U.S., Canadian Businesses Host “Cross-Border Hackathon” to Smooth International Trade Frictions

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The FINANCIAL — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Dickinson Wright PLLC, and the Northof41.org technology group hosted the First Annual Cross-Border Hackathon this weekend in Chicago and Toronto.

The three-day event included more than 200 technical experts and programmers, presenting them with the task of creating an application programming interface (API) that would simplify the complicated importing/exporting process for small and medium sized enterprises between Canada and the U.S.  Trade Sherpa, a Chicago-based group led by Steve Martinez and Price Shoemaker, won first place in the event with its application that provides businesses a way to easily move from invoices to automatically fill out forms required by U.S. and Canadian customs officials and other regulatory agencies, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The hackathon was an opportunity to leverage the talents of smart programmers and technical experts to develop an out-of-the-box for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to navigate customs and border procedures. Next for the winners will be an opportunity to present their idea to key government agencies and to connect with the SMEs that would directly benefit from a simplified export process.

Partners for the event included Amazon, Salesforce, Microsoft and IBM, all of which host third-party platforms that help businesses import and export goods in a cost-effective manner. Other government and private sector partners in the event included the U.S. Consulate General in Toronto, the Consulate General of Canada in Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Technology, MyPlanet Digital and Amplifi.

“This was a unique opportunity to highlight the impact startups can have on issues that promote cross-border trade and investment,” said Adam Schlosser, senior director and policy counsel at the U.S. Chamber’s Center for Global Regulatory Cooperation. “This weekend has introduced fresh perspectives into the public-policy arena, giving government leaders new resources for solving problems.”

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The entire event was video streamed live between Chicago and Toronto, which added in an element of both cross-border collaboration, allowing U.S. and Canadian government officials the opportunity to simultaneously frame the problem sets that competitors set out to solve.

“We believe that this hackathon demonstrated that there are technology solutions to the trade challenges that confront small and medium-sized companies, which are the lifeblood of the Canada-U.S. trade relationship,” said Dan Ujczo, an international trade and customs attorney with Dickinson Wright, a Canada-U.S. law firm based in Detroit. 

Jeff Musson, Founder of Northof41.org & President of Dynamitenetwork.com, added “I was impressed with the high quality of projects that were developed as part of this hackathon. I look forward to continue to build on the momentum that this event has created.”


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