How I built an SMS & Web service in less than 24 hours and got voted 1st @ Hackweekend

UPDATE: This Project is now called TaxiMonger (http://taximonger.com)

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Photo from Hackweekend Album

So I participated in this awesome Hackathon hosted by Weekend.my last weekend. I wanted to build a crowd-sourced application that allows people to check Taxis out before they get in. 60 Developers & Designers built 15 Applications in this Hackweekend.

Project URL: http://taximonger.com.

How I got the Idea

Recently me and my wife went to Ikea and we grabbed a taxi from a near by LRT station. As the taxi started the meter kept spinning like a Spinning Roulette wheel. Since it was raining we couldn’t just stop and get out. I asked the driver what is wrong with the meter, why is it spinning so fast? He kept saying nothing is wrong with the meter. I was sitting silently, furious about this situation. Took my phone and started writing an idea to build an SMS based application to track taxis like this. So next time I can run a check on them before I get in. And we ended up paying 16 Ringitts for just 8 kms, which is twice more than it’s supposed to be.

Not surprisingly this was the fourth time I got scammed by Taxi drivers in KL.

Preparations for Hackathon

So a week before the hackathon I searched for Malaysian SMS service providers and found a company providing SMS service at an affordable price. I talked them into giving me a test Account. I did one final test of the gateway the day before Hackweekend to see if SMS is being sent and received and called the company to make sure their service will stay up in the weekend.

@ Hackweekend.

As soon as the hacking started, the first thing I did was setup a vhost on my local machine and created the DB (MySQL) and its tables. Also I created just a directory in my server (molv.com) so I can push the files as soon I finish working on them. After about 4 hours of hacking I was able to get the SMSd to insert into the database and retrieve records from the Database.

It took me almost 2 hours to get the web interface working nicely. This was just the basic html page, so I needed to come up with a UI that looks clean and minimal. After three interfaces (in photoshop) I came up with one that looked ok. Since my app was already working I took my time in converting the PSD to HTML/CSS.

Once the template was completed and pushed to server I got some feedback from neighboring hackers that it looked nice.

Since I had ample amount of time before the deadline I just walked around. Even unsuccessfully tried to take a nap on one of the awesome bean bags.

Almost 30 minutes before the deadline I tested and found the SMSs are having delays. So I created a small log script that loads my sms activity from Database and found out those delays were from the Telecoms.

Demo hour


As time to demo our projects drew nearer I got a bit nervous. After getting some good pitching tips from (His team built an iPhone App called Icebreaker for helping people to start conversations ) and asking myself “What’s the worst that can happen?”, I was able to chill. The pitch went ok (at least I think so). There were so many things I wanted to say in the pitch but couldn’t. Got interesting questions and suggestions from the audience. To tell the truth I didn’t expect to win anything.

Until the organizers said ‘Taxi Watch’ is in a draw with Projekr (An awesome Project tracking app built by Team CodeCrafters), I wasn’t paying much attention as I was feeling pretty sleepy and tired. In the next few seconds someone voted up Taxi Watch and it won.

For being voted as people’s choice I got a free working space (plus drinks) at the awesome alt.space. I have yet to decide what to do with it since I love working from my own bedroom.

I was interviewed by a TV crew from Astro Awani for a Tech Show which will be aired in the coming week(s).

What’s next for TaxiWatch?

Since I got a lot of requests from people asking to continue the service as it can be used to track Good and Bad taxis, I plan to continue it.

In a business point of view it would make sense when/if I can get the telecoms to do a Revenue sharing and Taxi companies to collaborate with me so that they can get feedbacks regarding their  service which can used to improve themselves.

UPDATE: This Project is now called TaxiMonger (http://taximonger.com) and is a fully operational startup in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Have you got what it takes to be a Successful Entrepreneur?

So you want to be your own boss, have financial freedom; follow your dream of being an Entrepreneur? It’s not an easy path. Most of the time it’s a lonely and tiring journey. But when you succeed the rewards are totally worth everything.

Here I have listed some of the very important skills you can harness to become a successful entrepreneur.

Click here to read the full Article

 

Using Foursquare in your business

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I have been using foursquare for couple of weeks now.  Foursquare is like a social game where people compete to hold most mayorships, and badges. I have posted couple of screenshots from the foursquare Android app. Their Wiki page provides a good overview of the service.

Foursquare is a web and mobile application that allows registered users to connect with friends and update their location. Points are awarded on weekends and non-business hours for “checking in” at venues. Users can choose to have their Twitter and/or their Facebook accounts updated when they check in. In version 1.3 of their iPhone application, Foursquare enabled push-notification of friend updates, which they call “Pings.” Users can also earn badges by checking in at locations with certain tags or for check-in frequency.[3] The company has stated that users will be able to add their own custom badges to the site in the future. If a user has checked-in to a venue more than anyone else, on separate days, and they have a profile photo, they will be crowned “Mayor” of that venue, until someone else earns the title by checking in more times than the previous mayor.[4] Users can create a “To Do” list for their private use and add “Tips” to venues that other users can read, which serve as suggestions for great things to do, see or eat at the location.[5]

Highlighted here are couple of ways your business can use foursquare (From brainwoo article by Katie.)
  • Rewards for check-ins and Mayors: Decide on your offer, promote it via Twitter, Facebook, your Web site, signage, etc., and train your employees to approve eligibility by checking customers’ mobile devices.
  • Make your most loyal customers feel special: Hold an event for the people who frequent your business the most, or offer them a special discount. Let them know they are appreciated.
  • Encourage customers to come back: If someone was Mayor of your business in January, but then had no check-ins in February, send them an offer to come back.
  • Fill your business on a slow night: If Tuesdays are typically a slow time for your business, offer a check-in special, or a discount to the first person to become Mayor. 
  • Sponsor the leaderboard: Foursquare’s leaderboard shows the people who have earned the most points in a city that week. Foursquare recently opened it up to sponsorship. Check out what they were able to do with Pepsi – how could your brand benefit from sponsoring such an increasingly valuable piece of real estate?

Here are some benefits for your businesses (From brainwoo article by Katie.)

  • Word-of-mouth marketing: Foursquare works with Twitter and Facebook, meaning one check-in at your restaurant could be potentially viewable to thousands via users’ social networks.
  • Customer loyalty building/reward: Businesses can track customers’ visits, and can easily reward their most frequent customers. Foursquare promotes business’ “Mayor Specials,” specials for those who visit an establishment the most.
  • Recommendations from your best customers: Foursquare users can add “tips” about places, such as what to try on the menu or the best day to visit. These tips are available to anyone who checks in to your business, or even if they are close to your business.
  • The sky’s the limit: Right now, creativity is the name of the game. If you can think of a way to use Foursquare to promote your business, it’s probably possible. If not, Foursquare is willing to work with you on your ideas.

Almost all famous locations in Malé has been added to foursquare. Since there are quite a lot of Smart phone users in Maldives services like these can be utilized to take your business to next level.

There are other similar services such as  Gowalla, Facebook is also preparing to launch their location based service. So list your business in these services, create offers and get your customers to fall in love with you.