NYC's BigApps Challenge

Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced yesterday that New York City was joining the open government movement with a challenge to developers to build apps using open government data.

The challenge is called BigApps (a take on "Big Apple" in case anyone missed that). It will be run by NYC startup ChallengePost. Here's how it works:

Developers compete to build apps "in keeping with New York City's drive to become more transparent, accessible, and accountable and an easier place to live, work and play"


$ 20,000 in cash prizes.

Plus lunch with Mayor Bloomberg and tons of public appreciation.

Here's the timeline:

Competition Submission Period Begins:
5:00pm EST October 6, 2009

Competition Submission Period Ends:
5:00pm EST December 8, 2009

Public Voting Period Begins:
12:00pm EST December 15, 2009

Public Voting Period Ends:
5:00pm EST January 7, 2010

Judging Period:
December 15, 2009 – January 7, 2010

Awards Ceremony:
TBD date in January 2010

And here is the judging panel:

  • Dawn Barber (NY Tech Meetup)
  • John Borthwick (Betaworks)
  • Jason Calacanis (Mahalo)
  • Paul Cosgrave (NYC Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications)
  • Esther Dyson (EDVentures)
  • Lawrence Lenihan (FirstMark Capital)
  • Kevin Ryan (Gilt Groupe)
  • Danny Schultz (DFJ Gotham Ventures)
  • Fred Wilson (Union Square Ventures)

I'm excited to be part of this. I've written about the opportunity to use the web and open data to redefine and reinvent government, particularly local government. This is just the start of an important movement.

If you are a developer who wants to compete, click here and get started.

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Comments (Archived):

  1. Guest

    Cool! I wish we could have stg like this in Budapest, Hungary also 🙂

  2. David Smuts

    Credit to NYC for this novell approach to innovation. It’s great to see local governments doing what they can to foster innovation. We have something similar here in the UK with rewired state… but I like the financial element of the NYC method. Thanks for sharing Fred

  3. kidmercury

    i am under the impression the prize money comes from nyc local tax dollars?remember bloomberg is a billionaire thug who thinks he’s above the constitution, attacking both the first amendment (via an attempted camera ban) and the second amendment with all the anti-gun laws, and his preposterous claim that the 2nd amendment does not apply to nyc. bloomberg is dishonorable and a shame, he is supposed to help protect the constitution, not help destroy it.jdawg is a judge… luckily fred and esther dyson are on the panel, so credibility is still preserved.

    1. fredwilson

      hatin’ on both jason and mike today kid? i’m a big fan of both of them.

      1. kidmercury

        i always have to hate on bloomberg because him and his goons continue to threaten 9/11 truth, as mayor of nyc to do that i find for jdawg, lol, as we learned in the classic kid mercury jam “jason calacanis and michael arrington, stop hatin’ on howard lindzon and the truth,” jdawg has hated on 9/11 truth, and so i will always diss him for that, until he corrects his, but with jdawg i gotta admit i am just having some fun, he has a big ego so i love to joke around with those types of folks. the internet is a big trap for them, because it will feed their ego, but to make money off of it, it will require a more service-oriented disposition.fred you are everyone’s friend, you are even friends with me. so of course you are fans of them

        1. fredwilson

          I think it is good business to be friends with everyone who is not a crook or some other sort of bad person

          1. kidmercury

            yes, you are a business extrovert. i am a business introvert: i am friends with few, but i can do business with most everyone. at some point in the future i hope to enable jdawg’s mahalo bucks to be converted into the other virtual currencies i am working with, as well as the virtual currency exchange i plan to build some day. i will still sing my song while i am working out the deal with jdawg, so it won’t affect business, but will generate laughs (at least for me), which is always a very high priority.

    2. Dave Pinsen

      Scarily enough, I agree with you on one point, Bloomberg’s lack of respect for the Second Amendment. But most New Yorkers probably share Bloomberg’s views on that, and he seems to be doing a pretty good job as mayor. As for him being a billionaire, I think we could use more self-made billionaires in government.

      1. kidmercury

        you are probably a closet kook dave. don’t worry most people are closet kooks, kookology is just common sense that has been kept hidden. thomas jefferson said the beauty of the second amendment is that its importance won’t be revealed until someone tries to take it from you. genius!you can only say bloomberg is legit if you are ignoring 9/11 truth, which of course most people are. but the bill for that is about to come due. the dollar is toast, the inevitable consequence of an imperial agenda and a willfully ignorant population.of course as this mess progresses i urge all to remember what your good buddy kid mercury has told you, which is that the solution for this whole mess is virtual currencies and virtual worlds/social gaming. that’s the meal ticket to freeconomics and the promised land it enables. but the price is peace and the truth. we won’t get there without paying the price, nor should we, as that would be stealing.

      2. fredwilson

        Many of the founding fathers were wealthy and doing public service for some of the same reasons bloomberg is doing it

        1. Dave Pinsen

          Nothing wrong with that.

        2. kidmercury

          lol you conveniently overlooked the fact that the founding fathers listed the bill of rights in order of importance, and bloomberg has gone after both #1 and #2. also, the founding fathers lost a lot of money because the british empire ruined the US economy because its imperial agenda resulted in currency problems. i don’t see bloomberg making that same fight, but rather fighting against those who are looking to make a real difference.but none of that matters. 9/11 was an inside job, so long as you guys keep ignoring that simple, obvious, and irrefutable truth it will be easy to continue justifying whatever viewpoint you want, regardless of how factually unsupported it may be.

  4. Dave Pinsen

    This post reminded me of Kaleil Isaza Tuzman, so I Binged him. Looks like he’s running a public company now. Maybe I’ll short a few shares of it.

    1. fredwilson

      Send me the ticker and I’ll join you

      1. Dave Pinsen

        Just e-mailed it to you.

  5. rosshill

    It’s really awesome to see these contests popping up everywhere. In Australia we have that has just kicked off to promote mashups using open government data. It’s going to be great to see what emerges from them.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      When the RBA raised interest rates earlier this week, Bloomberg TV put up a slide comparing Australia’s economic stats to ours. Ouch. Australia might be the best-run developed country in the world right now.

      1. stevehopkins

        Yeah, it’s interesting to watch how the economy rebounds. Have a read of this if you get a moment…Steve Keen is the man when it comes to economic assessment.…Things here are going quite well, but I think we are simply speeding up the rate and number of ‘crashes’ we have.

        1. Dave Pinsen

          Keen seems a little too critical, no? You don’t think the latest Australian jobs report validates the RBA’s decision to raise rates?

      2. fredwilson

        All my currency trader friends have been long australia and are getting longer

        1. Fred

          Aussie dollar for the win!

        2. Dave Pinsen

          I’ve told my mother she should consider buying one of those Australian dollar-denominated CDs via Everbank.

          1. kidmercury

            you’re a good son. i offered to buy my mom’s gold necklace for $50.

        3. kidmercury

          YEAH YEAH! it’s going to 9850, hope all will come along for the ride.

  6. Mark Essel

    Hey this is a pretty fascinating opportunity!Who wants to collaborate and help me build something that leverages mobile technology, information, and safety. I’ve got a concept for a simple website interface or iPhone push application that alerts participants to accidents, delays or planned closures of public transportation or highways. It will have to be remotely updated by a federated network of users that submit update in real time. The application will use the location of the device (if available) and need not be tied to one city. Like FourSquare the potential locations for this application is anywhere users want to contribute updates on.I’ll begin working on this project tonight, and am looking for project co-contributors that are familiar with creating iPhone apps, or easy to navigate websites. I suspect the entire project will take no more than 300hours to build a functional version, tied to our ability to leverage existing data structures (maps).

    1. Mark Essel

      If we have to use 2week old data, this DOA. But, if we can use a public API to update in realtime (or an external database) this is feasible. Desirability by users, still unknown.

      1. whitneymcn

        Hey, Mark -As a starting point you might take a look at the work that was done on DIY Traffic, one of the tools that came out of John Geraci’s DIY City project:…The data comes mostly from Yahoo’s traffic API, but it also allows for user-provided data via Twitter, and (as I recall, haven’t looked at the code in a while) it’s a relatively straightforward matter to add additional data sources.

    2. fredwilson

      Neat idea. Good luck with it

      1. Mark Essel

        Ideas are easy, as you know Fred.Its that thing that comes after that’s a killer, building something!

        1. stephen

          Closed scheduling data, followed by threats of lawsuits, followed by bad press is what led to the New South Wales government in Australia to open up their data (and run a 100k challenge).

  7. bijan

    This is awesome.I gotta work on bringing this to Boston(btw I’m commenting using Twitter login from my iPhone. Couldn’t be easier!)

    1. fredwilson

      The iphone has a native twitter app now?

  8. whitneymcn

    This is great, but I was a little sobered (not surprised, I guess, but sobered) to see how much of the “raw data” available for building apps is excel spreadsheets that are updated once every couple of weeks.Making the data available at all is a HUGE first step, but it does underline the fact that while “just give us a feed of the data and let us do the rest” sounds like a simple answer from an outside, tech-centric perspective, a whole lot has to happen within government for that feed to exist in the first place.On the plus side, though, talking about it with a couple of people last night, these limitations did help us come up with one awesome project: an app that converts excel spreadsheets into a JSON feed. 😉

    1. fredwilson

      Excellent. There is an israeli startup called dapper that used to do that but now they’ve morphed into some sort of online advertising tech company

  9. rbrke

    Glad, but not surprised, to see NYC take an entirely different approach than the MTA initially took(MetroNorth riders could use an App challenge!):NYT: MTA Is Easing Its Strict, Sometimes Combative, Approach to Outside Web DevelopersMICHAEL M. GRYNBAUMPublished: September 27, 2009 For months, entrepreneurial software designers have tried to create programs that ease the hassle of getting around New York. But in many instances, the designers encountered an unexpected bug: the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.The agency would demand thousands of dollars in fees and might also send a cease-and-desist order to the digital doorsteps of local developers who used system timetables, maps and routes in their applications. The developers said they were only trying to improve the system; the authority warned of copyright infringement and intellectual property theft.

    1. fredwilson

      Wow. The mta should be ashamed of themselves

    2. Mark Essel

      This could be a problem to what i proposed above.

  10. mikencube

    I wish success for this movement

  11. ShanaC

    Love it. I really do. Bureaucratic systems deal with the worst software. Trying to jump over the bureaucracy to get something done is the worst. Crowdsourcing to better software, and hopefully getting people into conversations about what makes for good software, will hopefully make all sorts of people more efficient. Thank you to the person who came up with this idea.Throwing out a piece of advice, for those who are going to do this: Do a day or two of pavement pounding, as if you were an anthropologist or an investigative journalist. I’m sure NYC would equally appreciate something for some obscure department, such as the people who hand out building permits and make sure buildings don’t fall down in the process, alongside the really obvious consumer to city 411 type stuff. Most of us have NO IDEA what three quarters (if not more) of what city agencies do. Now is a good chance to find out.I mean, how many people here know there is a database of all the documents relating to all the buildings in Manhattan for Dirt Lawyers? (Friend of mine in law school) Search information like that out!

  12. Dan

    Someone on HN noted that the possibility of $5K and lunch with the mayor isn’t much. That’s almost like saying YC is a rip-off because you get $15K for 6% equity. Here is why I think this is a great idea: – If you win anything, you’ll likely get some media attention – If you win anything, you’ll also build a rep with those who are already reputable – Both of the above mean you have your foot in the door to some extent, so you may be able to shoot off an email to someone with your latest project and they’ll know who you are. – Whether you win or not, you can still apply the freemium model to your app as the rules imply that this is allowed. “[City will maintain a royalty free license to] Utilize for noncommercial purposes submitted versions of applications for a period of 12 months following the Submission deadline.” Since you still own the IP, you may go ahead and develop more advanced versions and earn revenue for yourself.Those are reasons for the developer. Obviously it is great for the city in many ways.

    1. fredwilson

      So true. I really think this is a win/win for everyone

  13. Wesley Barrow

    I have to admit, after attending the NY Tech Meetup last night, hearing about the NYC BigApps challenge and watching your presentation on NYC’s startup scene a few days back, I am really excited about this ecosystem.

    1. fredwilson

      We’ve got the ball rolling downhill now. But we still have to deliver the goods

  14. Carl Rahn Griffith

    This is great stuff.So many of us live relatively insular lives nowadays, a sense of community is all to rare and is the reason behind many of our social woes – we are all stakeholders in our communities, regardless of whether we are passive or proactive within them. The one thing we all have in common – the only thing, really – is our environment: local, regional, national, international.For far too long ‘Government’ has been anonymous. Cold, detached, autocratic – this could usher in a whole new era of accountability and interaction, fostering a real sense of community.UN next!

  15. NICCAI

    Very cool. Vancouver has a mandate to open data also. Would have been cool if this was “open” to others outside of the United States.