First Celebrity-Driven, Social Impact Hackathon Makes Splash at Sundance

HackdanceThe first celebrity-driven social impact hackathon combined tech skills and celebrity drive to hack the Sundance Film Festival.

Hackdance, hosted by Collective: DisruptFilm Summit, provided hackers and creatives a chance to not only mix and mingle with filmmakers, entrepreneurs, VCs and influencers at Sundance, but also to create new websites and apps that would have a strong social impact.

The hackathon was created after the all-star team of hackathon organizers Cooper Harris, Travis Laurendine and Alex Donn noticed a key element missing from other social impact hackathons: the websites and apps created often went nowhere. By bringing in the celebrity influence at Sundance, Hackdance hoped to push finished projects out to the public.

“By capitalizing on the built­ in distribution and publicity of celebrity endorsement,” said Laurendine, “Hackdance “hacked” the environment at Sundance and created the first­-ever celebrity hackathon.”

Participants registered to join one of five celebrity teams in Park City vying for two grand prizes. Team leaders included Alex Ebert (Golden Globe winner, front man of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros), Adrian Grenier (Entourage, SHFT), Mekhi Phifer (ER, 8 Mile), Waka Flocka Flame (Warner Brothers), Fabien Cousteau (Mission 31), and Sarah Austin (Start­Ups: Silicon Valley on Bravo).

Hackdance judges included Peter Samuelson (founder, Starlight Starbright Children’s Foundation), Benjy Weinberger (Director of West Coast Engineering, Foursquare), Matt Mickiewicz (founder, 99Designs), Johann Schleier­Smith (CTO, Tagged), Carter Cleveland (CEO & founder, Artsy), Brett Brewer (co­founder, CrossCut Ventures), Jim Sorensen (Sorensen Media) and Lewis Hower (Sorenson Global Impact Investment Group).

The gathered judges awarded the grand prizes for social impact and innovation.

Sarah Austin and her team won the Social Impact award for their project, a browser extension that monitors cyber bullying. They were awarded a $5,000 investment from the University of Utah’s Sorensen Global Impact Investment Center plus $10,000 worth of business incubation and a trip to meet Jim Sorensen.

“Second Government,” a virtual reality-based, parallel government, was awarded the Innovation Award. Team leaders Edward Sharpe and Alex Ebert won $5,000 from Plantronics, $10,000 worth of incubation from SGIIC and a trip to meet Jim Sorensen.

Adrian Grenier and his hacker team preparing for their demo of Mobile Kitchen Classroom.

Adrian Grenier and his hacker team preparing for their demo of Mobile Kitchen Classroom.

Adrien Grenier’s team created the SHFT Mobile Kitchen Classroom app, which employs a creative educational program and mobile kitchen to provide a healthy and positive experience.

Oceanographer and environmentalist Fabian Cousteau and team created Plant a Fish, a crowdfunding platform for Cousteau’s ocean conservation project. It is the first platform of its kind that allows multiple, localized funding projects under a larger initiative.

The AT&T prize went to Mekhi Phifer’s team “Lead and Pledge” for the campaign to change the culture around domestic violence on behalf of non­profit, Jaden’s Ladder. The team won an all expenses paid trip to SXSW in Austin, courtesy of AT&T.

Waka Flocka Flame’s team created Rah Rah’s Tech Truck (RRTT), a mobile technology classroom that puts cutting-edge tech tools and opportunities in the hands of the country’s most underprivileged kids, in memory of his brother, Rah Rah.

Additionally, the Fender Foundation worked with team YoungStarter, which created a crowdfunding platform that makes starting a business easy and educational for kids.

“Watching the celebrities brainstorm real ­world solutions to issues they’re passionate about was enlightening.  We learned, along with them, that the problems they’re addressing go deeper than we thought,” said Cooper Harris. “We need to do more than hack code, we need to hack culture.”

Photos from Hackdance can be found here.