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AppCRAFT and the Nokia World Hackathon

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

The dust has finally settled after what can only be described as the blast of a lifetime.
Those of you following me on twitter, facebook or wherever else it is you follow me these days may have seen a few of my updates over the last few weeks. I thought it good though to take a few minutes to put some the highlights of the past few weeks in a place for the history books. So here goes.

My Planning for Nokia World 2011, started back in July 2011. Noticing that Ideasproject was offering and all expenses paid trip to the event of the year, I started submitting idea’s to their website, hoping that one of my idea’s would win a top spot and help get me to the event. At the same time I encouraged my wife Ingrid, who is also my partner and ideator at AppCRAFT to do the same. The thinking was that since we usually come up with award winning idea’s based on our winning applications at Calling All Innovators 2009, 2010 & 2011. We should try our hand at the Ideas Project.

I took the time to submit a few nice idea’s in July.

Then in September I got some good news from a totally different department. As a member of the Nokia Developer Champion program, I had been invited to speak about the experiences of AppCRAFT at the upcoming Developer Champion day held in London a day before Nokia World. I quickly started prepping for the trip. Many things needed to be sorted. The most important of these was a Visa. Working closely with the Nokia team, I quickly got everything I needed for the Visa application. As is expected some items took quite some time to arrive and the deadline for Visa application came ever closer.

By mid October the wife and I headed to Cape Town to sort my visa. Sadly there was still no news coming from Ideasproject and so we figured we had lost.

After submitting my visa early on Tuesday morning 11 October, We started heading back on the long roadtrip to Plett. We stopped to fuel up just before Sir Louwries Pass. It was at this fueling point that things got interesting. The wife cleaned out the car and threw away the trash. After freshening up we were ready for the journey that lay ahead. Littledid we now just what type of journey reallylay ahead. We headed out and when we reached Sir Loureys Pass, I asked where my phone was, as it was no longer on charge on the dashboard. We quickly came to the shocking realization that the phone had fallen off the dashboard into the trash and had faithfully been discarded at the last stop. I quickly spun the car around and headed back to the fuel station.

When we pulled into the garage I drove straight to the trash can, jumped out and started digging in the trash. It wasnt long and I had 6 fuel station employees around me, asking what I was doing. This was the first time they had seen a white guy digging in the trash. After a minute or so I pulled my Nokia 5800 from the trash. There was a brief moment of silence and then like 1 man all 6 the attendants shouted. “EISH, yo yo yo yo!”
We joked around for a few minutes only to happy that we had been lucky enough to find the handset. It was at this stage that by force of habbit I decided to checked my emails. The email I got shook my world.

‘Dear Simon, You know what, you did it again! You won a ticket to Nokia World with your idea “Nokia PreSchool”. Congratulation :) I don’t know if you heard already, but winners included also Ingrid Botes, who I assume, is your business partner! The most ironic thing is that the third winner comes also from South-Africa.’ Karoliina Harjanne, Ideas Project.

Not only had I just won the trip to London, but my goal to get my partner to the event had also been realised. Our effort had paid off, we were both going to Nokia World, well only if we could get a visa in time. We quickly turned the car around and headed back to Cape Town for what later cameto be described as an amazing race to finish everything on time. By Thursday afternoon 13 October all Ingrids paper work was sorted and Ingrid’s visa application submitted. We headed home to Plett and waited to hear from the embasy. Tuesday morning 18 October we were surprized when both passports arrived via courier, and we had both been granted a visa. We started packing for our flight wish wasschedule to depart 23 October.

On October 20th we received further good news, AppCRAFT was invited to take part in the Nokia World Hackathon. The idea being that we take my award winning Ideas Project idea and turn it into a fully working application during the 40 hour hackathon. I accepted the challenge and started planning how best to do this. Usualy a team of 3 takes part in the event and the last minute notification made it impossible to get other members of my team to London for the event. We live in the 21st centuary and technology is meant to be world class, as such I could not accept that we could not take part simply because we could not get visa’s in time for a member of the team. I requested special permission to to host the first virtual team member via skype, this had apparently not been done before. After some negotiation we were given approval to do the first live skype feed to a Nokia World hackathon and as such Stephen Perelson from Port Elizabeth was able to join the team virtually via skype.
All packed and ready to go, we headed to London for Nokia World and the Hackathon that lay ahead.

The event was awesome and after 40 hours of blood, sweat, tears, interviews, video shoots, meet n greets oh and Pizza, Pepsi and alot of orange juice we had finished coding a fully working beta version of Nokia Preschool, a last minute rebrand and the application Preschool Aid was born. (Since it was impossible to implement a full preschool curriculum in only 40 hours, we decided that the 1st beta version would be a preschool aid. Future versions could eventually be a complete preschool curriculum on mobile.) The idea wasto build the framework and proof of concept, which I feelour team did very very well.

The 40 hour hackathon included more than just coding the app, amoung other things we also needed to draw up a presentaion to pitch to the judges. I put this together and with only seconds to spare finished the presentation. We pitched the judges, demo’d the app and a few hours later received the great news that AppCRAFT had take the award for “Best Series 40 App” at the Hackathon.

Preschool Aid Ver 1.0 beta has since been loaded to Nokia Store and I am happy to say is now live:

All in all a very succesful trip for team AppCRAFT.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank both the wives Ingrid Botes and Jess Pereslon for your awesome support during the crazy hackathon hours. Yes the hackathon was tough but well worth the effort. Also to Stephen Perelson for your kickass coding skills and willingness to take the bull by the horns when so may other coders refused. Thank you!

Pictures of our entire trip can be seen here.

Nokia World 2010 here I come

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

So it’s official, I will be traveling to London and attending Nokia World 2010 after my wish to attend the event was granted by @NiklasatNokia during a twitter event introducing himself as the new EVP and board executive member of Nokia Espoo, Finland. This happened on August 5th 2010.

I am happy to say I have finalized my Visa and everything is ready for the trip.


Just when I thought things could not get any better, the guys from Forum Nokia announced the finalists of the Calling All Innovators 2010 Contest and guess what, the free educational application eLiteracy that I submitted to the contest earlier this year has made the finals.

So after hours of blood, sweat and tears, the boys and girls of team AppCRAFT have something to celebrate, not only is this the 2nd year in a row that we have made the CAI finals, we are also this year the only South African development house to have made the global finals.

Let it never be said that a small African startup, opperating in the Garden Route has no potential. A HUGE shoutout goes to the dedicated team who worked with me on this project.  It was not easy, we risked alot to get where we are today, but at the end of the day, with great risk comes great reward. I thank you for not giving up and for believing in my sometimes crazy idea’s.

So now it’s off to London to see what the future holds.  We are up against some serious competition in the Life Improvement category and it’s great to be competing with such great apps.

Life Improvement category

  • Car Black Box by Neusoft Mobile Solutions S.R.L. (Romania)
  • eLiteracy by AppCRAFT (South Africa)
  • Medica by IRWAA, LLC (Egypt)
  • Mobile Babycare by Shenzhen LEG (China)

I wish all the other contestants the best and look forward to seeing you guys in London.

Any friends or media, wanting to meet up with me in London can DM me via twitter, or make contact via email simonbotes_<AT>_gmail_DOT_com