3/18/16: This post, originally titled “Equipay,” has been updated to reflect the new name and URL of the app. — Eds.
I entered the Comedy Hack Day event at the end of January as the last weekend of SF Sketchfest wound down. The festival goes for three weeks and I’d already done four shows, so I had mixed feelings about dedicating another entire weekend to comedy. Comedy Hack Day, run by Cultivated Wit, encourages comedians and programmers to work together and develop funny app ideas, culminating in a competition on the Sunday at the New Mission Alamo Drafthouse.
I’ve attended two previous hackathons but had to either run off to do a show or couldn’t find a team to join. The format of the hackathon is generally working for free over a weekend to try and incubate an idea. As someone who has had tech-related jobs but by no means counts as a techie (despite appearances), it’s been a new territory for me but I liked the possibility for interdisciplinary hybridity. First you have to get through pitches. There were some great ideas like “Waze for Refugees,” UBART which makes waiting for BART feel like Uber, and Kickstopp3r: campaigns to shut down terrible Kickstarters.
I drifted from table to table after the pitches, but I couldn’t find the team that I wanted to work with. My favorite pitch came from another SF comedian, Luna Malbroux. She proposed a bill splitter for group meals based on race and gender. I found Luna’s team in the hallway just as I was planning to leave the event, tail between my legs. Adding myself to an already hours-long established six person team felt like a 7th wheel, but some of my ramblings made their way onto the whiteboard. For 48 hours we had designers, back end, copywriters, and jokesters working in parallel and occasionally at odds.
The competition narrowed down to six finalists for Sunday and we had the final presentation slot. The team right before us had their lav mics cut out, which thankfully got solved right before we went up. Luna nailed the presentation (my one line response got cut out of the final video, but it at least cut to another bald Asian guy) and our team was showered with excessive amounts of thrift store trophies.
The app already had a surge of press around the demo. There are a lot of practical requests and questions that have come in about mixed race and family economic status (which I suggested we make a paid feature). As a piece of satire with a lot of jokes built into the UX, some of the best ideas of EquiTable came out of in-person collaborations or toss-off jokes, something that’s hard to replicate across Google spreadsheets and Slack channels. Yes, we are trying to make it a real thing that works.