This past July, dozens of Tucson’s most talented and creative minds met up for the second annual Code for Tucson: A Weekend of Civic Innovation event held at CoLab Workspace on 17 E. Pennington St. in Downtown Tucson, and this year two of Connect Coworking’s members took top honors as David Hazan and Maher Pedersoli won the event’s grand prize- FREE admission to Startup Weekend. Hazan and Pedersoli came together for a collaborative entry they call Put It Down, a mobile app that encourages safe driving by incentivizing the user to, for a lack of better words, put down their respective cell phone while driving. It’s an idea that is so simple and universally applicable, it has the potential of saving lives of all ages on a global scale.
Code for Tucson bills itself as a weekend-long long civic code and innovation event inspired by the work of Code for America, Open Tucson, Thyve Incubator, Startup Tucson and “other passionate people and groups who seek to make a positive impact in their local community.” Hosts CoLab Workspace see the event as “an opportunity for people with diverse skills to work on real community issues with other innovators, community leaders and fellow citizens.”
David Hazan is the founder and CEO of CoupCity, which Hazan describes as “a digital coupon platform where users play fun mobile games to earn discounts and free items at their favorite local restaurants and retailers.” Before making Tucson his home and CoupCity’s home base, Hazan lived in Chicago and worked for Robert Half Technology as well as a commodities trader at the Chicago Board of Trade.
Maher Pedersoli is the CEO and founder of DualSwipe, a mobile app that brings together loyalty programs a consumer would use at his or her favorite business and merges those together into a convenient digital wallet package. As Pedersoli told Connect Coworking back in April, “I’m an engineer by trade, and I’ve spent the last 16 years working at some of the world’s largest companies, such as IBM, Motorola, and Accenture.”
Hazan and Pedersoli met for the first time during the Code For Tucson event and are now the co-founders of Put It Down. Their team was awarded top honors for the commercialization potential of Put It Down, and since winning the award they have been working hard on a daily basis to launch Put It Down as a Tucson-based company whose main goal is to reduce teenaged distracted driving.
As Hazan explains, “Over 3,000 American teenagers die each year as a result of distracted driving from cellphone usage. All of these deaths are preventable and it is our company’s mission to significantly reduce these pointless deaths.” This is where Put It Down comes in to help.
Hazan and Pedersoli have a simple two-part approach to accomplish their mission: First, to change behavior patterns. “Get in your car, open the app and hit start. Put your phone down and don’t bother with it till you arrive at your destination. Once you park and hit stop on the app, you are rewarded for a successful route driven without using your phone.”
Finally, Put It Down aims to encourage these new habits by incentivizing the user for goals achieved. “Every week, the teenage driver submits a money pledge request to their parent for a weekly driving without texting goal,” said Hazan. “Once a parent accepts the pledge, the driving campaign begins. This monetary pledge aligns the wants of the parents (their children’s safety) and what kids want (money for movies, dining, etc.). Since parents are already giving their teens money every week, this creates a way for parents to use that same money as a reward for good driving behavior.”
Put It Down is the kind of concept that events like Code For Tucson can foster, bringing together creative forces that otherwise would not have been realized on their own. Connect Coworking is a daily home to this kind of collaborating as well, whether it be in a casual day-to-day interactions between members or the many networking events it hosts. Bringing together the conceptually minded and technologically minded creative entrepreneurs to craft the new ideas and innovations that continue to put Tucson on the map, as Forbes Magazine put it, one of the Top 10 Cities of Influence in the US.
Hazan and Pedersoli have been in talks with educational institutions here in Tucson to beta-test Put It Down, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. As Hazan puts it, “Thirty years ago, there were NO texting while driving deaths in the US because cellphones hadn’t yet been invented! Using your phone while driving is a learned behavior and it can be unlearned.”