Columbia hackathon aims to bring life to unused Web domains

A group including developers, designers and entrepreneurs will come together this weekend in Columbia looking to transform unused Web domains into something more useful. The second Domain Purge hackathon kicks off Friday and runs through Sunday at the offices of Columbia’s Regional Economic Development Inc., which is co-hosting the event with the Missouri Small Business and Technology Development Centers (SBTDC).

Collin Bunch, a business advisor for the SBTDC, is organizing the event. Missouri Business Alert caught up with Bunch to learn about the inspiration, ideas and goals for this weekend’s event.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Collin Bunch, SBTDC | Courtesy of Collin Bunch/Facebook
Collin Bunch | Courtesy of Collin Bunch/Facebook

Missouri Business Alert: What is the Domain Purge hackathon all about?

Collin Bunch: The Domain Purge takes unused domains, puts them to work through a customer value process using a community of entrepreneurs, developers, marketers and anyone with work ethic creating new startups or revenue streams. In reality, it’s a way to trick a bunch of awesome people to play together and create something that has value while learning about entrepreneurship and teamwork.

How did you come up with the idea?

The idea came out of a problem many entrepreneurs have over time. They may buy various domains but never do anything with them. At the same time, we — as an entrepreneurial ecosystem and incubator — were trying to find ways to engage more talented people in the community and on campuses in town. The goal of the event is to build entrepreneurial skills within great people, organic partnerships and communities that can help each other grow and create additional/passive income streams for people.

What makes Domain Purge different and unique when there are so many other hackathons out there?

I’m not really a programmer, but I love hackathons. It’s pure creative energy and full of “What ifs?” One of the things that they don’t tend to focus on or build towards is some kind of specific value. The domain purge takes wacky or interesting ideas from a name and then runs it through tests for value to customers to determine its success.

What was the outcome of the first Domain Purge event?

The first event went pretty well considering we threw it together in a few weeks. We had about 45 participants that included CFOs, developers, students, serial entrepreneurs and some people for whom it was their first jump into entrepreneurship.

We had about 30 make it through the weekend with a few teams formed, a few jobs created. Probably the most finished product was Bad Art Auction is a domain that Matt Murrie of the What if…? Conference owns and ended up having a team of seven people with four developers.

The biggest outcome for me personally was seeing several new teams form and people start working together to help each other with their companies even beyond the weekend. It was a transformative experience.

Why is creating websites around unused domains important? 

I think this solves a few problems. People have unused domains, and sometimes we need a place to start. Having these interesting and sometimes valuable domains to build from allows you to be creative, and restricted to follow some rules at the same time. I’ve been surprised at how many people identify with having too many domains they’ve bought over time.

How will the event flow?

In short, everyone will introduce themselves and a specific skill, we’ll overview the domains and have a draft to form ad hoc teams and start building models. A few organizers will work to rebalance teams and coach on the process throughout the first few hours. This is really about working with people and trying things. Participants can focus on a project or several or float between teams and help where it’s needed. We’ll have a few pauses to check where we are and what ideas have been validated, followed by a final presentation at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

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