Netflix app nabs top prize after 24 busy hours at first Hack the Midwest

If you were to guess the location of some Kansas City and the Midwest’s best developers and designers over the weekend, a golf course may not be your first choice, unless you knew about Hack The Midwest. Saturday morning nearly 100 hackers filed into the clubhouse of the Heartland Golf Club and set up shop

The clubhouse of the Heartland Golf Club housed the inaugural Hack the Midwest on Saturday and Sunday. 

If you were to guess the location of some Kansas City and the Midwest’s best developers and designers over the weekend, a golf course may not be your first choice, unless you knew about Hack The Midwest. Saturday morning nearly 100 hackers filed into the clubhouse of the Heartland Golf Club and set up shop to participate in the inaugural rendition of the 24-hour hackathon.

The event kicked off with breakfast and API talks by representatives from MapQuest, SendGrid, Mashery, Dwolla and — all offering prizes for those developing on their APIs. “Even by New York standards,”’s Ricky Robinett said, “this would be a huge hackathon.”

Adknowledge CEO Ben Legg followed with a talk focusing on his company’s innovation culture.

At 11 a.m., the 24-hours of hacking began. 

A few hours in, Kevin McGinnis of Sprint took the stage emphasizing creativity, disruption and delighting the customer. McGinnis mentioned that this was Sprint’s first investment in the Kansas City startup community, but he said to look for much more coming soon and Sprint wants to hear how it can best serve the community.

The hackathon continued through the night, and the glow of computer screens kept the clubhouse lit. Most participants could be found zoned into code, pounding caffeine or trying to grab a few minutes of shut-eye before getting back at it. (Left: A pile of prizes provides a motivational visual for the teams.)

Teams felt the crunch as dawn broke, knowing the remaining time was precious. A speech by David Windhausen from Intouch Solutions gave teams a quick break from the keyboard. Then the 11 a.m. deadline rolled around, and emotions ran the gamut; some teams celebrated as they finally pieced it all together, and others found themselves unable to fix that nagging bug.

Presentations gave each team three minutes to pitch in front of the audience and a judging panel that included Robinett, Daveyon Ross of Digital Sports VenturesThom Ruhe of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Naithan Jones of AgLocal and Thad Langford of OpenAir Equity Partners. Teams were judged on completeness, user interface, originality and usefulness.

As the judges deliberated, Ruhe spoke, stressing how important this type of innovation is for society. Hackers, Ruhe said, are the ones “building a future worth living.”

The winners

With everything else wrapped up, the judges came back to announce the winners:

  • Best Multi-API – Commuticate
  • Best UX/UI – Where Da Spot?
  • Best Large Team – Booky Book
  • Best Small Team – My Stalker Girlfriend
  • Best LOL App – Cyrano
  • Best Mobile App – NumberScram
  • Most Likely To Go Viral – Forum Yeti
  • Dwolla API – Where Da Spot?
  • Mashery API – Make My Day
  • SendGrid API (a record 11 hacks using the API) – SpotNumber
  • MapQuest API runnerup –
  • MapQuest API – GoingOn.At
  • Pusher API – Duel.Me
  • Best Overall App –

Michael Bleigh won Best Overall App with, which sends email notifications for new videos on Netflix Instant, allowing users to one-click to queue. The app ties in with Rotten Tomatoes to custom-tailor notifications. Bleigh, a self-described “Netflix junkie,” worked alone to build the app that was motivated by his desire to have an easy, mobile way to keep track of and act on new Netflix additions. “This was my sixth hackathon-type event,” Bleigh said, “and I definitely enjoyed it, especially because it’s the first time I’ve ever won.“

Michael Gelphman, the founder of KCITP and organizer of Hack the Midwest, walked away pleased with the event’s first run. “The event was amazing,” Gelphman said. “Being the first-time we’ve done an event like this, we had a few hiccups early, but I couldn’t be more happy with how the event turned out. Some amazing things were built here in the past 24 hours.”

Hack the Midwest organizer Michael Gelphman (far left) addresses the crowd as judges (from left) Thad Langford, Naithan Jones and Dayveon Ross look on. 

The projects

Below are brief descriptions of all 25 projects built at Hack the Midwest:

  • Lunchr: Group preferences to get lunch recommendations.
  • HackMW Rambler: Uses javascript (speak.js) to read Tumblr blogs to you.
  • Email notifications for new videos on Netflix Instant, ties in with Rotten Tomatoes for custom emails and allows you to one-click to queue.
  • Conferency: Get your conference schedule on your phone, more analytics for conference runners.
  • iMAPNote manager: Description: Syncs to-do list/notes with GMail and iPhone notes.
  • mailbait: Easily send funny emails to your social networks.
  • Number Scram: Mental math game for iOS with addictive components.
  • Cyrano: Crowd-sourced responses to text messages.
  • Scribbler: More than a chat app, searchable meetings with alerts, syncs to Evernote.
  • Commuticate: Notifications for anticipated travel commutes before departure.
  • Booky Book (Barkley team): Seeks to improve kids reading level via tracking their progress in a mobile app, offers recommendations for reading level.
  • Lets you know what’s going when you see a large group of people, aggregates social networks (Twitter, Instagram, etc).
  • Duel Me: Allows people to setup duels and broadcast to Facebook, allowing people to vote/bet (via Dwolla) on who will win.
  • nomn8: Group recommendations for eating, allowing people to narrow down a list before deciding.
  • My Stalker Girlfriend: Allows stalker girlfriends to always know where you’re at via geolocation.
  • BringIt: Pick up sports wherever you’re at, keep scores, earn trophies/rewards.
  • (Garmin Team): Control your data and the way you want to visualize it.
  • Make My Day (Intouch Solutions Team): Uses geolocation to plan out a whole day of places to go, able to swap out recommendations.
  • Where Da Spot? (Sporting Innovations Team): Uses Kansas City API to show open parking garages, lots, meters. Built in navigation and note taking, pay with Dwolla.
  • SuggestRx: Simplistic weather recommendations for the day based off over 200 metrics.
  • SpotNumber: Allows people to track revenue and expenses of their personal creations (Etsy, Ebay, etc).
  • Forum Yeti: Uses disqus API to create a forum platform out of the commenting system.
  • Moments Mobile: Setup custom notifications to be sent out yourself or others (mom, friend, etc) when entering, leaving an area or near someone.
  • (Adknowledge Team): Comparative rating system for videos.
  • Father/son team, mostly developed by the 11 year old son, find event and restaurants near you.
  • Code Racer: TypeRacer for programming problems.
Credits: Photos by Bob Specht.


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