PayPal brings Battle Hack competition to Canada

PayPal is bringing its 'world series' hackathon competition to Canada, reaching out to coders in Toronto in a bid to find and launch the next big-idea app with a social conscience.

Torontonians will be able to participate in global hackathon series

A frame grab from a promotional video for the 2013 PayPal Battle Hack shows regional winners in London. The 2014 hackathon contest will be opening to Toronto participants. (YouTube)

PayPal is bringing its "world series" hackathon competition to Canada for the first time, reaching out to coders in Toronto in a bid to find and launch the next big-idea app with a social conscience.

The e-commerce service is hosting the 24-hour Battle Hack series on May 31 in Toronto. Similar contests, which bring together coders competing to design apps, are being held in 10 other international cities over the next six months.

Montreal native Jonathan LeBlanc, the head of developer evangelism for PayPal in North America, said he's been itching to introduce Canadians to PayPal's Battle Hack since the inaugural contest in 2013.

"I was saying if this was successful last year, I wanted to move it to Canada, and it just made sense for us to start out in Toronto," LeBlanc told CBC News, noting that projects such as the MaRS Incubator facility are a sign of the city's innovative culture.

"The terms we're working with for our hackathon is it's got to be something that contributes to a social good," LeBlanc added.

$100K cash grand prize

More than 2,000 developers competed globally last year in what PayPal billed as a "world series of hackathons."

The 11 cities competing this year are: Tel Aviv, Miami, San Francisco, Istanbul, Toronto, Berlin, Chicago, Warsaw, Boston, Moscow and London.

The victors from each national competition will be flown to Silicon Valley this summer for a World Finals competition at PayPal's San Jose headquarters.

At stake is a $100,000 cash grand prize for a winning team of up to four people, as well as a chance to claim the title of "Ultimate Hackers for Good."

Last year's Battle Hack winners, Team Moscow, devised a "Donate Now" application incorporating PayPal's software tools, or API (application programming interface). The feature simplifies the donation process by using Bluetooth technology to allow users to make charitable gifts "on the fly" from their mobile devices without needing to fill out lengthy forms, LeBlanc said.

One regional winner from Austin, Jeff Linwood, created PayPup, a mobile phone app that connects users with dogs available for adoption and allows donors to contribute money towards vaccinations and vet treatments.

Viking axe trophy

LeBlanc said the hackathon gives potential innovators an opportunity to actually sit down and develop their ideas.

"If you never have time, this is giving you 24 hours to build something you've been wanting to try out for a long time," he said. "It just makes sense for us to build towards some sort of social good, because at the end of the day you still come out ahead by building something that's going to contribute back to society."

In keeping with the hacking theme, each regional winning team gets to take home a viking axe trophy.

"For some of the cities, I'm very interested in how they've been getting them through Customs. It's a hard one to explain," he said.

Beyond Toronto, LeBlanc said he'd like to bring future Battle Hacks to Canadian centres like Vancouver and his home town of Montreal.

Battle Hack 2014 is currently in a pre-registration phase and interested teams can sign up for updates on when registration opens. The contest is free to enter, but a Toronto venue has not yet been chosen.