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Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing
Laurier alumni win inaugural Canadian Open Data Experience national appathon
A pair of Wilfrid Laurier University alumni have been named the winners of the first-ever Canadian Open Data Experience (CODE) national appathon.
Jason Ernst (BSc ’07) and Carlos Saavedra (BA ’09) were awarded the $25,000 grand prize and the $1,000 fan-favourite prize for their app newRoots, which they developed over the course of the 48-hour competition.
Electric Sheep, Ernst’s and Saavedra’s Kitchener-based company, was one of over 900 participants in the first-ever national app-developing competition to use Open Data from the Canadian government. Teams from across the country were challenged to draw from more than 200,000 federal-government datasets to create an app between Feb. 28 and March 2. On March 28, 15 finalists presented their apps to a panel of industry professionals and venture capitalists, which selected Electric Sheep as the winner.
Ernst’s and Saavedra’s winning app, newRoots, uses datasets from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), Statistics Canada, the Canada Revenue Agency and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to help match new Canadians with cities where they will be able to maximize their potential.
"Winning both the fan favourite and the contest was a real surprise, there were a ton of other great apps and teams,” said Ernst, now a PhD candidate in Computer Science at the University of Guelph. “We hope to proceed with the business plan we presented in the pitch and try to reach as many people as possible. We believe there is real potential to match people with appropriate places within Canada, and also to generate some continuous revenue. We've been encouraged by the vote of confidence by the judges, the voters and even some government agencies such as ESDC who have already reached out to us about improving the app.”
Ernst and Saavedra became good friends during their undergraduate days at Laurier, Ernst a computer science student, and Saavedra in communication studies. They formed Electric Sheep in early February 2014 to compete in the 24-hour Open Guelph Hackathon, where they came in third place and won $1,000 for their app that made a game out of exploring Guelph’s parks and landmarks. After winning the CODE appathon, Ernst and Saavedra hope that newRoots and Electric Sheep will reach new heights.
"Competing in CODE was an amazing experience and we’re thrilled to be the first place winners and fan favourite,” said Saavedra, now a master’s student in Digital Experience Innovation at the University of Waterloo’s Stratford campus. “We could not have achieved this honour if we didn’t have the support of our families, our friends, the University of Waterloo Stratford campus, the University of Guelph and Wilfrid Laurier University. Electric Sheep doesn't end with this competition and neither will newRoots. We are committed to transforming lives and putting our stamp on the world, and we feel newRoots is an application that will give us the opportunity to make Canada and the world a more prosperous one."