Why You Should Come To The Disrupt SF Hackathon

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Bryan Schreier (@schreier), Dropbox’s board member and partner at Sequoia Capital. Sequoia is an investor in Dropbox, Evernote, Stripe, Tumblr, Instagram and Airbnb and a TechCrunch Disrupt Partner. 

Everyone follows the mainstage events at Disrupt, and with good reason. Who can forget Heather Harde recovering the missing check for Mint at TechCrunch 40, David Sacks and Yammer winning TechCrunch 50, pretty much every Arrington interview, and most of all, the many impressive founders who’ve marched their companies across the Battlefield over the years. My favorite moment was watching Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi introduce Dropbox to the TechCrunch community back in 2008. It was a powerful springboard and well worth the time we invested preparing.

But the biggest disruption occurs the weekend before the conference itself at the Disrupt hackathon. It’s where more than a thousand developers get together to brainstorm, build, collaborate and caffeinate. One of these hackathons gave birth to Groupme, which Skype acquired following the rapid adoption of the company’s group messaging service. With a broad roster of APIs and more hackers than ever, this year’s event offers innumerable opportunities to learn and have fun.

At Sequoia we have the privilege of working closely with Dropbox, Evernote, Stripe, and Tumblr, so I thought I’d try to convince the developers among you to hack away at their individual APIs — either at the event or whenever you can spare a few hours. Here’s why you should …

Dropbox: Today you need to build applications for an ever increasing number of platforms and devices that don’t always allow users to easily access their own content. Dropbox makes your life easier by providing APIs and SDKs that allow you to build cross-platform apps effortlessly, and leverage its infrastructure, scale, and availability. The Dropbox API lets you quickly add storage and sync for user data and connect its app to almost any computer, smartphone or tablet to give people new ways to engage with their content. The possibilities are endless, from a Dropbox client for Xbox to a download to a Dropbox browser extension to sharing and saving from Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Twitter. You can read about Vimeo’s integration here.

Evernote: If Evernote is a second hippocampus to help you remember everything across all your devices, its API is a quick-firing neuron to access and retrieve the information. One of the most interesting use cases for the API is applications that surface contextually relevant information at just the right moment, like an email client that shows a few Evernote notes related to the message you’re currently reading. To make this easy for developers, the company launched a new related notes API at the recent Evernote Trunk Conference, and we’d love to see developers find innovative ways to use it this weekend. Evernote client apps are intentionally very general purpose, so many successful third party apps are more focused on individual use cases that help guide users into specific reasons for capturing and retrieving information. For more ideas, check out the Devcup gallery.

Stripe: Many of the most interesting Internet startups of the last few years have had payments at their core. Consider AirBnB, Etsy, Kickstarter, and Uber. Over the past year, Stripe has become the default way for startups to accept payments online. Stripe’s APIs enable you to instantly add credit card payment support to a website or a mobile app. It also works pretty well for hackathon projects since you have test API keys to make example charges without paying anything and there are no setup or monthly fees- you pay only for successful payments. Stripe makes as much data available as possible via the API and offers webhooks to give you the flexibility to build tools for other users, from the simple (ringing a bell when you’ve been paid) to the sublime (an iPad app for managing your Stripe account).

Tumblr: Many of you have leveraged Tumblr’s API to share your creative works. For example, Instagram and Paper have greatly enriched the Tumblr experience with their content. There are some big opportunities for you to create innovative ways to discover and consume the more than 30 billion Tumblr posts on the network today. They’ve invested heavily in their API over the past 6 months and now provide even more support, including a new developers blog at developers.tumblr.com.

The DOE, Ford, Locu, Mashery and Qualcomm will also be presenting API workshops this weekend so I’d encourage you to give their APIs a spin as well. We can’t wait to see what you build. Happy hacking!