Valley geeks compete

FRESNO, California

Fresno web consultant Ian Kensey and his partner, college student Jesse Martinez, say their game, "Ensemble Online," has it all ... combining role playing, hunting, and social strategy. The game was one of 15 entries in the Central Valley Business Incubators "59 Days of Code" competition, held at the Veterans Memorial Building. The contest showcased the work of programmers and developers, also known as "geeks".

"We don't realize that they're sitting in coffee houses, billing out $150 to $200 dollars an hour. We don't realize they have clients in New York, and Europe, and southern California. And we don't realize they're developing the next Facebook, or Twitter, or LinkedIn right under our nose," said Central Valley Business Incubator Director Travis Sheridan.

Many of the contestants already work in the software industry, but have spent tens of thousands of hours on the side, creating apps they hope to market to the masses. Each app solves a specific problem, like sensitive eating. "I have gluten sensitivity. So this product came from a personal pain of mine, of figuring out if I could eat something and making sure it was safe for me to eat," said Michael Wanke of Clovis.

Wanke and Daniel Charles of Fresno created "Sensitive Eating," a web and mobile app to help people with food sensitivities like lactose intolerance. "Our mobile app will allow you to take a picture of the back of the box. We'll read these ingredients in and spit right there, safe or not safe," said Charles.

While beta testing is the next step for many of the contestants, some are already in use. "Pencil'em" is used in about 100 salons to help stylists and manicurists manage their own scheduling. It can also send clients email and text reminders to prevent no shows. "We can do everything on our iPhone that we can do on our desktop. And that's important to these people that are sitting in a booth. They don't have a computer," said David Goforth of Clovis.

While all of the apps seemed impressive, the night's big prize was awarded to "Post Echo," an app that tracks news coverage for the PR industry.

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