s men.

  • Colabi

    The easiest move for Salesforce is to cut and run on Upshot. There’s documentation of Upshot’s technology and demos that clearly give them a way out. So you have to wonder if the allegations that are surfacing in the boards that they gave their partners a pass are true. If that’s the case, they risk getting attacked from two sides if they cut and run. I wonder if in some office now lawyers are asking who said what on what calls, who reviewed what, and the term conspiracy to fix an interstate competition are coming up.

  • Simone Morellato

    Let’s post all the entries here and let the web decide who is the winner:

    • Colabi

      Everyone please add your videos. It is really great seeing what people made. At the least we were robbed of comaraderie

      Also I’m working on finding a new sponsor so that we can finish it off together

    • Colabi

      Hey Simone

      Patrick Hoge who is doing an awesome job investigating the story is going to try to find all of the entrants. Can you reach out to him at biz journal?

  • How many entries were there?

    • Colabi

      In the forums one person said for a couple minutes after six they were all visible. The number . 149. Does that sound like an insane number to not pay fine attention to? Again this could be solved if they opened up the gallery. Is there any good reason an admin won’t click that button?

  • Colabi

    I’m establishing a fact timeline in a google doc. There is a first hand account of a call between salesforce and partners that allowed them to bring premade apps with the instructions that only contributions during the hack would be considered. That info was not made public. It altered the rules materially. Moreover that info was probably not disclosed to judges or the initial team as it would have reduced the upshot app to a text field with Siri to translate. Can someone else confirm the call? If so, do you know who initiated the call from the salesforce side?

    • atn77

      Are you referring to the dreamforce preview partner webinar? They talked a bit about the hackathon there?

      • Colabi

        I don’t know what it was called officially. But possibly? The user in hacker forums referenced a call. Can you say when that was, who from their side was on, and if they introduced material changes that weren’t in the rules? Btw, it looks like one of my comments was removed possibly. So here’s a full article :). I believe you can add notes.

        • atn77

          It was november 7th John Richter and Sara Varni, they didn’t say too much about the hackathon but they did mention it.

          • Colabi

            ok. thanks. it sounds like these are two different events as this partner call seems to have occurred later.

  • Colabi

    does anyone have a list of the final five judges? so far i have alexwilliams, but that’s it. is there a list of the others?

  • Daniel Llewellyn

    Kenji776 here, developer of SMART (with my partner Kartik Viswanadha).

    I am extremely disappointed about how this all went down. A lot of developers including myself worked very hard only to not have our apps even looked at, and be beaten by cheaters. I missed a good chunk of dreamforce because I was busy coding, and treated my body like crap for the better part of a week (total lack of sleep, eating mostly the provided junk food). I am ok with losing, that’s fine. What irks me is that our app was never even reviewed, we received no feedback what so ever, and the winners were obviously cheating. I really hope there is some kind of resolution here. I have no delusions about getting prize money any more, but I’d certainly like to see SOMETHING come out of all this.

  • Eli M

    This was a huge scam and a joke. Judges provably did not even view most entry videos and apps.

  • mschneider718
  • ParkKH

    Oh Salesforce, a lot of times the coverup is worse than the original crime.

  • us0r

    The lack of response this far along says either your bosses are not listening or you are a horrible VP of “Developer Marketing”. Either way you can bet this will be front and center at your next rigged competition.

  • Steve Schneider

    W.r.t. your offer (and I was a hackathoner), what about waiving the $2700 security check fee for Hackathoners for a year. It will encourage new appexchange apps from creative individuals that find the fee to be a huge obstacle. You’ve tried to be fair, so this isn’t really necessary on SF’s part, but it would be a nice gesture. Just a thought. Thx

  • Ted Chappell

    Here is a link to our hackathon app YouTube video submission. Our app was never used by judges or accessed according to our analytics ->

  • Masterprompt

    “Our hackathon was designed to challenge developers to create a new mobile app using the Salesforce1 Platform. ”
    Your rules say the “salesforce” platform (heroku, exacttarget, salesforce) and doesn’t limit it to only the “Salesforce1” platform.

