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Hackathon for Hope

Rivals unite to find solutions to historic pandemic and economic disruption

April 07, 2020

As educators and entrepreneurs, faculty members at the USC Marshall Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies saw the coronavirus pandemic as both a disruptive problem…and an opportunity. 

“As entrepreneurs, we are always looking for problems to solve, and as educators, we want to help our students do the same,” said Dr. Elissa Grossman, Director of the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Orfalea Director's Chair in Entrepreneurship and professor of clinical entrepreneurship. “We thought an online hackathon—Hack for Hope—might allow our students to feel more connected to each other and to the possibility of making an immediate, meaningful, and positive contribution to our communities.” 

When an early tweet in support of Hack for Hope, from AI.LA Executive Director, Hackathon facilitator, and USC alumnus Todd Terrazas inspired a supportive response tweet by UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, Grossman decided to see if the schools could partner. A “yes” came swiftly. 

Time for the rivals to work together.

"This crisis presents an opportunity to bring together resources from both universities for the greater good,” said Elaine Hagan, associate dean of entrepreneurial initiatives at UCLA Anderson School of Management and executive director of the school’s Harold and Pauline Price Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. “We are stronger together, and we expect that these projects will reflect all that is good about Los Angeles."

Hack for Hope is a call for entrepreneurs, technologists, mentors and volunteers from across the region to come together (digitally, of course) to identify problems and create solutions. 

"This crisis presents an opportunity to bring together resources from both universities for the greater good. We are stronger together, and we expect that these projects will reflect all that is good about Los Angeles."—Elaine Hagan, associate dean of entrepreneurial initiatives at UCLA Anderson School of Management and executive director of the school’s Harold and Pauline Price Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

“We are bringing together people with deep technical backgrounds, creatives, social entrepreneurs, everyone with an interest in exploring ways we can offer solutions to some of the problems this pandemic has created,” said Anthony Borquez, assistant professor of clinical entrepreneurship at USC Marshall and Hackathon manager. “The only common denominator is that at least one team member has to be a USC or UCLA student, alumni, staff member, or faculty member.” 

The event invites teams to form and solve problems caused by the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic. There are two tracks: “Hack for Now,” in which participants try to develop prototypes ready for rapid deployment or production, and “Hack for the Future,” where participants try to anticipate opportunities likely to emerge in the post COVID-19 world.

Each group of team will present a 2-minute video describing the problem and their solution. Judges will award up to $25,000 in prize funding to the most promising projects—to fund prototype development, proof of concept work, or community outreach in support of students or workers in need of extra support at this time.

Judges include Jen Prince, managing director, Twitter; Scott McRoskey, product manager at Amazon/Twitch; and Michael Rivera, CEO, Association for Corp. Growth. A larger slate of judges and mentors will be announced shortly. Partners include Twitter, Product Managers Association of LA (PMA.LA) and The Apollo Media.

Join a Team

There will be a Welcome walkthrough tonight, Tuesday, April 7 at 6 pm PST. The event will formally kick off the next evening, but teams can join even thereafter. 

Join a team and read more here: https://uschackforhope.com

Are there likely to be substantive solutions out of the event? “Innovation and change arise from necessity,” said Borquez. “I am very excited to see what our community innovates in this space.”

Regardless, said Grossman, the event should be a positive use of student and community energy. “This event represents a chance to bring together the community of entrepreneurs and students who suddenly feel displaced, to offer hope and a positive message,” said Grossman. “And one of the outcomes will be a structure to support similar collaborations going forward.”