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Giveback Hack Columbus 2017


What is Giveback Hack?

For those not familiar it's a hackathon for social enterprise started in Columbus, OH. As with most hackathons there's a heavy tech focus, though the idea didn't need to a tech solution.

Social enterprise could fall into any category of business. For profit or non, as long as it's mission was to some social good. Like alleviate poverty or put convicts back to work.

It's a whole weekend long too. From Friday evening until 11PM, Saturday 9AM to 11PM, Sunday 9AM with final pitches to the judges starting 5:30PM.

The Process

Friday Night & Pitches

Friday night started with the usual networking hour and pizza followed by some presentations and ice breaker activities. It was fun way to meet some people and prep us for the quick turn around of the weekend. It was deceptively fun.

Everyone had the opportunity to pitch their idea in sixty-seconds. A few were pre-vetted but it wasn't necessary.  

I pitched and idea for what amounted to an after school program called The Forge. My thinking, keep at-risk youth out of trouble with workshops where they would learn skills like woodworking, metal forging, and more. Yes — I want to put power tools in the hands of children. My hope is that not only could they learn skill but they could be put to use in the community and paid for their work. 

Side note: All youth are at-risk of falling into some trouble. Cool programs like mine would keep them out of trouble.

The process for whittling down the idea was simple dot voting. Everyone had three sticker dots and you affixed, one or all, to your favorite idea. Everyone that pitched got a piece of paper with their idea name written on it and the shit-show began. A room filled with roughly hundred people jostled around to go vote and pitchmen hustled for as many of those dots as possible.

I got five dots not including any of mine. Sadly, only the top 12 voted on ideas could form a team. Every team needed a minimum of three people. That's how I ended up on Brook Kohn's Dream Time, later named DACA Time. ( was unavailable) Our team wanted to make it TurboTax easy to fill out DACA Immigration forms. I thought we might even ship a fully functional product by Sunday.

Saturday: User Validation

We came in early Saturday morning and discovered that there were a few services out there doing the same thing. Which meant we would spend most of the morning validating our idea with DACA applicants via Facebook polls and attorney interviews. But continuing down the TurboTax path still made sense.

Our issue wasn't so much that there were services out there for this it was their lack of credibility, cost, and engagement. Our goal was to build something affordable and backed by real attorneys at fixed costs. Having a donation system for applicants who can't afford or don't file because of the filing fee cost became important on our social impact front.

DACA Time Logo created for site landing that we created to gauge interested applicants with.

DACA Time Logo created for site landing that we created to gauge interested applicants with.

Upwards of 52% of applicants sight financial cost as an issue for not filing. Generally these applicants are also taking care of their family because they can speak English and are better assimilated into society. Yet, not having legal work permits prevent them from going to college and higher paying jobs keeping them in poverty.

With these insights at hand, we decided moving towards a small fee model with fixed lawyer costs and a donation system. Lawyers would pay us a monthly fee as way for them to get qualified referrals and by hooking them into our platform they'd have a lot less paperwork to fill out leaving the review process to them.

Our fixed price lawyer model also came from in-person research with immigration attorney's in town.

Sunday: Pitch, Pitch, Pitch

The developers working on the prototype finished up mid-afternoon, officially proving that we could build interactive forms and plug that data correctly into the corresponding USCIS form and return that PDF to the user. 

Quick and simple—yea!

But, Sunday was devoted to the pitch. Every team had four minutes to pitch and two minutes of Q&A. Our entire day was consumed with creating the presentation and crafting the story Brook would tell on-stage. 

It was amazing how in the span of a few hours we were able to get the pitch sounding great. The lesson: Practice, tweak, repeat.

We refined the pitch up to door open. 

The Results

DACA Time on stage for the win!

DACA Time on stage for the win!

We took home crowd favorite and $3,500 from United Way to continue vetting our idea. 

I was shocked because while it was a whirlwind many of the other ideas deserved to win some as well. Some did as well. DACA Time did not place in the top 3. Our prize was specifically awarded to poverty fighting missions. Which I had hoped that message was clear in the presentation. With four minutes it was hard to cover the whole story.


I'm stoked I went. Winning was just a bonus of the great atmosphere all weekend. I learned so much from everyone else and so much more from crushing through an entire business idea over a weekend. 

I'd recommend you to attend one as well. You'll meet roughly a hundred or more people from all sides of the business game. I went in not knowing what to expect and I came having learned a lot from everyone that attended.

I would attend again and it's got me really interested in doing more events like these. GBH also has hacks going on in Cleveland, Philly, and Los Angeles. Check out their site for more.