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Last weekend Big Red Cloud took part in Ireland’s first dedicated banking hackathon. The hackathon or to give it its official name, ‘Hack Make the Bank’ is an Ulster Bank sponsored initiative in cooperation with the Open Bank Project.

The Open Bank Project is an open source API and App store for banks that empowers financial institutions to securely and rapidly enhance their digital offerings using an ecosystem of 3rd party applications and services.

For those of you unfamiliar with a hackathon, they are an ever popular coming together of coders, designers, mentors and investors for an intensive period of peer-to-peer idea generation and programming. The hackathons will generally run over an entire weekend with the proof-of-concept ideas being presented to a panel of judges on the Sunday afternoon/evening.

The focus of Hack Make the Bank was to contribute on a top level, to a more open and agile Ulster Bank and at an application level, to create a new App or idea that could form the ‘next big service’ for banking.

On the Friday evening, a group of invited companies pitched their ideas (Big Red Cloud’s Paraic Nolan among them)  to the 100 or so gathering where they voted with their feet and came together to form teams around the ideas they liked the most. The teams were formed with the aforementioned coders and designers and they may well not have met let alone worked together before. They then collaboratively coded a unique solution from scratch based on the Open Bank Project API and APIs from the invited companies – MongoDB, Big Red Cloud,, Xtreme Push, Aylien, Evercam and OpenCorporates.

Big Red Cloud’s pitch was selected by Team Boodle. They initially had a concept of retrieving location data from the  Open Banking api, and retrieve the location data from it. Their concept was to categorise spending by category (Food, Entertainment, and other relevant payment types) and then produce a mashup map with icons for the expense type superimposed on a Bing map. The map would be scrollable and you would see more detail as you zoomed in on a geographic area.

In true hackathon fashion, Team Boodle pivoted to turn the concept into an expense claim management app.

When the dust had settled on Sunday afternoon there was one winner, the Savetastic team of Alejandro Ricotti, Diego Alexandre, Kelson Martins, Ivan Tabarino. They built an app that uses a customer’s banking information to offer savings on a range of items such as utility Ulster Bank Hackathon at the NDRC 30th January 2015_Image_2bills, travel and shopping.

The prize: three months incubation at Ulster Bank for the Savetastic team with access to a number of mentors/ executives and specialists at Ulster Bank, to develop the idea into a product. On top of that each team member also received a Parrot AR 2 Drone 2.

Second place went to the team behind Simply Confirm, an audit tool for SMEs and third place went to Owlwise, a gamified information app for teens.

Judges at the event were Dermot Berkery of Delta Partners; Louise Hodgson, entrepreneur, Undergraduate Awards and editor New Thinking, New Ireland; Marc O’Dwyer, CEO, Big Red Cloud; Brett Myers, CEO of CurrencyFair; and Chris Davis, COO of Ulster Bank.

Big Red Cloud will be pitching at the second Hack Make the Bank event in The MAC, Belfast from Friday 13 to Sunday 15 February.


Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

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