WellWithMe and Jog of War: An Exceptional Code-a-thon Success Story
Six individuals, two continents, one incredible journey; brought together by Health 2.0’s 2012 Berlin Code-a-thon to create health technology that can change the way we live our lives. The Health 2.0 Berlin Code-a-thon, sponsored by Aetna International, took place concurrently with the Health 2.0 Europe 2012 Conference in Berlin, and focused on creating innovations for real-world behavioral change. Health 2.0 code-a-thons provide a unique space for individuals to meet people they might not otherwise have access to, and dream up innovations that have never before existed. The Health 2.0 Berlin Code-a-thon is a shining example of the opportunity for diverse connectivity and creation that lie at the core of these coding competitions.
In Slovenia, five passionate developers came up with a plan to catch a break. Blaz Triglav, Brent LaRue, Jure Triglay, Marko Nikolovski, and Nejc Tomsic were on the lookout for possible opportunities. Within 30 minutes of finding out about the Health 2.0 Berlin Code-a-thon, the group had whole group had committed to participate. Signing up meant they would make the 10-hour drive to Berlin, put their full-time jobs on hold, and submit themselves to an intense 48 hour hackathon against some of the best developers in Europe, and from around the world.
On another continent, a Rhode Islander named Caleb Oller decided to macguyver his way to the Health 2.0 Europe 2012 Conference by any means necessary. With the promise of winning the Health 2.0 Berlin Code-a-thon as a form of repayment, he convinced a friend to loan him money for a flight to Berlin. Bold promise in tow, and in the face of Hurricane Sandy, Caleb took the 9 hour flight to Berlin, and checked into a local hostel. His only plan: win the code-a-thon.
The group of Slovenians came to Berlin with a tested strategy. They had even re-enacted the 48 hour code-a-thon the weekend before in their basement to streamline and perfect the process. This code-a-thon would be the validation of their company, and their hard extra hours of work.
The morning of the code-a-thon, the five Slovenian developers discovered that the max number per team is four. Those measured 48 hours became obsolete. Now, they were faced with 15 frantic minutes of figuring out how to split up their team. To create even teams, they decided joined forces with an American named Caleb, who they had clicked with the night before at the code-a-thon cocktail hour.
One of the teams stuck with the Slovenians’ original idea, to create an app that uses socially competitive features to help people change their lives for the healthier, and called themselves WellWithMe. The other team brainstormed possible ideas, and ended up choosing an idea the Slovenians had formed between the hostel and the code-a-thon event – going by the name, Jog of War.
Forty-eight hours later, Jog of War and WellWithMe took first and second place. The group of Slovenians, and Caleb were awarded tickets to the main conference. Brent described his experience at the conference: “We got to watch where people had been successful, everything we learned at the conference was important for us to know.”
The intensity didn’t stop there. With fervor and excitement, the teams combined to bring their first behavioral change app to life, in partnership with Aetna International, in the form of a company. Just recently, the team launched their mobile app, WellWithMe, and will soon be start work on Jog of War.
WellWithMe is unique in that it is designed as a delivery system; instead of being a standalone solution, the WellWithMe app enables users to connect with the real world in a clear, easy to use way. Users compete with friends, see their healthy choices, and participate in real-world challenges. “Friends will help each other make real behavioral changes,” says Caleb, “but it goes beyond the phone. We are just the delivery system for highlighting your friends and network participating in healthy behaviors around you.”
Of the Berlin Code-a-thon, Jure said, “we had to do a lot of improvising. We learned that even if you’re in a crunch, you can still make a good product. And we learned how agile we could really be.” Caleb added that he enjoyed the “energy, enthusiasm, and the collaborative code-a-thon environment.”
Caleb’s advice for future code-a-thon participants is: “Like most things, it’s about the people. Find some awesome people to work with, and join them. Don’t be afraid to work on someone else’s idea.” Brent adds that, “Winning the code-a-thon and working with Aetna to launch this app have validated them as a group and company. Joining forces with Caleb shows how this code-a-thon was something unique, I don’t know where else those relationships would be formed.”