Kris Moyse is a distinguished Salesforce1 developer with several apps on the AppExchange. He is the co-founder of S. P. Keasey Trading Co. and founding member of the NYC Partner User Group who loves a hard fought game of ping pong. Kris can be reached in the Salesforce Partner Community at @[Kris Moyse].
Dreamforce Hackathon to Product
The Dreamforce 2013 Hackathon was Challenging! A team of two + new technologies + a full schedule of meetings and presentations = the best of times + the worst of times.
Our goal for the Hackathon was to develop a proof-of-concept mobile customer-engagement solution using newly-released iBeacon proximity sensing technology.
Fast forward 5 months, and we now have on-board retail industry and digital marketing expertise and have developed a full end-to-end proximity marketing solution called Proximity Insight. The solution allows Retailers to get closer to their end customers using engaging mobile apps, linked via iBeacon proximity-sensing technology to their Salesforce.com environment.
Proximity marketing is an exciting new business initiative that is shaping up to be huge in 2014; the ability to deliver rule-based, individually targeted marketing messages via a mobile application is potentially very powerful.
The Hackathon is Announced
Dreamforce 2013 was different for me! Firstly, I was representing my own company rather than someone else’s. This raised the stakes so I wanted everything to be planned and prepared beforehand. I was presenting in 5 sessions and had meetings lined up with Salesforce staff, customers and prospects. My technical ‘partner in crime’ (@laceysnr ) was also heavily committed at the conference, presenting at 4 sessions and involved in many of the meetings.
Three weeks before the conference, Salesforce announced the Hackathon. Being young and full of confidence (some might call that stupid), we wanted to have a crack! The prize money was a big incentive but we knew it would take some work and a lot of our time. We could do some preparation beforehand but to complicate things somewhat, we were literally half a world apart – me in NYC and @laceysnr in Melbourne, Australia.
Our plan was bold … we would use brand new iBeacon technology to link a mobile app via a custom Force.com app to salesforce.com, creating a CRM for businesses that currently have little or no customer information.
In the end, we decided to go for it!
So how did it pan out….
It started with a bang; we spun-up a new project on Heroku and a new Salesforce Dev org and we were off and running.
We committed early to building on Cordova but the iBeacons only had ties to Native iOS and Android. First hurdle … is that even possible? We discussed our options with the hardware vendor who told us “I don’t have any idea how you are going to get data from that service into Cordova. It seems like that is the trickier part.” OK …. push-on assuming we could deliver. With the hardware in NYC and technology genius in Melbourne, Australia this turned out to be a bad decision!
The majority of the solution was to be built when we joined forces in SFO. We arrived together the Wednesday before Dreamforce, found an apartment away from the craziness around Moscone and hacked long and hard.
The next four days can be summarized by a Lacey quote – “It is sad when I get 5 hours sleep and classify it as a sleep-in.”
There is still a lot to do and not much time left.
The first day of Dreamforce was our busiest with both of our calendars 100% full. The image below shows us presenting to the Mobile Theater.
By the end of the day we were very tired but knew we had to keep working on the Hackathon project. We went home and worked until 2:30am, only to wake at 7:30am. The next few days were much the same with full day commitments at the conference and working until very late on code.
Tuesday was spent walking around San Francisco with a GoPro on my head capturing footage for the demo day. After spending the night putting the video together, I realized it is not that easy to create a nice demo video … where’s a real video producer when you need one?!
The day of the Hackathon arrived but we had totally forgotten to check the app ‘sign-up’ screen … fatal error! We were emotionally broken, we honestly thought all our work had been for naught. This was by far our lowest moment.
I tried to console Lacey with … “Come on buddy, it is not the end of the world if we don’t get anything in”. We hugged it out and pushed on with the thought that the whole thing may be futile with only 4 hours to go. All of a sudden, parts of the system started working again. It was not long before the app was back! We finally submitted it with 5 minutes to spare. Feeling good about our idea and use of the platform, we knew didn’t have the polish to make the finals, but thought we might be a ‘dark horse’ … unfortunately we weren’t.
Thanks to others who shared our hope Jim Raynor comment on Hackathon blog
“If I were to pick the top two, it would be Matt Lacey’s app and Chatter complete. Can’t believe those folks missed out.”
Our Hackathon entry was very raw but it was an amazing proof-of-concept. Being the first company to tie iBeacons into a Cordova Android app felt pretty good.
After regrouping from the craziness of Dreamforce, we did a lot of research. It was clear that the idea was something new and had the potential to build on Marc Benioff’s idea of making the ‘Internet of Customers’. We gathered a team of industry experts and started building. Five months later we launched an end-to-end retail clienteling app called Proximity Insight, which ties Salesforce1 to the ’Internet of Customers’ using iBeacons and Heroku.
What a ride, what a platform.