PayPal Battle Hack Challenges New York Developers to Give Back

Create a killer app for your city: That's the theme of PayPal's $100,000 Battle Hack, which arrives in New York July 20.

PayPal has arrived in New York for the second of 10 Battle Hack events it's hosting around the globe.

The team is fresh from the first Battle, which took place in Berlin June 8 and 9 and will next head to Tel Aviv; Seattle; Miami; Moscow; Austin, Texas; London; Washington, D.C.; and finally Barcelona. In November, the 10 winners will meet up for a final battle in San Jose, Calif., to compete for a top prize of $100,000.

"It's money, not VC money," John Lunn, global director of PayPal Developer Relations, told eWEEK. "They can, you know, buy beer with it, if they want."

Hydrating hackers—even with the heat in New York climbing toward triple digits—isn't PayPal's primary mission, however.

"We're looking for the best hackers, and the world's best ideas," said Lunn.

The events are also a way for PayPal to collect feedback on the new developer APIs it released in March.

"You very rarely get 24 hours with your community," smiled Lunn, a burly, bearded Brit. "This way, we can see if they struggle, what they find easy, and get direct feedback from people who are usually alone."

He added, "It's also building community, which is very useful, because in a community people look after each other."

Still additionally, there's the benefit of the events' theme: Create a killer app to help your city.

In Berlin, third prize went to a flood warning system, while the top prize went to an app likely to get used (one hopes) on a more frequent basis. Called "Clean Berlin," it's a quick way to find and book a cleaning person in your neighborhood.

"In Berlin, 60 percent of the population is single. They're busy working and doing things and don't have time to clean their houses," said Lunn. "Clean Berlin is location-based cleaning on demand. We had 60 cleaning women signed up by the end of the weekend."

Lunn was also game to discuss the fast-growing mobile payments market. In 2009, PayPal did $141 million in transactions. This year, it expects that figure to reach $20 billion.

PayPal users can now make payments via iOS, Android and Windows Phone apps, online or using a credit card-like PayPal card that's tied to a user's account.

"PayPal becomes your wallet," said Lunn. "Mobile wallets are great, if everything you do is on your phone. But if it's not, it's no more useful if my wallet is in my phone than if it's in my pocket. Your wallet needs to be in the cloud, where it's accessible [by all the different devices you use]."

Lunn said he's not a big fan of near-field communication technology (NFC) as a payment method—"It feels like a technology looking for a home"—though adds that if that's the way the market wants to go, "we're ready."

The ideal, he said, is to make the payment as "invisible" as possible and not just quicker but better.

"You have to show value. If I can go to the pub and not worry about leaving with cash to pay the taxi—the taxi-booking app, for example. That has improved my life," he smiled. "That has value."

The free New York Battle Hack starts at 9 a.m. July 20, and 250 developers are expected. First prize is a free trip to Silicon Valley to compete against the winners of the other nine events. Oh, and there's an axe trophy.

"Yep, it's an axe trophy," PayPal clarifies on the Battle Hack site. "Good luck clearing airport security."

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