Posted May 20, 2015

How a Hackathon Made us a Better Company

After completing an intense long-term back end programming project, our CEO approached the Blinds.com IT and development team and told them to spend 2 business days collaborating on any project they liked.

Projects were required to be useful / interesting to the company in some way, but were otherwise left open ended.  Our crack team of programmers and developers set to work on spending their brain power and technical skills creating something entirely new and entirely their own.

And thus, the Blinds.com Hackathon was born.   Let’s take a look at some of the projects they created:

Where In The World is Blinds.com?

As an e-commerce company, we work hard to make meaningful connections with our customers through video chat consultations, social media interactions, live chats and phone calls.

Despite the great rapport we build with customers through these channels, it can still be a challenge to really understand the kind of impact we’re having across the country.

With this in mind, one Blinds.com Hackathon team wanted to visually represent all of the orders happening in real time all over the United States as an fun way to see our customers as real people, not just disconnected voices on the telephone.

They created BlindsEarth, a live-updating map which pulls in google satellite data and our ordering system to zoom in on cities as orders are being placed.

blinds-earth

“Driven” By Sales to “clock” our success

While every business is driven by sales, one Hackathon team wanted to create something that was literally driven by sales. Unfortunately the timeline was too short to rig a full-sized car driven by sales (believe us, they could’ve done it too). So instead they settled for a wall clock.

Using a Raspberry Pi (a credit card sized computer) wired into the Blinds.com sales system and a small motor, the team created a car clock that moves around the clock face every time a sale is made.  Watch it in action below!

You Complete Me

Search rules!!  Understanding how important easily finding the content you need on a large and complex website, one of our teams used their time to develop something that would directly affect the daily routine of Blinds.com designers.

They added autocomplete search functionality to Blinds.com’s sister site, Blinds.ca. This allows customers and designers to navigate the site more quickly and efficiently.  Talk about a time saver!

Blinds.ca autocomplete

It’s-a Homer!

One of our Blinds.com Core Values is to ‘Enjoy the Ride’ – and one Hackathon team took this to heart by designing a little something fun to enjoy with co-workers (what can we say, we love to play!).

One team made their own custom Mario Kart-inspired game featuring Homer, The Home Depot mascot, who races in a Home Depot orange bucket through a landscape of Blinds.com-related rack track.

Come a Little Bit Closer

This project was developed to enrich the experience of touring the Blinds.complex. iBeacons are key-fob-sized mini computers that can be placed virtually anywhere. When someone comes within a few feet of the iBeacon with the partner app open, a page with information about that location will pop up on the app.

iBeacons Hackathon Project

Keep on Hacking

One of the iBeacon team’s members, Mohammad Azam, recently pitched an iBeacon project to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts as a part of a City of Houston Hackathon. iBeacons would allow museum visitors to get more information about each piece of art as they approached it.

Another of Azam’s City of Houston Hackathon projects, an app developed for the Houston Police Department, was one of the 3 event winners. Learn more about that project in this video:

What Are You Hacking?

We loved that this Hackathon session connected our technical teams with creative projects that impacted the company in a whole new way.  This experience helped our developers to blow off steam after successfully hitting a HUGE deadline while reinforcing personal relationships and giving the entire organization the opportunity to see a new side of our developers’ skill sets.

How does your development team keep the creative juices flowing? Do hackathons play a regular role in your company culture?

Let us know in the comments below or chat with us @BlindsDotCom.  And be sure to check out our Careers page if you’ve got what it takes to be a Blinds.com Hackathoner!!