Doug Clayton is a coder and a serial entrepreneur. He studied medicine at Kent State and did defense contracting in D.C. before escaping to Vail for his true calling—computers—in 2010. Doug’s app development firm, 8150, serves as a community collaboration hub for developers wanting to ideate, go-getters working out of their garage, and start-uppers bursting with amazing ideas but needing help with execution.
Go Code Colorado is an annual statewide apps challenge created by the Secretary of State’s office. Its goal is to harness the creativity of developers, entrepreneurs and innovators to build business apps using public data.
Doug entered the Go Code Colorado Competition in 2015, competed again in 2016, and intends to compete in 2017. His other current projects include Grey Raven, an app to help mountain communities enforce government compliance for rogue short-term rentals, and a tourist app that works with the Vail bus system to provide real-time transportation options for walkers and drivers.
THE 2015 GO CODE COLORADO CHALLENGE
There are transportation corridors in Colorado (e.g. I-70 through the central mountains) that carry commercial and economic nutrients to countless Colorado businesses. These corridors play a critical role in Colorado’s economic vitality and health. But they are often clogged with traffic. Your challenge is to build a solution that creates business opportunity by helping address the problem of congested transportation corridors.
Doug attended the Go Code Colorado Challenge Weekend in Grand Junction, CO, where he struck up a conversation with graphic design professor Adam Cochran. Out of their combined coding, design and marketing skills, a team was born. They called themselves “Go Go Colorado” in honor of Go Code Colorado and as a nod to transport.
Go Go Colorado wanted to build a traffic app that would do two things simultaneously: 1) alert mountain travelers to weather, ski conditions, road conditions, wildlife obstacles and traffic on I-70; and 2) give them real-time tips on “next exit” hotspots like ski retailers, restrooms, food, recreation opportunities, lodging and breweries.
THE FIRST PHASE
Team Go Go Colorado began collaborating and coding and brainstorming. First on the pitch, and then iterating through the various phases of app development. They had to decide what data mattered (travel times, speed limits), what data didn’t (squirrels per square mile, avalanche records) and how frequently to tap into the myriad numbers captured by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).
“Not everything starts out amazing,” says Doug. “You have to iterate. Go Code Colorado provides the space and energy and facilitation to keep iteration going.”
Go Code Colorado was one of the top two teams to emerge from Grand Junction, putting them among nine other finalist teams. This gave them a slot in Go Code Colorado’s Mentor Weekend, a gathering of the best and brightest entrepreneurial and tech minds to mentor finalist teams as they prepare for the final competition.
As Doug recalled, “The mentor weekend was amazing. It attracts some of the smartest, most talented coders and industry leaders in Colorado. It feels tight-knit, yet it gathers people from across the state. There’s no other event that comes close.”
As they neared the final competition, Go Go Colorado realized that other teams had put far more time into coding. They, by contrast, hadn’t done that heavy lifting, assuming they would outsource the development after they won. Their app fell short and they weren’t among the three winning teams.
“We were pretty deflated,” admits Doug. “We’d worked so hard and had to step away for a couple weeks.”
But a few weeks later, they decided that winning Go Code Colorado wasn’t a requirement for continuing. Taking a fresh perspective, they started over.
“Without Go Code Colorado, we never would have come together to do an app at all. But because of their support, we kept iterating and innovating. As a result, we’ve got an app that benefits both business and community.”
THE SECOND PHASE
The team soon realized that a physical channel for data—a computer-screen kiosk, inspired by a separate CDOT project—might be an even better business-building vehicle. This kiosk was eventually named “skiosk” and would provide the same public data, but be physically located in various businesses along the I-70 corridor. The best part? Go Go Colorado had the talent and resourceful eye to build something like this at cost (i.e. $20), using an Android stick, a USB cord and a screen. Zero custom construction meant fewer cost barriers both for the team and for their eventual Colorado business partners. Plug-and-play setup meant less hassle and greater appeal both for location and advertising partners.
To build this app, they needed to connect and interface with CDOT, which proved to be extremely cooperative. They hosted a meeting not only with Doug’s Go Go Colorado team, but other app-innovating developers who had also requested access to public government data. CDOT granted all attendees a five-year contract, including data feeds, road cams, mountain cams and other piles of data.
THE BUSINESS RESULT
Currently in the final phases of development, these “skiosks” are designed to attract and inform Colorado travelers and increase average visit times and expenditure at various businesses, driving revenue along the interstate route between ski resorts.
Go Code Colorado is supporting the state’s entrepreneurs by not only being open for business, but open for collaboration. Between software. Between data. And between humans. Doug Clayton’s entrepreneurial spirit and innovative drive demonstrate that data + meaning + hard work can lead to a better Colorado.