Edinburgh Tourism Innovation Challenge

I spent the weekend attending Product Forge’s Edinburgh Tourism Innovation Challenge – a hackathon which brought together people from a number of disciplines including data science, software development, business and tourism, with the aim of creating something to improve Edinburgh’s tourism sector through the innovative use of data and technology.

This was my first hackathon so I was pretty excited, but didn’t have any real idea of what to expect. On the first evening, we did various introductory exercises to find out more about the different participants, and then we were given an hour to form teams between ourselves – I preferred this approach rather than being allocated to teams by the organisers as it allowed us to work with people who had complementary personalities and skill sets.

I was lucky enough to form a team with three really talented guys:

  • Robb Wallace – a true tourism expert who not only has many years experience in the sector, but also runs a media production business and is the author of a book “Smartphone Media Production”
  • Adrian Au – one of the most driven entrepreneurs I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, who has been pursing his idea for a social network platform, Travelouder, which connects travelers and businesses
  • Michael Mercury – a NASA engineer with a strong understanding of product management and data – and one of the most kind and mellow guys I’ve met

Our team, The Weekend Trip, conceived an idea to help tourists discover places and attractions that were suited to their requirements (whether they were travelling on business, with family or on a budget) and present the suggestions in a Tinder-like swipe interface. We figured this would remove the pain of looking through longs lists on TripAdvisor for things to do, and would naturally act to combat tourist hotspots, as they would be more likely to visit places that were suited to them, rather than those that were highly visible from the main tourist routes.

Below is a picture of the prototype we created over the weekend:

There were 16 teams of around 4 people in total, so we had the opportunity at the end to hear what the other teams had been getting up to, and listen to their one minute rocket pitch, explaining their idea. Sadly, we didn’t win, but I did get the opportunity to pitch our idea to the judges and crowd which was something I hadn’t done before and I feel I learned a lot from it. The winning team proposed a really creative solution to the improve tourist dispersal around the city, by creating an app which gamified the tourist experience – giving visitors more points by going to places further off the beaten track.

I know a lot of people will blog about how much fun their recent hackathon was, so I’m not gonna go on about it, however I will give a couple of quick reasons to encourage you to consider going to one, if you haven’t before:

  • Meeting talented and driven people – the vast majority of people that attend these events are ‘doers’, and being surrounded by energetic people like this is beneficial in so many ways – as they say, you’re the average of the company you keep
  • Pushing your comfort zones/personal development – this is a subject I will keep coming back to on the blog as I feel it’s so important, and hackathons provide a number of ways you can challenge yourself, both personally and professionally
  • Getting a job/improving prospects – due to the number of people you will talk to at these events, you are likely to meet someone who at least knows someone who is hiring or who is looking for someone to help them on a project – if not it still looks good on a CV and shows you are passionate person who fills their free time productively

So check out some of the upcoming events on at Product Forge and make an effort to go to one of their hackathons. And finally, here is our team photo!

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