The 2017 #MakeItDriveable Startup Challenge wasn't any ordinary hackathon.
Before, during and after the competition, entrants like Acast's Simon Schmitz benefitted from FordDev's unique commitment to helping developers realize their most creative solutions.
"We've spent a day and a night hacking, there was lots of coffee, sweat, sleep deprivation…but then you're there, in the Eiffel Tower, and you have a working prototype, and you can demo it to everyone? It was insanely rewarding, and the best experience."
By focusing on developers and companies that already had a SYNC AppLink app either in the App Store or approaching launch, the 2017 edition of the #MakeItDriveable Startup Challenge produced solutions that added real value to the mobile experience of millions of drivers around the world.
"Our mission at Acast is to empower audio content creators to have their voices heard," Schmitz said, "and we saw a great opportunity to win Ford as a partner to accomplish that vision. Ford has been a leader and an innovator in tech—but not only that, you also get a grip on the market, and what the market truly needs. From that point, we can develop a solution that can change the way we consume audio in the car."
Schmitz raved about the level of on-site support, with Ford engineers and executives on-hand to answer questions and solve problems as they hacked against the clock. But Ford's support for Schmitz and the rest of the competitors went far beyond having developer resources on hand.
Ahead of the competition, Andreas Brockers, Ford Business Strategy Analyst – Connected Vehicles and the Ford Europe team sent applicants regular emails preparing them for the format and requirements of the challenge, helping competitors arrive in Paris ready to maximize the incredible opportunity.
As Brockers anticipated, teams that leveraged vehicle data were surprised and delighted by the power it had to transform their apps. Acast, one of the winning teams, enhanced their podcast platform with a vehicle-aware feature.
"They will now use voice commands so you can easily navigate through your daily dose of podcast listening while you can keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road," Brockers said.
The Ford team also helped entrants fine-tune their solution with focus groups of potential users on site. Beyond the preparation, documentation, hardware and even on-site mentoring, Schmitz cited the "unique" experience of meeting with a diverse group of drivers as the most valuable aspect of the competition—and a key differentiator from hackathons that only focus on code.
Brockers reiterated the point he made before the Startup Challenge began: "If you get accepted, you've already won."
"It's all about our mantra, 'Make it Driveable,'" Brockers continued. "Even if your app has nothing to do with the car, think outside of the box and think 'How can I do that?' If you think your app is already improving drivers' lives, then put it inside the car to be used in a safe way."
Could your mobile app could benefit from a wealth of vehicle data, mentoring from OEM engineers, expert evaluation and real-world user feedback? Watch the Ford Developer Program site and MakeItDriveable.com for the announcements of future events!