HackAdTech’23: Interview With People’s Choice Winners
The second Hackathon organized by AdTech Holding took place in Limassol at the end of November last year, and it was an event that marked 2023, as many of our colleagues and participants claim.
In case you missed our post on how it all went, from organization to implementation of a 2-day long coding session, feel free to check it now. There, you will find the list of all HackAdTech’23 winners whose projects and hard work were no less than inspiring and, therefore, rewarded with outstanding prizes.
But there was one team that managed to win in not one, but two categories. They got People’s Choice and the City Friends Club award, with an idea that’s heartwarming and potentially a game-changer.
So we decided to give you an opportunity to meet these fascinating individuals and hear what they have to say about our Hackathon, but above all, to offer you a chance to learn more about their unique project – an application that can help people find their lost pets.
For starters, let us introduce the team of the hour and find out how and why they decided to join this year’s Hackathon.
“We are Team AdVantage. There are five of us – Boris and Aleksei are data scientists/data analysts, Dmitry and Alexander are system analysts, and Tal is a full-stack developer. The four of us teamed up for HackAdTech 2022, but Tal joined us just this year.
We’re basically a group of friends, but some of us are also colleagues. Last year, we decided to participate because we expected the offline Hackathon to be fun, especially after all the lockdowns and COVID restrictions when such events were not possible.
Also, last year, it was a data science competition, which perfectly suited us. Despite no such track this year, we enjoyed the previous Hackathon very much, so we were determined to join our forces once again and test our strengths in a project of a different kind.”
Boris: I’m a data scientist, and in my everyday work, I am mostly focused on ML applications for forecasting. During the Hackathon, I implemented an AI module that compares pictures of pets and says how similar the lost and the found pets are. Besides that, I wrote a part of the backend code to enable this module to communicate with the rest of our application.
Aleksei: I’m a data analyst/quantitative analyst. My everyday tasks are very diverse, but are mostly covering time series financial data. Throughout the Hackathon, I was focused on backend solutions for our application. Dmitry and Alexander were working on the backend and also made the slides for the presentation, and Tal has implemented all the frontend.
— What were your expectations regarding the Hackathon? Did we manage to meet those expectations?
Boris: I personally expected to have fun working with my friends on a new technical task, and HackAdTech definitely met my expectations. It’s my second HackAdTech, and both times, the event was pretty cool.
Dmitry: I expected fun and a competitive atmosphere. Different approaches, determining the best presentation tactics, and finding the right points. There was plenty of that at the HackAdTech Hackathon.
Aleksei: I actually believed that this year’s idea for application was good and wanted to see if we could implement a working prototype in two days. I was thrilled to see if the jury and other participants would find our idea worthy since we decided to partake in a challenge to improve life in Cyprus.
— How did you come up with an idea for Hackathon? What your project was all about, and what were its goals?
Boris: We decided to create a project that can compete in a challenge How to improve life in Cyprus as we all are a part of the community. Dmitry suggested the idea of developing an app to help people find their lost pets.
Despite the existence of various Facebook groups and Telegram chats that can offer some help in this matter, searching on these platforms is often inconvenient and confusing. So, we immediately agreed that having a search-by-image approach would be highly beneficial, and that became our key feature. Our goal was to develop a user-friendly application that streamlines the process of reuniting lost pets with their owners by leveraging advanced image recognition technology.
Dmitry: Finding a good improvement idea for Cyprus is quite easy. A great deal of IT can help the region live a better life. However, the main problem we are facing is the lack of open sources of information and data to analyze. Also, the state plays a big role in this matter.
Without its support it is difficult to offer a self-sustainable commercial solution. And when there is no commercial solution, we tend to turn to the experience of non-commercial organizations and really make life better, rather than trying to find profit in it.
I had several ideas, for example, an assistant for deaf people, which in real time displays subtitles of sounds around and draws a map of where to “see” what sound. I’ve been talking to deaf people, and they say they feel vibrations and different totality of sound, but can’t quite figure out what it is.
This app would help them get used to different sounds and identify them without an actual sound. The problem with this idea is that it’s not very specific to Cyprus. So then we started going through different problems: fires, dust storms, transportation, work, cats… Cats!
We paid attention to the large number of missing animal announcements on the island and crossed this problem with the idea of Pokemon Go with additional features to attract people to the app.
— Was it hard to complete the entire project in just two days? How was the coding session going, and did you face any obstacles along the way?
Boris: Yes, definitely! As I’m a data scientist, I don’t write much production-ready backend code, and neither do most of us. To be honest, implementing the AI module was the easiest part for me. Until the end, we were not sure that our app wouldn’t crash or freeze during the demo, so we were super glad that everything worked just fine! And it’s worth mentioning that we needed some time to prepare a good presentation.
Dmitry: Our challenge was to make a working prototype, and the hardest part about it was containing our desire to make it as big as possible. We had to cut corners and emphasize workability, profitability, and the possibility of a successful user journey. So many ideas were discarded… but it helped us focus on the important tasks.
Aleksei: It was a challenge! Just like Boris, I don’t write much production-ready backend code, so it was fun and a novelty for me. I actually see now that I could have done my part much faster. But I was super satisfied when the app worked live correctly during the final presentation.
— Can you give us some tips on how to win the Hackathon? What is crucial to focus on, based on your experience?
Boris: The main things are what was stated in the rules: a valuable idea, a working demo, and a clear presentation. For me, the most difficult part was the presentation, so it’s crucial to prepare a speech, conduct a few rehearsals, and have insightful slides. It’s better to start creating slides from the very beginning of the Hackathon and reserve a couple of hours for rehearsals.
Dmitry: All the referees see is the presentation. They don’t see the code, they don’t see the database. They need emotion. So it doesn’t matter how much you have covered your code with tests, it matters how you present your idea. A beautiful presentation, interaction with the audience, questions to the audience, and low-key jokes. These will all help to get the crowd to like you. But don’t forget the working demo! After all, it’s the battle of IT solutions, not speakers and managers.
— Please comment on the fact that you guys actually won in two categories. Your project was awarded by the Hackathon sponsors, but also by the crowd. How do you think you managed to win the hearts of the audience?
Boris: We simply don’t have words to express how surprised and happy we were! It was an amazing and big surprise for us! I think the audience’s hearts were captivated by the animals and the desire to help them, just like our own hearts 😊. For many people, their pets are parts of their families, so it’s incredibly important to be able to find them in case they get lost.
Dmitry: Definitely our helpers – Ginger and gray cat. These are the soft toys of Alexander’s daughter, which we used to test our application and for the presentation.
— Could you share your overall impressions with us? What’s the thing you will remember the most from his two-day event?
Boris: Oh, it’s very hard to choose the most exciting moment! The first was when we tested all the flows in our app, and everything worked! Then, seeing how people were voting online for our project and feeling all the support was thrilling. However, we were not the only project with significant support, so the result was unpredictable until the very end. And, of course, the moment when we won the People’s Choice Award! And immediately after the Eco Partner’s Choice! Wow, that was incredible!
Dmitry: I agree with Boris. The evening of the second day was an incredible experience. But for some reason, I remember the brainstorming atmosphere the most, where all of us were looking for the best solution in a short period of time.
Aleksei: I take every second of this Hackathon as a really memorable moment: working on our project, networking with other participants, taking a break in a ping-pong area, and sharing a meal with everyone. Everything was so exciting! Not to mention the thrill of the final presentation and hearing the results!