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Salesforce $1m hackathon win under scrutiny after brouhaha

Hackers should play by the rules, it seems

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Salesforce is investigating the finalists in its $1m mobile apps hackathon to ensure the competition’s rules weren't broken.

The $1m hackathon grand prize was presented by Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff during his annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, California, to start-up Upshot co-founders Thomas Kim and Joseph Turian.

Five companies made it as finalists in Salesforce's hackathon.

But one day after Upshot was named winner Salesforce vice president of developer and partner marketing Adam Seligman blogged the company is conducting “a through review of the final entries to ensure they complied with published rules and guidelines.”

The blog is titled Addressing questions about the Salesforce $1 million hackathon.

Seligman also defended the judging of the grand prize.

“Every eligible app entry was reviewed at least twice. In addition, all of the final five teams met the eligibility requirements specified in the Official Rules,” he said.

Seligman blogged in the face of rising anger here and here about one of the Upstart founders and the company’s winning app.

Kim, it emerged, is a former Salesforce staffer of nine years, who’d served as a lead engineer on analytics.

The hackathon’s rules bar anybody in Salesforce.com’s employ after September 1, 2013, from taking part.

It is not clear when Kim left Salesforce, but one report does have him as leaving in January this year. It's Kim's long-term relationship with Salesforce that seems to have upset some.

And, in a further twist, it seems his company's app had been developed before the competition.

Kim was demonstrating Upshot at least one month before the November hackathon, during a meet up on October 8, 2013, in San Francisco, California.

The rules here clearly state apps must have been “developed solely as part” of the hackathon.

But Seligman has pointed those complaining to a November 14 Salesforce forum posting where this particular section on hackathon’s rules seem to have become less black and white.

The official word from Salesforce was:

“Reusing code you may have written before is fine, provided that you were the author of that code, it doesn't comprise the majority of your app and its use does not violate any third party's rights. You could modify an existing product to integrate with Salesforce and submit that, however you'd be judged on just that component, not the pre-existing product." ®

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