U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hosts First DC Business Association Hackathon

October 23, 2015

10:12 am

On October 17 and 18, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted their first hackathon. Led by FreeEnterprise.com, a US Chamber Web magazine, the goal was to illustrate how American businesses support the economy and create jobs. The hackathon was facilitated by San Francisco based AngelHack.

“Even though the Chamber turned 103 this year, we are still working to find ways to innovate and incorporate input from entrepreneurs and the technology industry into our communications tools,” said U.S. Chamber Senior Vice President of Communications and Strategy Tom Collamore. “Free Enterprise is alive and thriving in the U.S., and we were thrilled to work with talented developers, designers, and data scientists to help tell the story of American business owners who are creating jobs and encouraging growth.”

During the hackathon teams spent 36 hours digging through large data sets of US government data with the focus on creating a narrative. By the end, Team Growth Economic Trends Map (GETMap) took home the gold with a monetary prize, feature on FreeEnterprise.com, and desk space at Washington DC based incubator 1776. GetMap created an interactive web app that combined data about small to medium sized businesses on a state level.

According to James Sneeringer, FreeEnterprise.com Web Lead, the team built a “cool interactive map” where a user clicks on a state to get more information about the areas small-medium sized businesses. It would then present a score that would show the health of small-medium sized businesses in that state. “This was a solution that we thought was a very intuitive interface, and something worth sharing on FreeEnterprise.”

Throughout the weekend more 50 participants competed in teams, yielding eight final projects. According to Margaret Shepard, Editor of FreeEnterprise.com, participants ranged from 18-56, with an assortment of full-time developers, designers, and those who just wanted something different to do on the weekend. “Men, women, students, all different ethnicities contributed to the great variety.”

With an abundance of hackathons being hosted in tech hubs around the world, one may be curious why a 103-year-old organization would pursue a hackathon. According to Shepard, it’s really about promoting businesses through content and community. “We wanted a new way to do this, and decided to go out the community and see what they thought. That was where the idea of a hackathon came from; to develop a new innovative way to tell that story about business contribution to America,” said Shepard.

Building upon the success of richly interactive content powered by data in 2011, Sneeringer also saw the hackathon as an opportunity to appeal to their readers. After their initial project it ranked within the top five pages on the web magazine over the course of the year. “We knew generally where we wanted to go. A hackathon was the best way to achieve these goals,” said Sneeringer.

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Elliot is an award winning journalist deeply ingrained in the startup world. He also runs a non-profit, Digital District, which focuses on improving professional digital literacy in DC. You can contact him by email at elliot(@)elliotvolkman.com or follow him on Twitter @thejournalizer.

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