Announcing the winners of Zillow’s first HBCU hackathon

Zillow has awarded top prizes to students who used technology to help break down housing barriers

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The first HBCU Hackathon asked participants to conceptualize tech that could support Zillow’s mission to help consumers overcome obstacles on their journey to find a home. The weeklong event, produced in partnership with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), Black Tech Ventures (BTV) and Amplify 4 Good, featured 150 students and represented 17 historically Black colleges and universities.

“We are incredibly impressed with the ingenuity, passion and leadership the students showed at Zillow’s HBCU Housing Hackathon,” said Aldona Clottey, Zillow vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility and one of the judges. “It was inspiring to see everyone dig into this challenge and bring their perspective on solutions to some of the problems people face when it comes to renting, buying or selling a home. These students showed us that our future is in great hands and we are proud  to support them and the institutions that serve them.”

These students showed us that our future is in great hands, and we are proud to support them and the institutions that serve them.”

— Aldona Clotty, Zillow VP of Corporate Social Responsibility and HBCU Hackathon judge

Six teams advanced to the final round and had five minutes to present their ideas virtually to a panel of judges made up of Zillow and tech industry leaders. Three of those teams were awarded top prizes for their work. First place included a cash prize of $20,000 for the student participants and a donation of $25,000 to their university. Second- and third-place students received a cash prize of $12,000 and $6,000 respectively. In addition, the students received new laptops, textbook gift cards and AfroTech World 2021 conference tickets. 

Team Househouse from Morehouse College won first place at Zillow’s HBCU Housing Hackathon: (L-R) Paul Lockett, Joshua Curry, Grant Commodore, Kendall Camp and Cameron Heard program manager, equity & belonging at Zillow. Photo courtesy of Morehouse College

First place was awarded to Househouse of Morehouse College. Kendall Camp, Grant Commodore, Joshua Curry and Paul Lockett presented “Reliby,” an application that addresses financial uncertainty for long-term renters and provides users with a “stability score” to illuminate dramatic increases in living expenses that might come months or years in the future.

“It’s awesome to conceptualize a project that could help a lot of people and not only win this hackathon and receive prizes that are great for my team, but also help earn a donation for our college. Coming into this, we had a plan, we executed on it and we are so happy we had this amazing opportunity to work and learn with Zillow.”

— Paul Locket, member of Team Househouse and senior computer science student at Morehouse College

Second place went to Team SU of Southern University and A&M College. Nicolas Hardin, Dominique McCraney and Rason Irvin conceptualized their “ZPlan” to provide Zillow users — primarily those who aspire to become homeowners but might lack financial literacy and understanding of the home-buying process — with tailored help, such as tips for home buying or renting and suggested listings based on housing location data.

Team SU from Southern University and A&M College won second place at Zillow’s HBCU Housing Hackathon: (L-R) Dominique McCraney, Nicolas Hardin, and Rason Irvin. Photo credit: Photos by MeMe’s Photography

Coming in third was Team Aht Aht of Philander Smith College. Vanessa Agbugba, Samuel Alake, Lashaun McKenzie and Sam Davis Omekara developed their “ZInvest” idea, an investment tool designed to lessen the burden of high housing costs and help level the playing field in real estate investing through tokenization. The team conceptualized a marketplace where one can invest in real estate at a lower price point using blockchain technology. 

Team Aht Aht from Philander Smith College won third place at Zillow’s HBCU Housing Hackathon: (L-R) Suzan Anwar, Assistant Professor at Philander Smith College, Vanessa Agbugba, Sam Davis Omekara, Lashaun McKenzie, Samuel Alake. Photo credit: Thino Photography

The hackathon was judged by Zillow and tech industry leaders that included:

Congratulations to this year’s hackathon winners and thanks to all the participants for their dedication to helping improve the housing journey.