The 2020 ATB Open Finance Hackathon was a competition created to inspire solutions and strategies using open banking. We were motivated to think of situations we don’t normally worry about, and explore all possible solutions to these problems. The challenges we were faced with solving, included the following questions:

  1. How can we support Albertans in their quest for a mentally and physically healthier life? 
  2. How can we create a fresh, personalized experience for investments?
  3. Are we able to develop solutions that facilitate and incentivize pension savings for individuals?
  4. How can we inspire individuals and corporations to contribute to sustainable environmental growth?
  5. What kind of revolutionary solutions can we develop that will change the world of banking as we know it today?

We were up for the challenge. For a group of people who don’t typically spend much time thinking about the challenges above, we were extremely successful in creating a product that we are excited to share with the world very soon….

What was it like participating in the ATB Hackathon?

With over 100 participants all in teams and eager to utilize the resources provided by ATB, the room was an innovation hotbed. It was clear that all teams were there to put their passions to work and create something that will change the world of banking for the better. Teams took their time developing ideas and working overtime to bring them to life with the help and resources offered to them such as the ATB Hackathon gurus, open finance data set, IT/hardware help, and more. 

Looking around the room, various creations caught our eye.  Although creativity is unprecedented in open banking, the ideas brought forward by teams were very forward-thinking and innovative. The apps created ranged from passive financial saving apps to children’s financial literacy, as well as many more we, unfortunately, didn’t get to see.

Friday evening

Before all the development fun began, it was necessary to have some kickoff fun in the form of a welcome party Friday evening at Last Best. The party was a great way for everyone to meet and get familiar with each other, eat great food, have some drinks and get the details on what the weekend ahead of us will look like. The evening did go quite late (for some of us anyway) for two reasons:

  1. We met and talked to a bunch of really cool people 
  2. Halfway through the evening, we were informed that the bar had become an open bar…. Something we took full advantage of (not one of our wisest choices, that’s for sure).

Saturday

The event officially kicked off at 8 am on Saturday morning, the teams were all solidified, and it was time to begin the ideation process. Our team tossed around a lot of ideas during the majority of the first day. We didn’t quite know what we wanted to create but we knew for certain that we wanted to come up with something special and unique.

To avoid creating an already existing product, we went to great lengths to ensure that there are no products that are even similar to ours on the market already. With the research taking so much of our time, we did not solidify our idea until roughly 6 pm that evening leaving us just over one day to turn our idea into reality. Immediately after finalizing and verifying our idea, we hit the ground running and worked non-stop to bring it to life. Most of us only got about 2-3 hours of sleep, working through the night.

Sunday

With noon as the deadline, we had only a few hours left to complete our project. With almost zero sleep, and excessive amounts of coffee in our systems, we spent every last minute developing the project, fleshing out both the app and our business model and ensuring that everything was built as sharp as possible.

The time had come for us to present our idea to the judges, and after all had been said and done, we were selected to present on the main stage and be one of the top 8 teams with a shot at claiming the $10,000 prize!

The presentation could not have gone more perfectly, we were united as a team and as a company in this challenge and it really showed. Not only did our group dynamic impress the crowd, but our product idea had won over the judges and we claimed the third place ‘Wow factor’ title, as well as the Oculus Rift/Quest VR headset prize for each one of us!

You won what?!?!

Each of us got to take home the Oculus Rift/Quest VR headset! For many of us, this was the first time experiencing virtual reality gaming and let us tell you, it is a GAME CHANGER. If you want to feel like you’re in the future, then get yourself a VR headset. The capabilities of this device are incredible, and to think that we have only just begun to scratch the surface of what is possible with virtual interaction is mind-blowing. Experiencing VR definitely left us pondering the idea of future 99bits VR developments…

The takeaway

This event had left us with several realizations, the most important one being the skill-level and talent within our own team, as well as all the other teams participating.

In the span of two days, we were able to come up with a new and unique idea, develop a functional and great looking MVP for it, and create a sensible and real business model to support the app’s longevity. It really does go to show that:

  1. There are so many technological developments still left to do, whether it is for the world of open banking, VR, or yet undiscovered or underrated fields.
  2. So much more is possible when your team is full of passionate and dedicated people.
  3. Our team has those people. 99bits is composed of real star players who are committed to creating the best possible products regardless of time limitations or other challenges. 

We are overjoyed with the team-building effect that this competition has had on our company and its magnitude. Being able to see and experience the team’s energy, passion, attention to detail and thoroughness of execution, left us more excited than ever for the ventures ahead for 99bits. We are only going to get better from here on.

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