Open Data, Stone Soup Inspire TSW: Health DataJam - 1

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Open Data, Stone Soup Inspire TSW: Health DataJam - 1
Imagine three hungry soldiers marching into a small, French village with empty bellies. In the book Stone Soup, the soldiers convince the somewhat greedy villagers to contribute small portions of food to their soup, which is made only of water and stones. The seemingly small contributions helped create a feast for the entire village.

This classic tale written by author Marcia Brown influenced a compelling startup idea that took home first prize at last weekend's Triangle Startup Weekend: Health DataJam edition. It's the kickoff to several months of competition and business-building leading up to NC DataPalooza, a pitch competition for open data-oriented startup ideas happening in September.

HQ Raleigh had a full house Sunday afternoon for the event—60 health care professionals, entrepreneurs, coders and innovators came together to create six unique startup ideas aimed to invent the future of healthcare using data. But Team Stone Soup (pictured above) won over the judges with a working prototype and gifts of small stones as symbolic souvenirs.

The team created a technology platform to connect food providers, donors and those in need—a modern day version of Brown's book. Like in the story, Stone Soup acts as a soldier for a reliable and generous community. Through research and data mining, team members found that many counties in North Carolina have high levels of food insecurity, meaning a large percentage of the population doesn't have reliable access to food sources. They built a platform to help fill the gaps.

Stone Soup impressed judges with the progression and execution of their idea, the user experience design and use of open data. It also promises to have a big impact on the community. The team won three months of co-working space at HQ Raleigh, a guaranteed spot at NC DataPalooza and legal consultation from Triangle Business Law and design assistance from dxlab.

In coming months, they plan to share their platform with food providers and social workers, to further develop the technology and enlist the support of local businesses and community leaders.

Second and third place went to Local Med Advisor and Heal Qual. Local Med Advisor aims to help seniors and those new to the area find physicians that fit their specific needs. And Heal Qual will help hospitals and doctors identify patients most at risk for readmission, with a goal of reducing readmission by 12 percent. Both teams won meeting space at HQ Raleigh and consultation services.

Zach Ambrose, an organizer of the Health DataJam, said that even though some teams did not win a prize, they can still work on their ideas and apply to compete at NC DataPalooza. He expects many to do so.

"What stood out to me is that we brought a diverse group together, and some that were even new to Triangle Startup Weekend," he said. "The participants were really engaged and active around the teams that were formed."

As a novice to the startup field, it was fun to see the broad range of talent and viewpoints that emerged from each team. And it was comforting to know that many of the participants were also new to the startup community. That also struck Jim Van Fleet, the weekend's facilitator and a Charlotte Startup Weekend organizer since the it began in 2009. VanFleet said the Health DataJam is one of thousands of Startup Weekends happening across the world, but this one was unique.

"It's interesting to see how the concept of openness and transparency is working in a different place with different people at a different maturity level," he said.

Photo by Reid Serozi.