NYC BigApps is an annual competition sponsored by the New York City Economic Development Corporation. It provides programmers, developers, designers, and entrepreneurs with access to municipal data sets to build technological products that address civic issues affecting New York City. Through the NYC Open Data portal and other private and non-profit data sources, contestants have access to more than 1,000 data sets and APIs. Examples of available data include weekly traffic updates, schedules of citywide events, property sales records, catalogs of restaurant inspections, and geographic data about the location of school and voting districts. The contest is part of a broader New York City effort to increase government transparency and encourage entrepreneurship.[1]

Results & challenges

Year Produced By Number of Applicants Winners
2009 ChallengePost 85 WayFinderNYC, Taxihack, Big Apple Ed, Trees Near You, NYC Way, PushPinWeb, UpNext 3D NYC, Actuatr, New York City Parks and Recreation Online, Bookzee
2010 ChallengePost 57 Roadify, Sportaneous, Parking Finder, Appetition, cultureNOW, Weels, NextStop,, NYC Data Web, NYCPlanIt
2011 ChallengePost 96 NYCFacets, Work+, The Funday Genie, Embark NYC, 596 Acres, Sage, TestFlip, ParkAlly, Uhpartments, New York Trip Builder, Scene Near Me
2013 CollabFinder 118 HealthyOut, Poncho, Hopscotch, SolarList, Hired in NY, Helping Hands, Child Care Desk
2014 HR&A Advisors N/A
2019 SecondMuse N/A

Some contest winners have gone on to become viable companies. For example, MyCityWay, was a contest winner in 2010.[citation needed] MyCityWay subsequently raised venture capital funding from FirstMark Capital and IA Ventures, as well as a strategic investment from BMW. [2] Embark NYC, the mass transit application which won Best Mobility App in the NYC BigApps 3.0 competition, received investment from BMW i Ventures in 2012 and was acquired by Apple in 2013.[3]

Yet like many app competitions driven by government data, many of the winning apps have not developed into viable companies. One challenge that civic hacking competitions face is that “they rely on programmers to define problems, instead of citizens or even government itself.” [4] Hana Schank wrote of the 2011 contest that “the problem with the [2011] BigApps contest is that it leaves both user needs and likely user behavior out of the equation, instead beginning with an enormous data dump and asking developers to make something cool out of it”. [5]

Recognizing these challenges, the 2013 BigApps competition introduced specific problem briefs organized around five “BigIssues” related to issues affecting New York City: Jobs and Economic Mobility, Cleanweb: Energy, Environment, and Resilience, Healthy Living, and Lifelong Learning. The competition also included events where organizations and City agencies versed in a “BigIssue” presented data sets and ideas to competitors.

Contest judges

Judges for the contest have included: Dawn Barber, Co-founder, New York Tech Meetup; John Borthwick, CEO, Betaworks; Chris Dixon, CEO & Co-founder, Hunch; Jack Dorsey, CEO, Square, and Co-founder, Twitter; Esther Dyson, Chairman, EDventure; Lawrence Lenihan, Founder, CEO and Managing Director of FirstMark Capital; Naveen Selvadurai, Co-founder, Foursquare; Steven Strauss, Managing Director, NYCEDC; Kara Swisher, Co-Executive Director, All Things Digital; Fred Wilson, Managing Partner, Union Square Ventures.[6]


  1. ^ WORTHAM, JENNA. "New York City Wants You to Create an App For That". The New York Times. 6 Oct 2009. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  2. ^ Wauters, Robin. "BMW Teams Up With, Invests $5 Million In MyCityWay". TechCrunch. 25 Feb 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  3. ^ March 24, 2014.
  4. ^ Anthony M. Townsend, Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia, 2013
  5. ^ Hana Schank, "New York City’s Digital Deficiency ". Fast Company. December 14, 2011. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
  6. ^ "MAYOR BLOOMBERG ANNOUNCES WINNERS OF NYC BIGAPPS 2.0 COMPETITION". 31 March 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2013.

Further reading