Need hack ideas? Ask a small business owner!

Getting ready for the hack?  Wondering what you’ll build to save a small business or nonprofit time or money? Wondering how to figure out if your hack ideas are good ones?

Don’t just guess — ASK!

You likely meet small business owners every day going about your daily routine. Next time you visit your neighborhood coffee shop, take your bike in for tune-up, hire a plumber to fix the leaky faucet, stop by the gym for your evening exercise, or volunteer at the homeless shelter  — take a few minutes to talk to the owner. Ask them what they love about having their own business, and then ask them what keeps them up at night. That’s where you’ll get the best insights into what kind of app or solution you could build to help them.

Brainstorm hack ideas

Once you’ve focused on the business and problem you want to tackle, then the fun begins to think of cool, ingenious, delightful ways to fix them. At the Small Business Tech Hackathon we’ll have some API partners and IoT gadgets for you to explore. The possibilities are endless; here are just a few ideas to help get your creative juices flowing —

  • Shoe salesman checks on a specific shoe size using an Amazon Echo, just by saying “Alexa, how many size 7 green Converse are in stock?”, then Alexa checks the inventory in QuickBooks Online and responds “4 pairs”.
  • A brewer could use a Garmin smart scale under a bucket of hops, so once the scale detects a specific weight, it could kick off a purchase order in QuickBooks Online for new bags of hops.
  • Connect a Nest thermostat to an employee-scheduling API, so that it can set the correct office temperature based on when employees are scheduled to work.
  • A mechanic working under a car could use a Myoband to start and stop a time clock or make changes to a customers invoice by hand movements, when dirty hands or a loud work environment aren’t conducive to touch screens or voice commands.
  • Using an Oculus Rift VR system to “virtually strangle” your overdue customers. (just kidding)
  • Using Ringly as a security device to sign into a Point-of-Sale terminal at a restaurant.
  • Have a Jibo Robot as your Point of Sale (tablet-based POSs are so 2013).
  • Use a Sphero as a shopping assistant at a retail store. You walk in with your “to buy” list, a Sphero greets you, then leads you through the store to each product you have on your list.
  • Create a virtual “GeekSquad” for nonprofits platform, matching the skill-sets of tech industry employee volunteers with the nonprofits that need them.
  • Create an app that helps people discover nontraditional banking solutions near them, complete with operating hours, available services (check-cashing, money transfer, etc.), and read/contribute user ratings/reviews.

This is barely scratching the surface. What else can you imagine? Share your ideas below — or better yet, come to the Small Business Tech Hackathon on Oct 22-23 and build it yourself!

Want to learn more? Check out these official rules for the hackathon.






2 responses to “Need hack ideas? Ask a small business owner!”

  1. dawn@whitecastlecompany.com Avatar

    I have a “Tax Reminders” app and I am looking to make it mobile as well as integrate with QBO or other Partners, do I need to bring a coder to the hackathon? Anyone interested in connecting with me? – Dawn Scranton

    1. Lisa Rathjens Avatar
      Lisa Rathjens

      Hi Dawn, We’ll provide opportunity toward the start of the hack for people looking for teams to recruit and be recruited. Hope you can make it! Best, Lisa

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