Winner of Salesforce’s Hackathon Is Under Fire

Upshot's $1M Dreamforce app may be a farce

The integrity of Salesforce’s hackathon event this week is being questioned after it was revealed that the winner, a former employee of the sponsor, may have built the app outside the acceptable timeframe.

The winner, Upshot, was awarded $1 million, but today a number of participants and observers are criticizing the results, saying Upshot was built before the hackathon, and claiming favoritism as one of the engineers, Thomas Kim, used to work for Salesforce.

Salesforce held its Dreamforce conference this week in San Francisco, and CEO Marc Benioff talked with such luminaries as Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg. 

New developers participated in the hackathon portion to build mobile apps on the Salesforce platform.

Like most hackathons, the apps are supposed to be built in a tight window, showing off the speed, creativity and grace under pressure of the creators.

Salesforce’s own rules said apps had to be created from "scratch.”

The winner, Upshot, which was crowned Thursday, was clearly built at least weeks ago.

Kim appears to have showed off the Upshot app Oct. 8 at a Salesforce meetup. The Dreamforce hackathon rules said teams can start work on their apps on Oct. 25.

Message boards regarding the hackathon were active today with criticism.

“Upshot didn’t follow the rules,” one post on developerforce’s message board said.

Salesforce did not immediately return a request for comment, but the company is expected to issue a statement later today online.

Some sources have defended the event, pointing to the fact that it connects developers with influential people in Silicon Valley, like Benioff, and it provides welcome exposure.

Silicon Valley hackathons have been scrutinized before over seemingly unfair play. This summer, TechCrunch hosted a hackathon in which the winner, Layer, won $50,000, while one of the judges, Michael Arrington, was an investor in the startup.