April 16, 2015

Innovation Wins Big at Boston Cleanweb Hackathon

Emma McGrath, Communications Fellow

It was a frenzied weekend of brainstorming, networking, programming and idea-pitching at the 2015 Boston Cleanweb Hackathon, where over 70 innovators from the energy, technology and business sectors joined forces to create 16 new digital solutions for some of our greatest energy challenges.

Held at WeWork South Station in partnership with Greentown Labs, the event, now in its fourth year, drew the best and the brightest Bay State thinkers, who participated as contestants, judges and organizers. Thousands of dollars in cash prizes were awarded to four teams tasked with making a mark on the clean energy landscape -- and doing it in just 30 hours.

MySunBuddy, which snagged the $5,000 first place prize, developed a new online marketplace aimed at simplifying the sale of solar energy through net metering credits.

When the trio behind the idea -- Andrew Belden, Kathryn Wright and Brandon Bass -- looked at the solar trading market, what they saw was a lot of red tape. A web of regulations and tariffs meant that buying and selling solar was so complex, many people were discouraged from taking part.

The service they created works to untangle that web. Rather than asking buyers and sellers to navigate a confusing process themselves, MySunBuddy connects them with one another, allows them to agree on a price, and streamlines the complex paperwork and verification steps for them.

“It feels incredible,” Belden said about winning the competition. “We see a lot of potential for this business model, and we think it could play a big role in the multi-billion-dollar solar industry.”

Belden and Wright work in renewable energy and efficiency policy at Meister Consultants Group in Boston. Bass is a data engineer at Altenex, and previously worked in Navigant Consulting’s global energy practice.

“The Hackathon was a first for all three of us,” Wright said. The team formed at a Friday evening mixer hosted at WeWork before the competition, which Wright called “a very lucky meeting.”

Taking home the second place prize was GRDN, a digital marketplace where users can find, list and book green spaces -- from traditional backyards, to greenhouses, to vertical rooftop gardens -- around Boston. In third place was AdaptiveAlgo Analytics, which offers innovative new pricing tools that incentivize customers to save energy during peak load time, allowing companies to better predict consumer behavior and improve demand forecasting. Receiving the Crowd Favorite prize was RECLAIM3D, a team of Northeastern University freshmen that developed a business model for collecting and recycling 3D printing materials.

“It’s a great recognition,” Sri Krishnamurthy of AdaptiveAlgo Analytics said, “and it helped to validate our ideas with real data from EnerNOC.”

Competing in Hackathons, he said, can be a bit stressful due to the time crunch. But ultimately, he added, his team’s strong focus helped them achieve success.

But for AdaptiveAlgo, MySunBuddy and RECLAIM3D, the work is far from over. All will compete in the upcoming Haccelerator (formerly known as the Data Jam), a two-month-long mini-business accelerator that allows Hackathon teams to continue developing their ideas to build actual products and launch real companies. The winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize.

The future for MySunBuddy looks bright, if a little uncertain, Wright said. Her team plans to use the Haccelerator to bring their big ideas into focus.

Follow @MySunBuddy on Twitter to keep up with the team’s progress in the Haccelerator -- and whatever comes next!