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And the cow goes to… Paper Digital Money wins Dwolla hackathon

December 3, 2012 by

Team Paper Digital Money, winner of the first Old MacDonald Hackathon: (from left) David Ziemann, Brad Dwyer, Kevin Shannon, Katelyn Lensch and Eugen Curianov.

More than 45 hackers showed up at Dwolla‘s downtown Des Moines office Saturday morning to begin building apps in a programming competition that promised a cow as its top prize.

The Old MacDonald Hackathon, an event Silicon Prairie News teamed up with Dwolla to produce, rounded out a weekend of events celebrating the two-year anniversary of Dwolla’s national launch. The startup held a meetup the night before and a party later that day.

The hackathon kicked off at 9:30 a.m. and idea pitches began soon after. Participants formed 12 teams and worked from 11 a.m. Saturday to noon Sunday, at which time app demos began.

Teams had five minutes to present their project to a panel of judges and a packed house of onlookers. Dwolla founder and CEO Ben MilneUnion Square Ventures general manager Gary Chou, Singly co-founder Jeremie Miller and our own Geoff Wood made up the panel, which judged the apps on creativity, technical aspects, design, viability and element of fun.

The winners

The hackathon awarded “grand ol’ prizes” of a cow, pig and rooster to the first, second and third place finishers, respectively. Winners could opt for cash prizes – $1,000, $250 and $50, respectively – in lieu of the live animal.

  • First – Paper Digital Money: Users pay by printing out digital Dwolla money or can download transactions to share offline
  • Second – Finale: Mobile point-of-sale payments for restaurants using QR codes on receipts
  • Third – Rent Pony: Direct communication system for landlords and tenants to resolve issues and pay bills

Paper Digital Money aims to let users convert digital dollars, such as Dwolla, into printed paper money for moments when users find themselves without their smartphone. The team also worked to create scannable, encrypted printed dollars to exchange with individuals whom users may not know well or at all.

Team member Brad Dwyer, founder of the online game Hatchlings, said he came up with the idea a few weeks ago during Startup Weekend Des Moines but that the idea hadn’t been picked up then.

“I think it’s a really good idea, especially the cryptography part of it,” Dwyer said. “I think it’s a really neat problem, technologically, to solve.”

As for their bovine first-place prize, Dwyer said he has to consult with his teammates to decide the best course of action.

“I kind of want to get the actual, physical cow,” he said. “But we’ll have to talk about it as a team.”

The hackathon also recognized five other categories in which hacks represented the best of the event. These finishers received a $100 Omaha Steaks gift card for their efforts.

  • Best presentation: Dwollet (Runner-up: Dwollaup)
  • Best photo of the weekend: Photo by Aaron Hoffman (Runner-Up: Rent Pony)
  • People’s choice: Paper Digital Money
  • Best mashup API: Stepping Samaritan (Runner-up: FreeSteak)
  • Most delicious (as decided by Michael Schonfeld): P2P Books

The Iowa Tax and Tags team also received recognition in a spontaneously created category: “Best Actual Business.”

Competitors and onlookers in Dwolla’s downtown Des Moines headquarters Sunday watch the Old MacDonald Hackathon demos.

At the conclusion of the event, Dwolla communications director Jordan Lampe said he foresees similar Des Moines events in the future.

“I think for us doing this for the first time in Des Moines, we couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Lampe said. The company held a hackathon with more than four times as many participants in New York in August.

“Having a core group of talented individuals in one room for an extended amount of time to work on not just our API but the APIs as a whole is extremely valuable for Dwolla,” he said.

During the hackathon, Lampe unveiled Dwolla Labs, a new facet of the company that allows hackers to submit hacks and apps to improve Dwolla’s existing offering. Lampe encouraged the participants to submit their work to the site, which currently features four Dwolla projects.

Dwolla’s Michael Schonfeld (middle, holding iPad) and Charise Flynn (left of Shonefeld) speak with Old MacDonald hackathon participants.

The projects

  • Dwolla Here – Push notifications from Dwolla to suggest nearby locations for payments
  • Dwollaup – Facilitates crowd sourcing funds through Dwolla
  • Dwollet – Helps keep track and budget money spent with Dwolla
  • FreeSteak – Group bill-paying management system for college students through Facebook
  • Finale – Mobile point-of-sale payments for restaurants using QR codes on receipts
  • Iowa Tax and Tags – Allows users to pay property taxes and vehicle tags using Dwolla by scanning a QR code printed on their statement
  • P2P Books – Connects college students to sell old textbooks and purchase directly using Dwolla
  • Paper Digital Money – Users pay by printing out digital Dwolla money or can download transactions to share offline
  • QR invoice – Allows small businesses to use QR codes to sent invoices
  • Rent Pony – Direct communication system for landlords and tenants to resolve issues and pay bills
  • Stepping Samaritan – Automatically donates money during charity walks and runs with Dwolla
  • Swolla – Use Dwolla to send money via SMS


Note: Silicon Prairie News is an event partner of the Old MacDonald Hackathon.

Credits: Paper Digital Money team photo by Megan Bannister. Audience and participant photo by Brian Kil.

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