How to Win an Hackathon?


(T) Over the last year, I have attended many hackathons, and in that course learned many new technologies. Hackathons are a great way for developers to learn new programming languages and tools, brainstorm and share new app and product ideas, meet and network with other developers, and finally but not least evaluate if an existing project or apps could have some market traction, and potentially could lead to a new venture.

Yes, I know a lot of hackathons are organized over the weekend. But they are worthwhile attending for building your expertise and expanding your network. A lot of hackathons start with tutorials, and when organized by a vendor provides a lot of valuable and free resources.

Seeing other developer demos is a great way to stimulate your own creativity. And demoing your work is a great way to find out if you have demonstrated a technical achievement or if your idea has business potential.

It is always a good idea to come to a hackathon with an idea and a teammate, but never hesitate to go to a hackathon without an idea and without a teammate.

The key to winning a hackathon is to quickly define what you will be demoing, and from the demo work backward to what you need to code. You do not need to code all the features but after you have clearly articulated the concept and the value of your apps that you want to demonstrate to the audience, show (and before that only code) the features that will make the most impact in the demo, and require the least amount of programming.

Two critical success factors in winning a hackathon are first starting with an efficient distribution of the tasks between the team members that leverage each team member expertise, and second manage efficiently the workload with the very limited time offered for the hackathon.

Finally, always give yourself some time to test and practice the demo before its final presentation, and think about the key takeaways that you want your audience to remember.

You do not need to always start from scratch at a hackathon. I have seen many developers modifying and testing an app that they have already developed previously.

And, I have seen some hackathons offering prizes of several thousands of dollars. Not a bad way to spend a weekend when it is raining outside. Unfortunately, it is not raining very often in California.

Note: The picture above is a hackathon that I attended last year from Corona Labs.

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Categories: Hackathons