Update: The deadline to sign up has been extended to March 10! Be sure to sign up now here!
Last year, I had the honor of being a judge at the second iteration of the Citi Mobile Challenge, a development contest put on by Citi where developers from all over the world compete in a hackathon-like competition to come up with the best banking-focused solutions to support the next generation of mobile-friendly consumers. Citi has already begun working with some of the 2014 winners to integrate their ideas into real world products and are supporting those teams with funding, resources, and consulting. The team here at Appency is donating consulting time to help some of the winners through mobile marketing tactics such as ASO and app launch best practices.
While the American challenge winners were selected only a few months ago, Citi has already opened the challenge to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia (EMEA) with a brand new contest. Developers have until March 6, 2015 to register as participants. Once registered, developers must get their ideas on paper by March 13. After that, it’s go, go, go: Final concepts will be expected by March 27.
Once finalists are chosen they will be invited to present at one of four demo days at the end of April in London, Warsaw, Jerusalem, or Nairobi. Entries are being accepted from all over the world so developers don’t have to be located in an EMEA country to enter. Some of the best entries to the American challenge were international developers who traveled thousands of miles to pitch their ideas! It’s definitely worth the trip: There is $100,000 in cash prizes up for grabs, plus Citi and its partners like IBM, MasterCard, Uber, and even Appency will provide support and feedback to help hone the final product.
How to Win
As a past judge, here are a few tips on how to win that prize money. To start, you must understand that entries are being judged at every step by Citi employees. It’s only at the last step, the live demo, that the judges will be both Citi employees and outside consultants. To make it past those first hurdles you have to put yourself in the shoes of Citi and their consumers. How does your idea help Citi customers? How does it help Citi itself? If your idea cannot answer both sides of the question, then you need to head back to the drawing board.
Make sure you use the APIs that Citi provides. There are a number of data feeds to tap into that will allow your app to really become a part of the user’s banking life. Think about both consumer customers, and business customers — they expect less entries into the business customer area so the competition will be less fierce in that category.
Design is vital. If you do not have a quality designer on your team, get one. The presentation of an idea can by as vital to success as the idea itself. Both solid ideas and solid presentation are needed to convince the judges that your team and your app have what it takes.
Many entries come from experienced development shops, but I must caution them against shoe-horning banking or Citi-focused features into an existing project unless there is a clear, salient reason to do so. As a judge I saw — and, frankly, didn’t vote for — too many presentations that looked like a pre-existing app with Citi-specific features slapped on in hopes of sliding by and winning. Usefulness is rewarded in this competition.
Lastly, if you do make it to the finals, be sure to practice your presentation several times in front of real people who can give you good feedback. This will ensure your presentation flows well, anticipates questions or criticism, and fits in the limited amount of time allotted. Practicing your presentation in front of people outside your development team can also help prepare you for potential audience questions you may have to field after the presentation.
The chance to have a big brand get behind your work with this level of support does not come around very often so the competition will be brutal. Best of luck to all the entrants, and please feel free to reach out if you have any questions! I am more than happy to give tips to anyone who asks — just shoot us an email at email@example.com.
Aaron Watkins is the founder and president of Appency and was a judge at the 2014 Citi Mobile Challenge. He’s a big fan of apps that work.
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