In the next part of our series, I had the pleasure to chat with Team Quantummy, winner of our Best Solution – Greater China Area prize and overall 2nd Place in our main SummerHack category. I chatted with Natasha Gibe, Derek Jones, and their Mentor Tommy Kim about the team’s two-time winning solution and how staying awake the whole 24 hours helped them develop their idea!
Natasha, Derek, and Tommy, thank you for joining us today and congratulations on winning in 2 major categories! Before we talk about the incredible experience and outcome, we’d love to know more about you.
Natasha: I live in Toronto and I work in contract software development. I have been in the industry for less than a year now — I actually transitioned from dentistry into software development!
Derek: I live in Toronto as well and work in software development. I work for a SaaS startup called Uberflip and I have been in the industry for over 7 years.
Tommy: I have been in the Property and Casualty insurance industry for almost in 8 years now, and am currently working as a Senior Actuarial Analyst at Munich Reinsurance.
Thank you for the intro! Tell us, what inspired you to join SummerHack 2020?
Natasha: We enjoyed the last hackathon we joined on Hackworks, and so I went on the platform and searched the upcoming hackathons they were supporting. I came across the IoT SummerHack 2020, and asked Derek if he wanted to join. Registrations were closing on the same night, so we signed up!
Looking at your double-win, that was definitely a good call! How did you prepare for the 24-hour event?
Derek: We didn’t prep too much, but we did try to learn about the insurance industry. We watched some YouTube videos and learned the basics of how insurance works and some common terms, like what an actuary is. There were all these things that we didn’t know about, and that was our prep. It wasn’t super extensive, it was learning the basics. We tried to learn about IoT trends as well.
Which of the three challenges did you choose, and why?
Natasha: We choose to tackle the small business challenge around how small businesses manage risks that they are exposed to. We related to this one the most, especially seeing small businesses in Toronto that were highly affected by COVID-19.
Could you walk us through the process of how you developed your solution?
Derek: Everything was remote, so the Zoom call was up and running. We had our webcams on all the time and collaborated with Tommy, which was really cool. We checked in with each other every hour or so. We talked about our workflow pretty early on; we decided to spend a lot of time understanding the problems that small businesses face, which would really be useful at the end of the day. We went ahead and discarded a lot of ideas through the first 12 hours, so we really only started solidifying and forming a more developed solution around midnight. We ended up staying awake the whole 24 hours to get to the final product — I don’t think we had any naps!
Tommy: Most of the focus was placed on empathy. Team Quantummy was more practical and realistic rather than visionary. We really understood the pain points of the small business owners, and we tried to simulate that and research to get to the exact point that we were heading to. At the end of the 24 hours, it was very effective. Our team was very confident and we were able to achieve that delivery.
On that note, tell us about how your mentor supported you throughout the journey.
Natasha: Tommy was on the Zoom call basically the whole time. He had such high energy the entire time, and he even stayed up the entire 24 hours! He taught us a lot about how the industry works and shared some links to studies and data that helped support our solution. He was a really great guide for us.
Tommy: Well, thank you!
It’s really great to hear about the collaboration and commitment within your team! It definitely paid off, because your solution was clearly a crowd favorite. Could you explain the concept of your solution for us?
Derek: The specific problem that we zoomed in on was that small businesses are very exposed to risks within their supply chains. Supply chains can get pretty complicated, and most small business owners are not experts at evaluating risk. Our solution was to create a certification program and an application that would end up creating a database of suppliers that are following industry best practices and risk prevention. Essentially, it would be a database of really low risk suppliers. Primarily, it focused on ensuring that suppliers are leveraging internet of things technology, so IoT tech. It had really shown to improve delivery, and would prevent destruction in manufacturing delivery, so we have a database of those suppliers. Small businesses could partner with those suppliers so that small businesses can build a reliable supply chain without having to analyze and understand all those risks.
Your solution won two prizes; it came 2nd in the main prize category and also won the Best Solution – Greater China Area special prize. How does it feel to have such a big win?
Natasha: We were surprised the first time we won; the first time our team name was announced, we thought, “Really?”. Then, for the second category, we were even more surprised, because a lot of the teams had awesome solutions, so we weren’t really expecting it. We were happy to hear that the solution resonated with them, and that the challenges really resonated with real life challenges and the problem that small business owners were facing. Throughout the event, we were trying to understand small businesses and the industry.
Tommy: It’s wonderful to see all the passion and hard work from Team Quantummy! Natasha showed the humble side of it, but I have to show another side. I would say that we were capable of it, because as we were dealing with all the different criteria, and the solution effectively met them and was very solid from my perspective. And at the end, yes, I really enjoyed hearing Quantummy announced as winners, and two times in a row, as well.
Team Quantummy, in your opinion, what made you so successful?
Derek: I think there were a couple of things. We definitely benefited from having a mentor who we could bounce ideas off of; that definitely helps the creative process and got rid of the uncertainty that we would have had on how feasible our ideas were. The second thing that I would say is that we decided to focus on understanding the domain. We wanted to understand the industry, IoT and technology, and see how those trending things are currently fitting into the industry. It’s amazing to see what is already in place! We were shocked to see all these devices and technologies that were already out there, and so that helped improve our understanding and it became feasible, helping us decide which ideas worked and which didn’t
Tommy: I would say the collaboration, firstly. I think we acknowledge our current knowledge and also tried to learn from each other too. Even though my title is as a Mentor to a wonderful team, I learned a lot more than I expected, so I think it was a great journey for myself. The second point is that we weren’t afraid to get knocked out in innovation. Sometimes innovation and creativity can be really hefty and a powerful word, and at the same time if we try to connect more dots, we can embrace our creativity and can propose more creative solutions.
How would you describe your overall experience at the hackathon?
Natasha: We had a really great time, overall. It was really tiring! I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to branch out and learn something new. Staying up for 24 hours is something I don’t recommend doing often, but in this case it was a really rewarding.
Tommy: The experience itself was very enjoyable. I actually worked hard myself during those 24 hours, and we had some very creative ideas too. There were some very innovative solutions proposed too that really made us laugh over the 24-hour journey!
WinterHack 2020 is coming up in November, and as a winning team, we want to know: What advice would you give incoming teams for our upcoming hackathon?
Derek: Keep in mind that from the very start, the main output of everything has to fit into a very short pitch. When you’re pitching, time can go way faster than you expect, so from the very beginning keep in mind that it has to fit into 3 minutes. Make time for a few practice runs so that you make sure you don’t spend all that energy developing the solution and you run out of time before you even get the idea across. We have seen that happen with other teams in various other hackathons before ourselves.
Tommy: Please enjoy the challenge, please enjoy the discussion, and please enjoy the creative ideas that you can come up with after squeezing your brain over 24 hours!
Our mission at Cookhouse Labs is to #MakeInsuranceBetter for the overall industry, and our events are part of our journey. In your opinion, how can events such as SummerHack 2020 help us achieve this?
Natasha: There were so many smart people participating in the hackathon, so events like this can provide a great opportunity to problem solvers that don’t work in the industry. We can still contribute a lot in terms of problem-solving, knowledge, or technology from other domains. I think that getting fresh eyes for the problem will really bring innovative solutions to the surface.
Tommy: Sticking to the hashtag of making insurance better, the term ‘better’ is relative to the previous. Through this hackathon at Cookhouse Labs, we are already ahead of the game to welcoming a new face of innovation. And one day, we will hear positive feedback from policy holders, where insurance is no longer a necessary evil, but instead an angel that can provide more comforting protection eventually.
Team Quantummy, it was a pleasure speaking with you. Thank you so much for sharing your time and thoughts with us, and congratulations once again!