    “In addition, all of the final 5 teams met the eligibility requirements specified in the Official Rules:”
    Of course they did! Your rules state that you can alter the rules at any point. That, my friends, is called a “catch-all”. You pushed back the check-in deadline by 5 hours just to get one of the finalists there on time….

    “We expected and encouraged teams to take advantage of existing APIs and services they’ve written to create a great mobile app.”
    We’re not idiots, we’ve been coding for a long time. Existing API and services doesn’t mean “same whole damn app, now with new logo and buzz words in demo”.

    It smelled fishy from the start. Gave it a chance and got burned. Fool me once Salesforce, fool me once…. The best part of it is how you can just brush it under the rug and think that your not going to piss off a whole industry. It’s ok, every learning experience comes with a cost; who’s will be higher I’m curious.

    • Colabi

      Do u know which team that push back was for?

  • Pislariu Marius Bogdan

    We are the Perspective Management team, we
    came 4 people from Romania specially for this hackathon, we lost on the
    road 2days and our expenses were 40 times the
    average salary in our country. Because according to the rules it was mandatory that all the
    team should join, we came all 4 not just a representative.
    We joined
    this hackathon with the hope of a fair judging criteria, according
    official rules and also the clear percentage mentioned there … the four 25%.
    We were very disappointed because nobody was even tried to
    look at our app on the night of prejudging. Actually I imagine that
    could be quite difficult to even see the demos of 149 apps about 5hours
    of continuously viewing…what to speak about the 250 words…

    Surprisingly yesterday they started to check our app, what’s the purpose now?

    We hoped that during the 57 hours of hackathon, anyone from the
    judges will come and ask us about what are we into? How that or this will
    work, but nothing like this… especially because our innovation is way
    beyond the app and was almost impossible to catch it 250 words and 2 min.

    Of course we have appreciated the help of the technical crew, even if they were 90% from heroku and we used salesforce.

    4 weeks ago we did not know nothing about, about
    salesforce platform. We learned a lot, we actually reinvent ourselves,
    we made it quite in a hurry but what we build there is our vision.
    if this was unfair, we just started to rebuild from scratched our app
    based on salesforce 1 and in couple of weeks we will be able to prove
    the real values that we promote.

    It seams that salesforce has everything they need, except our a system based on transparent meritocracy…

    See you in new perspectives 😉

    • Colabi

      That is a horrible story. So far you have come the farthest. It’s inexcusable that they did not live up to the expectations they set. Can you do me a favor, in fact everyone should do this, contact the city of San Francisco to tell them your story . This is not how we want our city to be represented. And this is very atypical

      • Pislariu Marius Bogdan

        Thank you,

        Even if they are re-evaluating all the apps now, we think that it is quite late, actually once the winners were announced we continued developing our app because we plan to launch it on app exchange in short time.

        We think that the most transparent thing they should do is an top with the average scoring, but also detailing the scoring for each of the 25% percent criteria as SF rules mentioned:

        “• 25% Innovation
        – Is it an amazing new scenario?

        • 25% Business Value
        -Does the application create value? Does it save money, create opportunity, connect customers, partners, and employees?

        • 25% User Experience
        – Does the app have a user interface that is gorgeous,easy to use, and fast?

        • 25% Use of the Salesforce Platform
        – Does the application take advantage of the features and capabilities of the Salesforce Platform?”

        Waiting with higher expectation for transparency & meritocracy, even higher than the first time.

        Perspective Management team,

  • Jim Raynor

    So, what’s the plan – keep people waiting for weeks and weeks until everybody loses interest? The only way I see justice being done is that Upshot and are disqualified because they’ve clearly not complied with the rules. I’m hoping some sense prevails and the prize money is distributed among the most deserving (perhaps Top 10 or even 20) apps. As a saving grace, you should at least put an ETA and full details of the reveiw process on this blog ASAP.