House full of inventors unveil their innovative ideas


"Serial entrepreneur" Augi Lye, CEO of Trendy Entertainment, created the "Hacker House," shown behind him at 205 NE 6th Avenue, where a handful of top developers will live and create prototypes under the mentorship of Gainesville's top business leaders in this Tuesday, February 19, 2013 file photo.

Erica Brough/Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, July 28, 2013 at 9:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, July 28, 2013 at 9:18 p.m.

Augi Lye stepped up onto a padded barstool Sunday evening at 101 Downtown and made a loud clanking noise on his empty glass.

As the founder and self-professed “admiral” of HackerHouse, an innovation hub located in a 110-year-old Victorian home in Gainesville, Lye called the attention of the room to start the final demonstrations of the HackerHouse prototypes.

“What we have done in this last three months, no one has ever done anywhere,” Lye, 34, said to the crowd.

Funded by Lye, founder of Trendy Entertainment and ToneRite, the eight “cadets” were chosen three months ago to eat, live and work at HackerHouse. Their single goal: to create an innovative new product.

The first semester ever of HackerHouse cadets boasted five new companies: a mobile fishing app that organizes fishing reports by region, a website that displays members of Congress by ZIP code and summarizes the bills they vote on, an attachment to an electric drill that guarantees to chill beer 30 times faster through spinning, a wireless pet feeder with camera included and a interactive music-producing toy, equipped with laser lights.

Each project was demonstrated with a functioning prototype. Lye said the prototype was the most important part of creating an invention.

“I don’t care about a business plan. Your biz plan is garbage to me. That’s true because by the time you have finished your business plan, the business has changed. So, what’s more important to me is the prototype,” he said.

Cadets Juan Rios and Mathew Chandler showcased several prototypes of their invention, a geometrical bamboo toy that creates noise based on its movement and orientation. The toy, called The Chime, also lights up as it gets passed from one hand to the next.

“The one thing they have taught us the whole time is execute,” Chandler said.

Chandler admitted that the prototypes showcased at the demo day were very different from early versions of the product.

“This is just a small little bit of what we actually did,” he added as he tossed The Chime back and forth.

Audience members asked each team questions about their products after their presentations had concluded.

“The people here are private investors, a lot of them are, that invest in start-up companies all around Gainesville and all around the world, really,” cadet Trevor Abbott said.

Abbott said that all five teams had already been guaranteed support from interested investors.

Through HackerHouse, the cadets are given a hub to create and a team of mentors who coach them through the design process. Mentors include downtown developers Ken and Linda McGurn as well as the chief technology operator of Grooveshark, Josh Greenberg.

Cadets are given the opportunity to participate only after being handpicked by Lye and his team. And once they have made it in, they are held to high standards of productivity, Lye said.

“This is an actual program where there are mentors that come in. There is a learning process. There are demo days. People are held responsible,” he said.

Lye said he thought of the project last December when he was bored.

“Wouldn’t be cool if I found a bunch of brilliant kids and I stuck them in a house and see what kind of crazy inventions they came up with,” Lye remembered thinking.

The idea came from his own desires of what he would have wanted for himself as a young inventor.

“If I had the opportunity to invent whatever was in my head without having to worry about how I am going to eat, how I am going to sleep, it would change my life,” Lye said.

Surveying the room of young innovators, Lye expressed amazement at the final products created through the HackerHouse project.

“The companies here, what they have done in three months, surpass what most start-up companies have done in a year,” he said.

The project is set to continue with a second group of cadets this coming fall.

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