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Call for Code® 2019

Creating and deploying open source technologies to tackle some of the world's biggest challenges

When Project Owl won the Call for Code challenge last year, its CEO, Bryan Knouse, noted that the work didn’t stop after they won the grand prize.

In its first two years, Call for Code has helped bridge modern technologies with potentially life-saving solutions during and after natural disasters. The program also aims to empower developers – connecting them with resources and networks to help deploy their real world solutions through Code and Response.

Only the top five teams win recognition and prizes, but what about the many other teams who accepted the challenge? Call for Code recognizes all of our developers who answered the call to help make tangible change when it comes to natural disasters. We want to empower you, especially since we know that you’re working towards global change and a great cause.

We know that developers are, at their core, passionate about their code. When your team finalizes your submission for this year’s challenge, you may realize that this is not just a hobby or pet project, but something you want to expand on and even pursue as a full time commitment. What would be your next steps from taking your application and turning it into something like a business? Alan Chiu, a partner at XSeed Capital, focuses on investing in very early-stage tech startups and has a few tips for our entrepreneurial developers in this clip.

Chiu says that developers really need to understand the underlying problem they’re solving for. “And if you truly want to turn your idea into a business, you ought to think about how you’re going to be capturing value in addition to creating value. And oftentimes, developers who want to do good, they are very focused on value creation but not enough on value capture.

So what does Chiu mean when he says value capture? It means coming up with a financially sustainable business model without having to rely on outside help. And though developers who are creating tech for good may recoil at the thought of pairing their solution with business and financial models, Chiu explains the misconception of developer entrepeneurs who go the nonprofit organization route. Chiu says that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with creating a nonprofit organization, but that the pathway could actually hurt the overall end goal of the tech if you’re not especially adept at both delivering the changes you’ve promised while also fundraising.

There are benefits from coming up with a business model, Chiu says. The better you are at pursuing your mission and the more money you generate means that you can improve and further your original business mission for positive change across the world.

Tips from an IBM venture capitalist

Tom Whiteaker is a partner with IBM Ventures and also has a few tips for developers who want to expand on their Call for Code applications after submissions close on July 29.

Here are Tom Whiteaker’s top tips:

  1. The best way to get introductions to venture capitalists is through your network. “Just like in any business or with a job, find a mentor – better yet, a mentor with a network – and leverage that mentor for advice, for connections,” says Whiteaker.
  2. Have a clear, concise pitch when you meet with a venture capitalist.
  3. From the very beginning, make sure that you have true differentiation from what’s already out there in a saturated market. What are you going to be the very best at? Why would customers want to buy your product?
  4. Know your buying audience in advance.

And finally, Whiteaker says that it is undoubtedly a long journey to turn an idea into a business or startup. He says that persistence is key and to learn to be okay with rejection. “Take that rejection (from investors, venture capitalists, organizations) and keep at it. Stay persistent and stay focused,” advises Whiteaker.

The common denominator that Whiteaker has seen firsthand from entrepreneurs creating a successful business? The people around the table – meaning the team that’s building out a product or solution, their advisors, and their investor network. “All of these individuals working together require a combined effort, because really, at the end of the day it’s all about the people.”

While you’re building solutions for this year’s Call for Code Global Challenge, don’t forget to follow your passion and think big. This challenge doesn’t have to be about financial returns. If you end up taking your solution and turning it into a full-fledged business, choosing not to go through venture capitalists doesn’t mean you can’t still make an impact. There are other ways to form your business, whether it be through family’s or friends’ support, or starting out small on your own – when you aim to make the world a better place, only good things will happen.

You still have time!

As of July 17, developers now have less than two weeks to prepare and finalize their submissions to the Call for Code 2019 Global Challenge. We’ve seen some really remarkable ideas and solutions come out of worldwide hackathons over a 24-hour period, so if you’re doubting whether you can finesse something in time, you actually have plenty of time! If you’re stuck on ideas, why not check out the Solution Starters? Four ideas already prepped for you to use and expand on. Check them out here: