NYC BigApps 3.0

I've been involved with NYC BigApps since its creation three years ago. It's a great program. NYC opens up some of its data sources to developers who use the data to build new mobile and web apps. The judges vote on them (I'm one of the judges) and there are prizes awareded which total $50,000. A number of startups have come out of this program and I've met quite a few great developers through this effort.

The submissions for year three are in and they are solicting public opinion on them here. There are 96 apps this year to be considered so that's a lot of product to review. You don't have to review all of them (I do) so just go take a look and let the organizers know which ones you think are the best. There are nine days left in the voting phase. There are two popular choice awards that will be given based on the public voting.

All the winners will be announced at the annual BigApps event in late March.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Robert Thuston

    The ones that don’t win could always transfer to kickstarter. ¬†What’s the story behind the folks that apply to something like this – students?

    1. fredwilson

      all sorts. many are developers who have day jobs and these are their nights and weekends projects

      1. William Mougayar

        I’m sure they are doing this not just for the $50K, but because they also get recognized and it opens other doors for them.

        1. Viktor Marohnic

          My company did one because we like to be a part of the competition and the buzz. We took the last year winning idea and turned it into the app. We are eager to see the reactions and would love to develop it further if there is some interest.… thought that you might be interested in one of the devs perspective ūüôā

          1. William Mougayar

            Cool. What benefits did that provide you?

          2. Viktor Marohnic

            So far only the fact that we had a mini project inside a company which people were excited about. They had totally free hands on it and if we win they will take the prize.I think it is a great learning for devs to try to build app from start to end by themselves and compete with the best guys out there.

          3. Robert Thuston

            Thanks for sharing the dev perspective.  I like this.

        2. Robert Thuston

          makes sense

    2. Cam MacRae

      Developers are complex beasts: Many, but not all of the good ones create just to create.¬†Others hack on what interests them in their free time because they’re constrained in the workplace.



        1. another cultural landslide

          +1.¬†If you do it because you want the rewards, you’re¬†already screwed.¬†Do it because you can’t imagine life being worth living without your being able to create the thing that’s making you burn. The other stuff will follow.

        2. Robert Thuston

          Looking forward to wearing this poster on my wall, as well as the inside of my mind. ¬†I’m reading the KS updates – liking them – the fact you were thinking about the sword hilts with red tubing cracked me up for a couple days.

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

            ME GLAD YOU LIKE.

    3. Joel Natividad

      For us, it was the catalyst that got us off our butt to finally go the startup route.¬†And with NYC aggressively pushing its Digital Roadmap (…, and Bloomberg being one of the original data geeks, we knew that NYC had all the right ingredients in place.So yes, we’ll still be around after NYCBigApps. ¬†We’re using it as an accelerator (nothing focuses the mind like a deadline ūüôā ) and to connect with our target community as well.

      1. Robert Thuston

        Thanks for sharing. ¬†Like the bit about “deadlines” – rings true.

  2. John Best

    The variety and inventiveness is staggering. What are the judging criteria? Some of them look great, but I don’t know how much longevity they’d have – i.e. the data utilisation looks good, but they seem like they’d only need to be used once.

    1. Alastair Coote

      The web site states the judging criteria as: “Quality of the Idea, Implementation of the Idea, ¬†Potential Impact and Potential for Commercialization”.Agree that there is an incredible variety, though. My submission is based around taxi travel- how do you judge that and an promote shared gardens in the city against each other?! It’ll be interesting to see the outcome.There are some great apps (VoterFriendly, Altruicity) that may trip on the ‘potential for commercialization’ criteria. A shame, as I think they’re fantastic concepts that deserve a lot of attention. Perhaps NYC should launch an “NYC ForThePublicGood Apps” program…

      1. Ryan Frew

        Is CabEasy your submission? That’s hands down the best app that I’ve seen among the contestants. You could build an entire company around this. It’s intuitive and if you use the right go-to-market strategy and create a model that is attractive to the cab companies, this app will easily scale on a national level in a market that is ripe for innovation.¬†

        1. Alastair Coote

          …it isn’t, no (d’oh)- but I think what you’re saying applies to my plans for my entry as well (it’s called Taxonomy:¬†…¬†)It’s designed as a taxi “assistant”- right now it allows people to get street intersections for destinations, get a fare estimate and track their trip (to share with friends). Negotiating with cab companies to provide live bookings in the app was a little beyond the scope (and time limit) of the NYC BigApps contest, but it’s definitely where I want to take Taxonomy in the future. Standing on a street corner hailing a cab seems incredibly inefficient- I want to fix it!¬†

          1. Ryan Frew

            Haha, my mistake Alastair. You still have a great app on your hands, though. Fantastic UI. A great deal of creativity obviously went into the production of Taxonomy and there are some excellent ideas here. Hell of a slick website too, actually, considering the simplicity. Congratulations on this. You got my vote.

          2. Alastair Coote

            Thanks! As they say, watch this space…

        2. Lou Carpino

          Thanks Ryan! I’m glad you like our CabEasy app!

        3. Lou Carpino

          We actually released our CabCorner app about in May 2010 and CabyEasy is an natural brand extension of the TaxiSharing concept. Would love your feedback & vote!

  3. RichardF

    I’d have voted for cidar if I didn’t have to log in with facebook or register to vote

    1. Cam MacRae

      I also like cidar. (And cider, but I digress). SKY7 NYC Parking Rules looks pretty cool too.

      1. RichardF

        I love a pint of scrumpy in the summer…

        1. Cam MacRae

          Chilled in the summer, warmed in the winter ūüôā

      2. Morgan Warstler

        Cidar +1If only someone would hook up to an app so we could rate individual NY’ers.:)

    2. Fernando Gutierrez

      Yeah, that’s really inconvenient. On the other side, I’ve seen recently how online voting turns into a competition about who has more bots. I know very little about this, but maybe FB is a more secure way… although I guess you can also automate the creation of FB accounts.BTW, after with weekend match maybe it’s time to change avatar to Wales flag again?

      1. RichardF

        I’m sure your are right about bots Fernando but there has to be a better way than Facebook.I don’t like Facebook and I don’t like the current trend for “sign in with Facebook or Twitter and we’ll suck every bit of data we possibly can about you without telling you”ps – I think you are right about changing my avatar back to the Welsh Flag, it needs to be done!

        1. Ryan Frew

          This movement is completely foreign to me. I got sick of my Facebook and deactivated it, and then had to create a fake account just so I could continue to use services like Spotify or vote on Challenge Post. There is nothing smooth about forcing your customers to engage with an entirely different company.”Want to shop at Wal-Mart? Great! But you can only shop here if you arrive in a Ford”¬†“Want to vote on Challenge Post? Great! But you can only vote if you sign in with Facebook”Perhaps that analogy isn’t apples-to-apples but the point is clear. You will lose engagement if you force users to bring a third, ideally unrelated party to the mix.

          1. fredwilson


          2. Brandon Kessler

            You can vote and sign in with ChallengePost or Facebook, your choice. We do need sign up though or else votes would mostly be fraudulent.

          3. Bill DeMuro

             Actually you can create a Challenge Post login to vote, but I have received the same feedback from supporters, even when using the fb connect as the fb warning after sign-in spooks most users from completing the process.

          4. FAKE GRIMLOCK


    3. LE

      Same (not for cidar though) I didn’t want to login with facebook either and agree there has to be a better way. Otherwise the results are skewed.¬†

    4. Alastair Coote

      I wrote a few blog posts about my entry that picked up a lot of traffic on Reddit and Hacker News, but received extremely few votes from it- overwhelmingly, people said they didn’t vote for the same reason as you.It’s difficult, though. Just yesterday ChallengePost sent out an e-mail to all entrants about the “do’s and don’ts of public voting”, stating that they will examine votes and remove fraudulent ones. If people don’t register it would be very difficult to detect fraud (I suspect it’ll be difficult anyway)… so I suspect there’s no easy answer here.

      1. RichardF

        It would be dead simple to create a light verification service, even I as a menial hacker could do it.  The harder part would be around adoption and a business model to make it sustainable (and worthwhile)

  4. William Mougayar

    It’s a great way to spur further innovation for NYC Tech.¬†But their web site for reviewing them is dreadful. They needed something like KickStumbler to flip through them.¬†

    1. Brandon Kessler

      Hey William, thanks for the feedback. You can filter submissions easily by category, platform, mobile vs desktop. You can search. You can also sort by name, votes, or by random choice. This makes discovery pretty straightforward while not disadvantaging contestants by featuring one over the other.But I like the suggestion for a stumble-like discover feature. We’ll give it some thought. Keep em coming anytime: brandon at challengepost dot com

      1. William Mougayar

        Hi Brandon- I didn’t mean it in a negative way, but I found it time consuming to dig into the Apps. If you have 20 mins, that’s great, but if 5 mins that was tough. Could we preview more than 9 per page? That was the tough part. Or in browse mode, with a Next/Previous button.

        1. Brandon Kessler

          Hi William, there is a next/previous mode. When you click on any app you have next/previous in the top right.

    2. awaldstein

      Great point.Innovation in discovering information is where we need the most focus and creativity.¬†No one’s network is large enough. Helping me find new engagements is more valuable than discovering the information itself.Connections are the new information.

      1. William Mougayar

        I.’m having fun demoing at NYTM now

  5. Tom Labus

    That one for renters could be really helpful when you know zip about a neighborhood or building except what the broker is telling you

    1. Sam Bauch

      There are a few that use the same data set/have the same concept you describe, but I built for the contest, so hopefully you’re talking about that one!

      1. Tom Labus

        Good luck. Hope it flies for you!!

  6. Phillip Trotter

    Wow some great apps and neat ideas. For those of us outside NYC it is also very interesting to see just how well the BigApps competition has engaged the developer community and illustrates the potential of the city as data platform concept as a driver for innovation and growth. 

  7. JimHirshfield

    96 seems overwhelming…although it is encouraging to see that much interest and innovation here in NYC.

  8. Jon Michael Miles

    @fredwilson:disqus¬†FYI –¬†…

    1. fredwilson

      thanks. i hadn’t seen that

      1. leigh

        you refer to a report from the UK on copyright — do you have a link or name reference for it? ¬†

        1. fredwilson

          you can download the report on the right side of this web page…

  9. Cynthia Schames

    Does anyone know if CooCoo was originally a NYC Big Apps app? ¬†It’s one of my favorite apps ever.

    1. William Mougayar

      I was thinking of the same for HopStop, another great NYC App.

    2. Alastair Coote

      As far as I’m aware, neither CooCoo nor HopStop were BigApps entries. Though interestingly, the MTA has just finished a partnership with ChallengePost to encourage transit app creation:¬†The winner, Embark, is fantastic.

  10. Alan Minor

    After the competition ends, I’d love to read a follow-up post with you chronicling your experiences testing out some of these apps.I bet you’d be willing to do this, but would you be permitted to do so?

  11. Max Yoder

    Am I right to think that these developers aren’t set to make any long-term profits off of their creations? That is, do they just take home a prize and hand over the IP?

    1. jrallison

      Hello Max,Anyone submitting to NYC BigApps retains all IP for their submissions.  From the rules:Contestants will own the intellectual property rights to their Submission but the City, Sponsors and Administrator will maintain a royalty free license to, without limitation: a) Post the Submissions on; b) Make the Submissions available for the course of the Competition and 12 months after the conclusion of the Competition Submission Period; and c) Utilize the Submissions for noncommercial purposes for a period of 12 months after the conclusion of the Competition Submission Period.

      1. Max Yoder

        Good deal. Thank you for the help!

    2. fredwilson

      nope. quite a few real companies have emerged from this

    3. Richard

      Don’t conflate intellectual CAPITAL with intellectual property. ¬†At this app level the former will be worth much more than the latter. Capitalize on the ¬†the experience ¬†and the learning process.¬†

      1. Max Yoder

        Right on.

  12. Brandon Marker

    All of the volunteer apps being created say a lot about y’alls city.

    1. Alan Minor

      I think it says a lot about how inefficient the current method of learning about volunteer opportunities is — not just in NYC but everywhere. Additionally, it points to how difficult getting into position to volunteer can be.People want to volunteer. However, there are a number of barriers that prevent them from doing so. In my experience, the two biggest barriers are: (1) a lack of quality information about local volunteer opportunities and (2) time commitment issues.Getting beyond those two barriers is the first step though. For opportunities that don’t accept walk-ins/drop-ins, you need to contact the volunteer opportunity provider, go through some sort of screening process and then set up a time to volunteer.

      1. Ryan Frew

        As a shameless plug, I’m founding a company that aims to alleviate these problems in the United States ( You’re correct about lack of information. It is not only a problem on a local level, but on the international level as well. Time commitment issues only exist within the fact that some volunteer coordinators like to operate on a structured basis, while volunteers need flexibility.¬†

        1. Alan Minor

          I agree: volunteers need flexibility. I also believe organizations need to do a better job of meeting prospective volunteers halfway — or more than they currently do. Here’s an op-ed that makes a lot of good points: luck with your venture.

  13. Morgan

    PulseNYC seems like a great app. It’s the only app that made me stay longer than 10 seconds, watching its video review/tutorial.

  14. Sam Bauch

    Agree that this is a great initiative. Entered last year and this year, and the ChallengePost team has done a great job growing the contest, adding a hackathon and partner APIs this year.And the City has done an amazing job with data! There’s so much more data this year, a great trend that should continue.I think it’s worth linking to the NYC Open Data catalog-¬†http://nycopendata.socrata….

  15. ShanaC

    Autolike this one:…Chicago has had a website for a very long time about all the art they have downtown with histories. ¬†why doesn’t NY?

  16. Dan Blumberg

    Scene Near Me is a promising app.¬† It alerts you on your mobile phone when you check in¬† near a famous film or TV shoot.¬† (Full disclosure: I am one of the founders.)¬†My team met each other and built Scene Near Me over 36 hours at the hackathon sponsored by NYC Big Apps at the outset of the contest.¬† We’ve been making improvements ever since and have bigger plans…Check us out.¬† Without any shame, I declare that our 2min video is by far the most entertaining of the 96.¬† (Mr. Stay Puft, anyone?)…

    1. Riley Harrison

      That’s a great promo (and a good product)! Good luck.

      1. Dan Blumberg

        Glad you like the app and enjoyed the video.  Both have been a lot of fun to produce. 

    2. LE

      Great app. Hope you go forward with this and don’t limit it to only film and TV.

    3. fredwilson

      great ideaNYC tourism board really ought to create an app store or at least an app directory (since you can’t build third party app stores on iOS) for great tourism apps for NYC

      1. Bill DeMuro

         Fred,The MTA has done this post their App Challenge last month ( with a free listing in an app directory.  I have seen a slight uptick in our app (TrainSmoker) downloads since we went live in their app center a few weeks ago even though we placed 13th in that challenge.

      2. Dan Blumberg

        Thrilled you like the idea!¬† Hope to talk to you about Scene Near Me as soon as our “silent period” (a.k.a. the Big Apps contest) ends…

      3. KenHoinsky

        Agreed, tourism is ripe for disruption.

  17. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    Entangled …¬†

  18. kidmercury

    i been thinking a lot about electric vehicles lately. one idea i came to is that electric vehicles can find an initial customer base with vehicles used almost exclusively for short trips with no variations (i.e. same route every time) because those customers are less sensitive to failings of electric vehicles while also most likely to appreciate its cost savings. businesses in the nyc area and its connected outer boroughs may find some opportunities here.¬†then i started thinking about how that opportunity could best be actualized. i think the value network might include mechanics who can convert gas cars to electric. i think there’s a chance to setup the transaction between the mechanic and the customer so as get an OS and some pre-installed apps in the car too. maybe install a tablet in the computer while doing the other work. in this way the transition from oil to electric could provide an opportunity for the location-based app ecosystem.ideally, the app/tablet could find a way to subsidize some or all of the conversion fees for the customer.¬†i think google and amazon are ecosystems that can be built atop of here. probably a lot of opportunity here for funds in this space to create value by connecting their portfolio companies and getting all their mobile apps pre-installed on converted vehicles.¬†anyway, wanted to share that as a thought related to the opportunity in city apps.¬†

    1. PhilipSugar

      In the flyover states this is called our commute.My commute varies less than one minute (less than 3%) every single day.

      1. kidmercury

        yes. in that regards i think we’ll see households with multiple cars designate one as a commuter vehicle they can electrify in the next few years. i think some type of organized car pooling systems will emerge too, and they think are also good candidates for electric vehicles.

        1. PhilipSugar

          The best “hybrid” if you are a two car family is where you have one pure electric and one pure fossil fuel.You use the electric for the normal commute and if one of you has to run errands, go on a trip you use the fossil fuel.In this way you only incur the costs/maintenance with one of each versus two of each.

    2. kidmercury

      also i think what nuru internatioanl is is doing is very interesting, and sheds insight into how cities might be re-wired after the economic collapse and re-birth is done playing out.¬†…

    3. fredwilson

      i am going to need an electric vehicle soon in NYCthey have closed the four nearest gas stations to me in the past yeari think there are only 40 left in all of manhattan and there are only a couple in lower manhattan left

      1. kidmercury

        the switch to EVs is really where we can see disruptive theory play out, in my opinion. it is a sub-par product that could become profitable if it can find the right customer segment, and brings a whole new value network with it. vanadium is a mineral i think could really benefit, i think it’ll be used more in EV batteries. but the disruption in energy is what emerges after great depression 2.0.

      2. Teasla

        we just launched today, lol

  19. laurie kalmanson

    the “alternate side parking is suspended for holiday X” is awesome — you need an app to keep track of it.

  20. Joel Natividad

    NYCFacets Smart Open Data Exchange is our startup’s submission. ¬†¬†I describe it as an “Big Open Data Innovation Accelerator”. ¬†It helps Smart City innovators focus on executing their ideas by cataloguing all “Data that is NYC” and squeezing all the metadata from these sources.The “Smart” comes from a process we call “Crowdknowing” – leveraging metadata + derived metadata (derived using semantics, statistics, algorithm & the crowd) to score each dataset from various perspectives, automatically correlate them, and in the near future, perform semi-automatic domain mapping. ¬†¬†We only had time to index the NYC Open Data Catalog (http://nycopendata.socrata…., but ultimately, we want want to catalog all kinds of datasources related to NYC (e.g. APIs, Linked Data, external DBs, etc.) and allow federated queries/feeds (mashups) against this collated dataspace.In a nutshell, ¬†we want to equip innovators with next-generation jackhammers to mine NYC Data Gold!Check us out –

  21. Richard

    Fred – it would be nice to know about which NYC Data source each app has tapped into? I think that this could influence ones vote. Scene near me looks like a fun app, but what NYC data source are they tapped into?

    1. Bill DeMuro

      I assume ‘scene’ used this data set http://nycopendata.socrata….We are required to list the data set on submission, but it would be beneficial to list this in the descriptions as you have suggested. We utilized the Parks, Beaches and Boardwalks data sets for our NYCsmokeOUT submission.

      1. Dan Blumberg

        ¬†Yes.¬† That dataset was our starting point and gave us a proof of concept.When we entered the contest we had to indicate which data sets we used in a separate field from our app description.¬† However, it seems ChallengePost decided not to make this field public (probably because for Joe User it really doesn’t matter).

      2. Richard

        I like the app, thought not for the purpose of giving smokers a heads up to avoid a fine, but for putting NYCityers up for the challenge of making your app obsolete by making the entire city smoke free. Maybe add an tool for people to email their representative about getting the smoking permitted zone, smoke free! Keep a tally, male it social. Do that and you have my vote!

        1. Bill DeMuro

          Rich,Your view is a little extreme “making the entire city smoke free”. You will have to ban all incinerators, furnaces and vehicles to accomplish a smoke-free city.It’s not just about avoiding the fine, the app also serves non-smokers by aiding them to inform violators of the outdoor smoking ban areas. This feature was incorporated to aid in the city’s desire not to fine but utilize NYC residents as the primary enforcement team. The smoking ban is not enforced by NYPD, just the under-staffed Parks’ employees.

    2. Alastair Coote

      Scene Near Me is a testament to how diverse the NYC datasets are- I would have never imagined that the city kept a database of filming locations, what films they were used for, and when. But they do.My submission (Taxonomy) uses their database of taxi drivers (http://nycopendata.socrata…. ) for the review section- it allows me to tie reviews to specific drivers, and pick out the best and worst in the city. It also uses the city’s street centerline and roadbed geodata to make some custom map tiles. Pretty fun/educational experience.

      1. Richard

        Awesome – Ill check it out. Add some taxi mileage totals. It is always the first question that i ask the driver. It always amazes me to see a three year old taxi and 250K miles on it!

        1. Alastair Coote

          Thanks! I’m happy with the way it’s turned out, but still have a lot of future plans. Unfortunately, we can’t make any changes for the duration of the BigApps judging, so the next version is still in the gate for now.Nice suggestion on the mileage- would you believe that’s never occurred to me before now? I imagine the totals for some of the older cabs must be incredible…

      2. jason wright

        Tourism for film fans.

    3. Dan Blumberg

      Glad you like Scene Near Me…Among all the data about taxis, crime, fires, parks, and what not, there was a database of film locations.¬† We built the first version of Scene Near Me using this database.¬† Since then, we’ve been adding new locations and more content to our database (including in other cities to be named later).¬†All of the entries rely on a NYC database in one way or another.¬† ChallengePost (the administrator of the contest) ruled invalid any submissions that did not use open data.

      1. Richard

        Hi Dan РThat is helpful. It looked, at first, that  the foursquare api was the meat of the app and that you put together a good database of films. But, good for you  for seeing the database of film locations and asking yourself what can i do with this? Sometimes innovation is just a matter of looking, and looking and looking. Your amazing brain machine learning algorithm will jump in at some point and give you nudge that you have found something.