Inside Namely’s First Hackathon: The Winners

Inside Namely’s First Hackathon: The Winners

This spring, Namely held one of its most exciting company events ever: our very first hackathon, Engage Namely. For 24 hours, 17 teams—each featuring members across all Namely departments—collaborated in a product designing blitz to create our next brand new HR tech tool or feature enhancement. 

“I was really, really impressed with the amount of work and dedication everyone had,” says Ed Burnett, VP of Engineering at Namely and one of the company’s very first hires. What made Namely’s hackathon so unique? Notably, it was not exclusive to our engineering team—employees from sales, marketing, client success, design, HR, and more could all offer their ideas. Says Ed, “A hackathon where people are exchanging roles and working with people they’ve never worked with was super awesome to see. I loved it.”

Matt Straz, Namely founder and CEO, preparing for his hackathon hosting duties. Photo by Andrew Persons.
Alex Boyovich, account executive, and Michael Manne, VP, Sales, ready for some hackathon action. Photo by Andrew Persons.
Our panel of judges included Namely investors, clients, and supporters. Photo by Andrew Persons.

93 ideas, five judges, and one sleepless night later, we had four teams selected as winners—with the first place tool already live and awaiting testing. One note for our Namely clients: Like any hackathon, our event was incredibly useful for ideation, but you shouldn’t expect every idea to show up on the near-term product roadmap. “I really, really hope that a lot of people continue to follow up on the projects they put together,” Ed says. “Because there’s a lot of stuff I’d like to see get into product.”


Join us as we take a look inside each of the winning Namely hackathon projects, and speak with Ed Burnett about his team’s first place tool and how it will take Namely to the next level.

Namely Sense - Winner of the Sequoia Capital “Moonshot” Award

The Namely Sense team presents their project centered on temperature, motion, and humidity sensors around the office. Photo by Andrew Persons.

How many times have you needed to book a conference room at the last minute, only to find they are all taken? Or maybe you head into a conference room and it’s completely freezing but you left your sweater all the way on the other side of the office.


Namely Sense aims to make the office a more tailored, interactive experience with live temperature, motion, and humidity sensors in office conference rooms. The project was the recipient of the Sequoia Capital “Moonshot” award presented by Pat Grady, partner at Sequoia Capital.


The team produced a live webpage featuring nine of the largest Namely conference rooms in our New York office, each complete with their current temperatures, a red or green alert to let you know if the room is occupied, and a “Book Now!” button for available rooms. And that’s only the beginning of how Namely Sense could customize your office experience. Imagine luminosity and temperature sensors in the office to guide you to the most comfortable working environment. Or, what if you could study foot traffic from office sensors to improve layout and cross-departmental communication? The unique potential presented by the clever technology clinched Namely Sense’s win of the Sequoia Capital “Moonshot” award.

Preemptive Benefits Compliance - 3rd Place Winner

The Preemptive Benefits Compliance team accepts their 3rd place award. Photo by Andrew Persons.
Nate McFall, account executive, and Mike MacGilpin, account executive, present their project to Matt Straz—with the help of a yellow friend. Photo by Andrew Persons.

Compliance. It’s a frightening word for many an HR professional. With the Affordable Care Act and new overtime legislation, it’s only getting more difficult for human resources to keep up every year. The trick has always been to monitor the precise changes happening in your workforce that trigger new legal requirements for your company. That’s exactly what the Preemptive Benefits Compliance tool, Engage Namely’s third place winner, is designed to help you do.

In addition to the Namely benefits experts that always help keep our clients compliant with local and federal laws, Preemptive Benefits Compliance would keep your company one more step ahead of compliance issues. Picture getting an automated online alert each time your growing workforce will soon be subject to COBRA coverage, FMLA laws, or form 5500 filing. With all of your talent management and benefits data in one place with Namely, it wouldn’t just be possible—it would have countless applications.

Namely Emergency Alert System - 2nd Place Winner

The Namely EAS team accepting their 2nd place award. Photo by Andrew Persons.
Nicholas Hehr, front end developer, presents the EAS team's presentation. Photo by Andrew Persons.

Imagine a bad snowstorm is about to hit your office. Employees are about to commute to work, but the office is closed. What’s HR to do? Probably send a flurry of emails or instant messages and hope for the best—but how can they be sure everyone got the message? The Namely Emergency Alert System is all you would need.


With the click of a button, an HR admin could use Namely to send out a text to the entire company, and everyone would be in the know. And it doesn’t just stop at bad weather and office closures. Area traffic, system outages, evacuations… there are many instances when HR needs to easily and reliably inform the whole company. That’s what Namely EAS is built for.

The Namely EAS team ended their presentation by sending everyone in the Namely office a test SMS—and showing the delivery rate in real time. Fun Fact: Approximately 90 percent of SMS are read within the first three minutes of delivery. That increased reliability—plus an impressive demo—pushed the EAS team into the number two slot.

Project Apollo - 1st Place Winner

The Project Apollo team accepting their 1st place award. Photo by Andrew Persons.

Hackathons are fun, in part, because of the diversity of the projects. Some are moonshot ideas—big, bold, and outside of a product’s current feature set. Others are tools and efficiencies that make standing products even better. Project Apollo, the winner of Namely’s first hackathon, falls into the latter category. But that doesn’t make it any less exciting—considering it takes 10 Namely payroll administrative tasks and makes them all remarkably faster.


One surefire way to win over hackathon judges is to have a fully built tool ready to implement at a moment’s notice, as was the case with Project Apollo. “So it’s live right now,” says Ed Burnett, VP of Engineering at Namely and leader of the Project Apollo team.  “There’s a road map in place, and the first step is to get it used.” The business value of Project Apollo—and it’s immediate benefit to clients—propelled it to first place.

The Project Apollo team delivers a live product demonstration. Photo by Andrew Persons.

While winning the hackathon was certainly rewarding, it wasn’t the only reason Ed loved the whole experience. “This stuff is valuable that people put together,” he says. “There wasn’t a single project that I couldn’t see us building. If people keep pushing on it and keep developing it, they will be.”


With plans for Namely’s second hackathon set for September, there will be even more opportunities for employees to share their ideas. When it comes to pushing a company forward with new and exciting thinking—and bringing your people together in the process—you just never know what kind of passionate ideas everyone can dream up. As we saw with Engage Namely, all you have to do is ask.

Full List of Winners

Project Apollo - 1st Place Winner
Brett Berman
Ed Burnett
Justin Jacques
Ray Walters
Natasha Wasik

Namely Emergency Alert System - 2nd Place Winner
Darren Andes
Danning Ge
Nick Hehr
Sebastien van Heyningen
Marian Mosley
Michael Rothbaum
Rachel Rubackin
Jim Walker

Preemptive Benefits Compliance - 3rd Place Winner
Greg Autuori
Randi Brookes
Jeff Federman
Michael MacGilpin
Nate McFall
Shelly Yip

Namely Sense - Winner of the Sequoia Capital “Moonshot” Award
Jordan Buffaloe
Gregory Delpe
Rich Fernandez
Attila Maczak
Luigi Patruno

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