On July 4th and 5th, I had the privilege of participating as judge in the Third Annual Colombian AngelHack hackathon. It was a part of the Eighth Global Series, which was also celebrated in 95 cities and over 65 countries. The winners of each city will go through a 12 week accelerator program and a trip to the Global DemoDay in San Francisco (CA) to pitch their ideas to some of the most known investors, startup accelerators and incubators in Silicon Valley.
A hackathon is, essentially, a 24 hours event where coders, engineers, designers, entrepreneurs and tech-minded people come together to do intense coding. Ultimately, the contestants will transform a nascent idea into something useful that can “wow” judges and attract investment.
The judges were a selection of recognized Colombian entrepreneurs, technology journalists, CEOs, and technology directors. We were in charge of selecting the winner based on 4 different criteria: product/solution, technical chops, execution and design.
Many of the teams already knew each other and came with a clear idea of what they wanted to present, while others were there to pitch their ideas to the other enthusiasts in hopes of them joining their teams. Some of the projects included: web sites and mobile applications that attempted to disrupt online deliveries, a semantic search engine for products and services, a chat for tourist based on geo-localization and to-do list engine that was aware of your friends pending tasks.
At the end of the second day and after many hours of deliberation the winners were chosen. In third place was AyDoor, a delivery and services platform. Second place was taken by Poof, a semantic search engine for products and services. Finally, the winner was awarded to InfiniteLoops a platform to automatize and execute repetitive tasks and scripts for developers.
Overall, it was a great experience and the amount of talent is really encouraging. Some of the major conclusions I took away from AngelHack were:
– Work on something that does one thing really well. Show it off and focus on it for your demo. Filling long forms and following user flows are demo killers.
– Merits matter. You have to build, watch, and plan a successful demo and presentation. You can slave away all night but if you can’t clearly express your project you won’t have a chance of winning. Make sure you don’t waste time talking about pieces of the project that aren’t essential to the crowds understanding of what you have built. Get through your demo.
– Think your idea through. Most projects and teams tend fade away after the hackathon weekend, which is traditionally one of the criteria that the judges use when voting. If you are really passionate about your idea keep at it regardless of the events results.
– Tell a story. If you think you are solving a problem (big or small), tell everyone about the problem and how you solved it. People like stories. If you are solving an interesting problem and have a cool/working product you have a higher chance of winning something.
– It may sound obvious, but setting clear objectives for your attendance at the hackathon ensures you get the most of out of the short time.
– Have a plan B and even C. This was repeated over and over to the participants yet many relied solely on the success of their pitches and demo. Unfortunately, for some, this wasn’t a successful strategy.
The privilege of being a judge is an awesome learning experience. You get to hear really fresh ideas and approaches from technology leaders and extremely enthusiastic participants. The culture and products this event helps build are great for countries like Colombia. There is a good talent pool here, but not enough confidence or entrepreneurship to help all these talented people take their ideas further. Hopefully, more events like AngelHack will allow these remarkable individuals to bring their ideas, creativity and talents to the forefront of the tech industry.
-Carlos Arenas, Mobile & Application Development Director