Houston Voices

Global Legal Hackathon launches at The Cannon in Houston

Students, technologists, lawyers, mentors, and judges of all ages and backgrounds packed The Cannon's space Saturday and Sunday for the Houston chapter's Global Legal Hackathon. Getty Images

Hackathons have been launching across the globe at an ever-increasing rate, providing opportunities for computer programmers and others involved in software development to collaborate on projects that solve problems.

Hackathons usually consist of a multi-day workshop in which individuals break into teams and compete against each other to win the approval of a panel of judges, often resulting in a prize. These events will have a specific theme or focus centered on problem solving in today's world using new technologies. Themes can vary from utilizing a new technology like blockchain, supporting a movement like mental illness awareness, or even just working to develop a brand-new app that solves a problem previously not considered.

Global Legal Hackathon is a nonprofit entity that organizes legal groups across the globe. Since launching, GLH has hosted over 6,000 participants in 24 different countries. The primary goal for these events is to bring together people under a unified vision to develop solutions that improve the legal industry. Last weekend, GLH hosted over 5000 hackathons across the world, with a winner from each location moving onto the next round.

The Houston branch manager for the Global Legal Hackathon is Internetbar.org Institute. IBO organizes, gathers mentors, manages, and provides support for all legal hackathons in Houston. Christy Leos, the director of operations of IBO, described their mission as an "aim to support those who need critical help more efficiently, and change processes that no longer serve the people."

The president of IBO, Jeff Aresty, expanded on this mission.

"Like previous generations, we too must rely upon failed justice institutions and laws to protect those who are excluded from society, protect the climate, and eradicate poverty. In the meantime, the online society which now amounts to over half the world, is dominated by everyone else in civil society who are engaging in all kinds of online activity that may connect us with each other – but do very little to effectively bring fairness and freedom to us all."

The Cannon was proud to host last weekend's Houston chapter of the GLH. Students, technologists, lawyers, mentors, and judges of all ages and backgrounds packed the space Saturday and Sunday. By the end of the hackathon, the winning team had developed a tool to assist lawyers in visualizing eDiscovery data, combined with the information used to manage the movement of that data through the EDRM process.

As hackathons continue to grow in both size and frequency, their modern creative solutions to today's problems also grow. Moving forward, IBO hopes to continue to go where the problems are. They are already planning to host an access to justice hackathon by the end of the year where Aresty hopes to continue the progress made over the weekend, sharing with the group that "their actions can help us reinvent how we make laws and devise a social contract that brings access to justice for all." More events like last weekend's are certainly a step in the right direction of this ambitious but much needed goal.

If you're interested in Internetbar and participating in events like this in the future, please visit http://internetbar.org/membership.
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This is content from our partner, which originally ran on The Cannon.

From pitching to value proposition, here's what you should be thinking about to make your company stand out. Miguel Tovar/University of Houston

During your pitch, investors will be looking to see what your startup's value proposition is. What can you offer that your competitors cannot?

Imagine if you will, your startup develops a watch that can detect when you're about to have a heart attack, and automatically sends an alert with your location to 911.

You've perfected the design and engineering intricacies of the device. It's ready to go out and save lives, and make you tons of money in the process.

Now imagine you can't get this product off the ground because your pitches keep falling flat. Investors don't have confidence in you as an entrepreneur, even if your product is amazing. Remember, you can have an awesome product, but you won't reap any rewards if that awesomeness cannot be expressed to financial gatekeepers.

That's where the art of the pitch matters. Pitching to a venture capitalist might be the most vital part of your startup's success. This is where you express how important your product is or how in demand your services are. This is where you convince investors your product (and you) is worth investing in.

Next, you'll have to determine your company's value proposition, which is the heart of your competitive advantage. This tells venture capitalists why they should invest in your company and not others.

Investors are putting their money and reputation on the line for your company. Their leap of faith has to be as educated as possible. If you can educate them very thoroughly why your startup is different, why it stands out from the rest, investors will feel much more comfortable with their decision to reject other bids in favor of yours.

You don't only need to convince them to choose your company, you also need to convince them that rejecting the other companies won't come back to bite them in the rear. Nobody likes to live with regret, least of all people who put themselves in a position to lose millions of their dollars on a bad decision. The best way to reaffirm an investor's faith in your company is to provide a product or service that is fairly new to the market. New products mean less saturation and higher demand, especially if the product solves a problem or provides a unique function.

There are plenty of toasters on the market, but what about wireless toasters? Outdoors-people everywhere would surely line up to buy that. You're providing a product of real value to a certain sect of people. Your competitive advantage is that your toaster is wireless and portable. That would be your company's value proposition to your investor.

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This article originally appeared on the University of Houston's The Big Idea.

Rene Cantu is the writer and editor at UH Division of Research.