How a Hackathon Led to Real-World Solutions for Found Animals Foundation

Posted by Teryll Hopper, Communications Manager of Corporate Citizenship, NetSuite

Hackathons have become a popular pro bono volunteer event model– bringing together a group of people to use their creative skills and technology know-how to solve problems in a short amount of time. Participants make new connections, learn new skills, feel like they make a difference, and typically vie for a prize and bragging rights for the winning idea (which doesn’t hurt!).

Unfortunately, models based on a short time commitment, volunteers and a good marketing hook tend not to lead to long-term, sustainable outcomes. A group of people who are willing to give a day or a weekend to a project may not actually be interested in, or have the ability to, spend the time to actually bring their idea to life after the event is over, and creating new technology solutions is not necessarily a fast or easy process.

NetSuite’s Hackathon 4Good model is designed not to lose sight of our core mission – we transform how organizations operate so they can achieve their organizational vision. We designed a shorter event with the aim of creating a think tank atmosphere for our charity partners. We bring a wide range of experts together to give the charity exposure to a broad range of ideas that can be implemented in a variety of ways from relying on internal staff to pro bono services to paid consulting services.


As the years progress, we continually seek to find ways for our grantees to benefit from the ideas created at the hackathon. This past year with charity partner Found Animals Foundation and hackathon participant Yantra, the pieces fell into place. The result was an innovative solution that enables Found Animals to scale and streamline their work to save pets’ lives.

Found Animals Foundation is Saving Pets’ Lives

More than 3 million animals are euthanized each year in the United States. Found Animals Foundation (FAF), a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization and grantee of NetSuite.org’s software donation program, is on a mission to reverse the outcome for these animals through its microchip program, automated registry databases, responsible adoption initiatives, and low-cost spay/neuter services.

FAF turned to NetSuite to help it scale its microchip program and enable it to put 2 million microchips into the hands of shelters, rescues and other organizations annually. The organization was one of two charity partners selected to participate in NetSuite.org’s 2nd annual Hackathon 4Good, an event that brought together NetSuite employees, partners and customers who were tasked with creating an innovative solution to help FAF scale their program using the NetSuite platform.

The Challenge

FAF was used to processing approximately 1 million microchips per year using a variety of external and internal documentation tools, including Gmail and Google Docs, and knew it needed to automate its complex fulfillment process to place less of the burden on staff and volunteers, thereby reducing delays in processing leads, duplicate orders, and having unqualified leads end up in the system.

For the 2015 Hackathon 4Good, held at SuiteWorld, NetSuite’s annual customer conference, FAF presented Hackathon participants with its challenge -- how could the NetSuite system be customized to address its three main pain points:

  • Ordering and validation. How could FAF more rapidly receive, process and fulfill orders given their unique requirements – Customer validation, order validation & microchip registration?
  • Shipping. As a small organization with limited space and resources, how could they get microchips accurately and efficiently into the hands of eligible organizations?
  • Microchip registration. How could FAF automate the transmission of information to their external registration system?

Hackathon 4Good – A Think Tank Style Opportunity To Solve These Challenges

As far as Hackathon’s go, the Hackathon 4Good is actually a shorter event, due in part to the fact that it’s part of a very busy week of SuiteWorld Conference events. Start to finish, the event only runs 12 hours, which means that the applications being designed by the teams are really prototypes. This style of event, in which the charity spends the day answering questions, and spending time with each team provides the opportunity for the team to understand the challenge, enabling them to produce a winning solution for the charity partner, plus an entire series of ideas for potential solutions the charity can use as it builds out its technology capabilities.

The Hackathon 4Good started with pitches from the two charity partners (in this case, FAF and Good360), then participants split up into teams based on skill and ideas and spent the rest of the day strategizing, planning, coding and developing solutions. Another unique feature about the Hackathon 4Good is that all of the participants have experience using NetSuite and are therefore tasked with leveraging the SuiteCloud Development Platform to prototype their NetSuite based technology solutions.

After ten caffeine fueled hours of white boards, post-it notes and fast and furious customizations, the teams each presented their solution to a panel of judges, which included NetSuite Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Evan Goldberg, NetSuite EVP of Product Management Gary Wiessinger, NetSuite.org Senior Director of Nonprofit David Geilhufe and representatives from each charity partner.

It was a hard decision as each team presented a really interesting set of solutions, but in the end it was SuiteAvengers, a team made up of Daniel Weinstein, NetSuite developer, Jeff Gordon, of Staybright Electric, and Vikram Bhandari and Geetanjli Dhanjal of NetSuite Partner Yantra, a Management and Information Technology consulting company that specializes in business consulting, enterprise applications, and technology consulting services, who won the Hackathon for the solution they recommended to address the needs of FAF.

In Part 2 of this post, we share how the team at Yantra built out a custom solution to help FAF scale its microchip program.

Registration for NetSuite.org’s 2016 Hackathon 4Good is now open to NetSuite employees, partners or customers. This year’s hackathon will take place on Monday, May 16, the first day of NetSuite’s SuiteWorld customer conference, and benefit nonprofit organizations Juma Ventures and Ashoka.

 

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