Clovis News

Programmers show off 59 Days of Code projects

If Groupon doesn't cut it for all your discount needs, just sit tight. Socially Crowded, a Fresno-grown site for social networking and last-minute deals, will launch in another month or so.

Socially Crowded was among the 33 tech venture prototypes competing Saturday at Fresno's third annual 59 Days of Code, a programming competition founded by the Central Valley Business Incubator and tech consulting firm Geekwise.

Socially Crowded founders Drew Parker and Chris Martinez didn't win, but they say the project is their first step toward starting their own tech company.

"I would like to make Fresno more of a hub for tech people," Martinez said. "I want to put us on the map."

59 Days of Code intends to do just that -- showcase Fresno's often invisible tech community.

Competitors had 59 days to create a tech prototype, which included apps, programs and games to solve relationship problems, schedule bill payments, or discover new music and happy-hour deals.

First-place winners were awarded $10,000. The winners were announced Saturday evening at the Holiday Inn in downtown Fresno.

"We have a very vibrant tech economy that's here and it's growing," said Kirk Nagamine, chief executive officer of the Business Incubator. "They're some of the smartest members of our community."

Nagamine said most people don't realize that Fresno is rich in tech talent because programmers tend to keep a low profile -- many work odd hours and often overnight to keep the same schedule as their overseas clients or colleagues.

The Hashtag, a shared work space in the Tower District that has become the flagship of Fresno's tech community, has helped give coders a higher profile. But unlike in Silicon Valley, where coffee shops and shared offices are packed with coders, Fresno developers have fewer options.

On Saturday, many programmers said 59 Days of Code gives them a chance to step away from their laptops and network with like-minded techies. This year's competition featured twice as many entries as last year, drew hundreds of visitors and culminated with a speech from Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.

The competition impressed San Francisco developer Joel Franusic, one of five judges for the event. Franusic said Fresno's developers seem to care less about trying to lay claim as the next Mark Zuckerberg -- Facebook's multibillionaire founder -- than about producing high-quality projects.

"I found a lot more substance than I expected," he said. "These people are actually writing good code."

Socially Crowded launches Aug. 1 and will offer exclusive, last-minute deals to concerts, bars and clubs, and taxis that will get you home safely. Fresno is the testing ground -- Parker and Martinez plan to launch a site for every major U.S. city.

Parker, 23, grew up in Clovis and has been writing code for the past two years. Martinez, 21, is new to Fresno -- he moved from Merced last year to advance his programming career.

"It's really hard to find programmers or developers in Merced," he said. "But in Fresno, there's an abundance of them."

59 Days of Code winners

Zero-Code category: Leadscreener, helps businesses more effectively use social media

In-Progress category: Ventata, e-commerce site that helps sellers adjust prices to maximize profits

People's Choice category: Ensemble Online, online video gaming