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My Experience at YC Hacks (erica.biz)
132 points by jamest on Aug 11, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 16 comments



The best kind of hackathon project is to demonstrate a new technology. Facebook wouldn’t win a Hackathon, most social networks wouldn't, because technologically, they aren't that interesting. I am glad that you didn't spend much time business/revenue model or market research. I got it wrong the first time I joined a hackathon


Absolute True. I once joined a weekend Hackathon. I built a web app, released it live with a clear business/usage proposition.

I didn't even make it to the first round but the ones that got selected and won don't make any usable sense at all. They won and the 'business/app' dies at that Hackathon. There were no practical application at all.


Wow that was a bit extreme heh. But I think that role of technology vs role of business model is what makes a hackathon different from, say, startup weekend. And again, as the author pointed out, we don't need to get the first price to enjoy the 'high' and fun of a hackathon. Onward!


It all depends what your end goals are. A new technology paired with a new market is doubly risky.

New technology applied to an existing market or a new product aimed at an existing market is a lot safer of a bet if you're trying to build a business.


You can significantly accelerate this types of hacks with Unbounce. Just build a landing page in advance for "Lorem Ipsum" hack. Then, on an actual hackathon, you can launch a nice looking site for your idea in 30-60 minutes. Starting with Unbounce gives you time to find the first users and to work on the actual app experience.

Looking forward to try your app!


What happened after the deadline? Did you pitch it in front of everyone? Or did all the teams just get to experience the joy of building something with tight deadlines?


Each team demoed for 1.5 hours in a science fair-style expo. A panel chose the top 7 teams, and each of those teams pitched in front of the whole group. 6 judges asked questions and awarded prizes to the top 3 teams.


It was a "science fair" style expo, where all of the completed hacks were on display with one person from each team demoing--essentially over and over again for hours.

Judges came around to review and score everyone (every team had multiple judges stop by), and a shortlist of hacks made it to the final round where it was more of a traditional pitch-off, with different judges.

http://ychacks.challengepost.com/


The expo was pretty awful, as a presenter. After being up for >30 hours working on the project, having to stand up and pitch it for two hours was rough. It also meant not getting to go around and see everybody else's projects.

If they do this again, they should shorten the expo significantly and do it in stages, so that nobody has to stand and talk for two hours.


I thought the expo format was alright but it would've been better if there was a larger space so some teams didn't have to be outside and people didn't have to shout over each other while trying to discuss their projects. It was a better format for larger teams though, as everyone could take turns presenting and looking at other projects.


I've been to a dozen large hackathons and they essentially all operate in this manner. I've been trying to come up with another way - the expo style has many shortcomings including those you listed. It's very hard to stand out in this format especially if your demo is not conducive to 10 seconds standing up at a table with 100db ambient volume. Makes the importance of designing a hackathon-friendly hack paramount.


The expo definitely has it's tradeoffs, but I've been to dozens of hackathons now, and before we switched to the expo, the endings were significantly lower energy: https://medium.com/how-to-throw-a-hackathon/635563ceab2f

Expo definitely favors larger teams as we only allow one person to demo from each team at a time, leaving the team members to swap out and check out all the other hacks. While the demos in front of everyone may be more fair, the expo builds community and gives people the opportunity to get immediate feedback on their pitch/product even if they dont win a prize or make it to the final round.

You should've seen the energy in the room.


PennApps, LAHacks, HackTech, HackSC...all had expos. You're right in that demos for everyone just aren't feasible. But I think you understate the challenges and downsides associated with expos.

The hackathon explosion is just getting started, I'm sure things will continue to improve as these events mature.


LAUNCH had teams assigned to one of 15 groups of judges and you pitched them and the winners from each group of judges made it forward to the next round which meant one 3-5 minute pitch only. The downside was that you didn't get to see most of what everyone else built.


I agree with you, esp since it seems you were a solo presenter. It is good to have at least one teammate if you can find, because again, the statistics do not favor lone founders.


In the traditional sense of hackathons i think YC hacks had each team present a 1-3 minute pitch.




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