PayPal’s BattleHack comes to Australia for a second time

24-hour hackathon starts in Melbourne tomorrow

Over the weekend Melbourne’s Plaza Ballroom will play host to the Australian leg of BattleHack, PayPal’s global hackathon.

It’s the second time the 24-hour BattleHack event has been held in Australia, and the third time overall for the global event. Events are being held in 14 cities in 2015, followed by a Silicon Valley showdown between the finalists.

One of the drivers for the event is to give developers an opportunity to build applications that can benefit their local communities, said John Lunn, the global director of the PayPal Developer Network.

“There’s a lot of social issues out there and problems that if a developer puts their mind to it, we could actually solve,” Lunn said.

“Not necessarily things that are going to make a lot of money, but they’re like local problems or city problems that a collection of very clever minds put together in a short period of times could solve.”

“What comes out of the end is something that actually is going to do good for the city or for the world,” Lunn added.

That second benefit of the event from PayPal’s perspective is the opportunity to get direct feedback from developers about the company’s APIs.

Developers need to employ one of PayPal or Braintree’s APIs in their entry, or an API of one of PayPal’s partners for the event.

“We have JustGiving coming as well and bringing their APIs along,” Lunn said.

“We have developers with us for 24 hours using our APIs, using our software, using our tools and we get an amazing amount of feedback in that short period of time,” he added.

Braintree’s One Touch mobile checkout was debuted at last year’s BattleHack event, Lunn said.

“Developers got to experience our brand new product there and then — we were able to get direct feedback on what worked, what didn’t work, could this bit of documentation be done better. You know, a variety of different things directly from their mouths over a 24 hour period and that’s incredibly useful for us.”

Building the community of developers around PayPal is “hugely important” for the payments company, Lunn said.

“Every single merchant or site that takes PayPal needs a developer to install it. Someone needs to write that code to connect that merchant or that website or whatever to PayPal in order to do transactions. And those people are developers.

“By getting them excited by the community, getting them involved in the products we build, it means that when a client comes to them or they’re building their own website or they’re working in a business and someone says ‘okay we need to do payments’, then they think ‘oh there’s these cool PayPal or Braintree APIS that I’ve used at the hackathon.”

The winning team will be flown Silicon Valley to compete for a US$100,000 prize. Developers can enter as individuals or as teams with up to four members.

PayPal doesn’t receive any of the IP rights to entries, Lunn said.

“Everyone in my team is a hacker, so we all came from this environment and we knew what we liked doing and we knew what we didn’t like,” he said

“I’ve been running hackathons for nearly seven years now and I know what turns developers off — like coming to an event where they try to rip your app off or they just use it as a way to generate ideas for their own business.”

There are no salespeople or recruiters at the event, Lunn said.

“All those things are things that annoyed me and my team when we went to other people’s hackathons,” Lunn said.

The event begins at 10am tomorrow, at the Plaza Ballroom, 191 Collins Street, in Melbourne.

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