Salesforce Settles Hackathon Controversy by Declaring Tie
Salesforce is putting an end to the Hackathon drama. More than 4,500 developers registered to build next-generation mobile apps on the Salesforce1 platform during the Dreamforce '13 conference last month -- and one grand prize winner was supposed to take home a cool $1 million.
But controversy over the winning mobile app led the CRM company to conduct an internal review of the competition. The conclusion: Two teams won the Hackathon, but the final-round judges may not have been provided with enough information to evaluate entrants' use of pre-existing code in their app entries.
"We have also determined that we did not do a good enough job of communicating with the entrants about use of pre-existing code, which was allowable under certain circumstances, and that we weren't clear enough with the final-round judges about the use of pre-existing code," said Burke Norton, chief legal officer for Salesforce. "As Salesforce is unable to determine whether or not this would have changed the outcome of the final round of judging, the company has concluded that the appropriate outcome is to declare a tie and award each of our two top winners the first-place prize of $1 million."
Unraveling the Controversy
Here are the details: The Salesforce internal audit team conducted a review of the eligibility requirements and judging process used in the Hackathon. They concluded that the winning team, Upshot, met the Hackathon's eligibility requirements, and that the app they submitted adhered to the rules. While one of Upshot's team members was formerly employed by Salesforce, the rules only prohibited participation by former employees of Salesforce if they left the company after Aug. 31, 2013. The Upshot team member met the requirements.
What's more, while the Upshot mobile app used pre-existing code, this did not violate the Hackathon rules. Use of pre-existing code was allowable as long as the code did not comprise the majority of the app and did not violate any third party's rights. The internal audit team's review determined that Upshot's mobile app was created during the Hackathon and met these criteria. The review also determined that judges reviewed all eligible submissions.
Salesforce also reviewed a claim that entrants from Healthcare.love were ineligible to participate in the Hackathon because they are employed by a company in which Salesforce holds a small equity stake. The review determined that the entrants were eligible to participate because such investment is immaterial and Salesforce has no ability to control the referenced company. As a result, it is not a "Salesforce-related" entity under the rules.
During the initial two rounds of the competition, all judges were Salesforce employees who were familiar with the Salesforce1 Platform and with the rules of the Hackathon. However, during the final round of the competition, in an effort to ensure impartiality, five out of six judges were not Salesforce employees. The internal audit team concluded that Salesforce did not adequately equip these judges with enough information to ensure that the scores for the "innovation" criteria took into account use of pre-existing code.
More than the Money
We turned to Brad Shimmin, a principal analyst at Current Analysis, to get his take on the conclusion of the controversy. He told us there's no downside for Salesforce in this situation. He's sure the company spent more than $1 million on the opening act for the customer appreciation event at Dreamforce, so spending $1 million to recognize another developer is not a major issue.
"Companies that participate in the Salesforce ecosystem are developers writing to the Force platform and this is their livelihood. This is not about having fun building sandcastles and determining who built the nicest sandcastle," Shimmin said. "The kudos and accolades that go along with winning one of these events means a lot more than just the prize money. I am glad that Salesforce paid enough attention to this to do the right thing in awarding a joint prize."
Posted: 2013-12-11 @ 8:05am PT
That's not the end of the story. There's going to be a lawsuit. Everybody is just xeroxing their press release. They determined they could pick anyone who violated pretty simple rules.