Global AI Hackathon – Google San Francisco, March 2017

ELSA represents at the Global Artificial Intelligence Hackathon

Last week, ELSA’s CEO Vu Van was on the judge panel for the Global AI Hackathon, hosted at Google LaunchPad, San Francisco California. At the event, ten startups were selected to present their solutions to the panel of judges.

Upcoming Global AI Hackathon, San Francisco
Upcoming Global AI Hackathon, San Francisco

What is a hackathon?

For those of you who do not work in software development, the term “hackathon” might be new to you. Hackathons are events that bring together software programmers and designers to work in small groups on a particular topic. A hackathon usually lasts for one to two days. During that time, the participants build prototypes of their ideas.  At the end of the event, they present their projects to the judges and prizes are awarded to the winners.  At the Global AI Hackathon, the topic is AI. So the attendees built prototypes that involved AI technology.

What were cool AI projects at the hackathon?

Here are a couple projects that caught our attention:

Moo DJ is a mobile phone app that uses AI to detect people’s emotions through chat and voice conversations.  Moo DJ then plays songs that match the user’s emotions. Imagine it is after work on Friday, you’re chatting with your girlfriend about meeting for drinks. You then turn on Moo DJ, and which then plays you a soft Taylor Swift song, just in time to set the mood for a romantic evening.

AIDA is building an AI solution for babies. Infants between zero to six months old can cry a lot. Parents often have a difficult time interpreting what their baby is crying about. AIDA uses machine learning to decodes a baby’s crying voice for their parents. When the baby cries, AIDA can tell if the baby is communicating  “I’m hungry” or “My diaper is itchy” or “I just want you to play with me.” If AIDA becomes a reality, it can definitely remove some fear from being a new parent.

Hackathons are popular in Silicon Valley but are also becoming more popular in major cities around the world. Next time there’s a hackathon in your area, you’ll know what it means!

And if you are interested in Global AI Hackathon, the next event will be held on June 23-25, 2017 in San Francisco.

ELSA joined Google LaunchPad

Recently, the ELSA team was selected to join the Google Launchpad accelerator program in San Francisco, California.  If you don’t work in a startup, the term “startup accelerator” may be new to you. 

ELSA team at Google LaunchPad (San Francisco, 2017)
ELSA team at Google LaunchPad (San Francisco, 2017)

What’s a Startup Accelerator?

Startup accelerators, as the name implies, help startup companies grow faster. Well known accelerators include Y Combinator, 500 Startups, and Stanford StartX. Most accelerators programs last for a weeks to a months and provide mentors who can advise the entrepreneurs.  Some of the programs even provide funding to the startups. In the case of LaunchPad, they gave each startup $50,000, with no strings attached.

What do you do in a Startup Accelerator?

The ELSA team attended Google LauchPad, the program began with classes on various startup topics, such as how to find the right employees at ELSA and how to build features into ELSA that our English learn really need.

Outside of the classroom, we had the opportunity to meet with about a hundred different mentors, many of whom are experts in their respective fields. These mentors come from around the world, including India, Vietnam, Brazil, and Silicon Valley.  In two short weeks, as we met with these mentors, they gave us advice on many of the challenges that we’ve been working on. For example: how do we help our users practice for a few minutes every day? How often should we publish new lessons? How many free days of Elsa Pro do we give our users when they first sign up?

How do you get into Google LaunchPad?

Follow the application link on Google LaunchPad website. Deadline is April 21 for the next class!

Here are a few more tips to improve your chances on getting in.

  • Don’t be alarmed when you see the long application. The application is long because the Google Launchpad team will use all that information to tailor the program for your unique situation.
  • Do gloat about your startup. Tell people how your product is the best in your country, how your users love your product, how your team is here to change the world.
  • Find someone affiliated with Google to refer you to the program. When we spoke to startups at the program, we found that many of them got in through referrals by their investors.

How do you get the most out of a Startup Accelerator?

Once you get into a startup accelerator, here are some tips on how to get the most out of it.   

  1. Come with real challenges that you want to solve for your startup. Mentors can only be helpful if they know exactly what help you need. The more specific you are, the more valuable the program will be for your startup.
  2. Connect with other startups in your program. You’ll trade ideas with the other entrepreneurs on how to expand to their countries, commiserate with each other’s war stories, and even explore business partnership opportunities.
  3. Stay in touch with the mentors you meet, especially those who have direct expertise relevant to your company and can help you in the long run. LaunchPad didn’t just stop for us after the two week program ended – we continued to have follow up meetings with our mentors to get more advice.
  4. Last but not least, speak good English. To increase your chances of connecting with your mentors and batchmates, you need to be a fluent speaker so they can understand you. The fastest way to speak better English is to practice on ELSA. Just 10 minutes a day will make a big difference in your pronunciation skills.

If you get into LaunchPad, let us know, and we’ll give your team a lifetime membership to ELSA Pro for free! Good luck everybody! Don’t forgot to practice every day!

To read more about the LaunchPad program, check out this article on Business Insider where ELSA was honored to be featured: