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Hackathons are not about “hacking”

johnpaulada profile image John Paul Ada ・3 min read

Also posted on Medium.

UHack Poster

On July 15, 2017, I joined the UnionBank’s UHack & Play Hackathon with the theme Banking Innovations. held at the Trade Hall at SM City Cebu, Philippines to alleviate my boredom because of the blackout at Tacloban City, Philippines due to the series of earthquakes that hit the city.

We built UHomes during the Hackathon. It’s a peer-to-peer real estate buy & sell platform. We didn’t win but we had a blast trying to stay awake to finish the app. 😂 😂

Source code:

https://github.com/johnpaulada/uhomes.

UHomes App Screenshots

UHomes Screenshot 1
UHomes Screenshot 2
UHomes Screenshot 3
UHomes Screenshot 4
UHomes Screenshot 5

The "UHomies"

Team UHomies! From the left: Kent, Cleo, and me.<br>
Team UHomies! From the left: Kent, Cleo, and me.


Here are a few tips that might help when you join a hackathon.

They’re about IDEAS, NOT the implementation.

If you think you can win with pure coding skills, you’re gravely mistaken.

To win a hackathon, you need a SOLID idea. That’s in all caps and in bold for emphasis. It doesn’t matter if you think you can’t finish implementing it. You can just make it static as long as you can show them how it would look like if you actually implemented it.

The judges there know their shit. So your value proposition better be great and you have to make sure you really have a competitive advantage over the competition. What makes your app a cut above the rest? That’s what you try and figure out.

Start with a problem.

To develop an idea, you need to start with a problem. It would be nice to solve a problem that has no good solution yet. If you decided to solve a problem with existing solutions, make sure what you’re building is actually better than their solution.

Build around the idea, not an API.

When we were told to use the UnionBank API, our minds were immediately framed to build around the API when we should have built our idea by using the API.

Thoroughly research the market.

Make sure you know your competitor’s business models. Know what makes them tick. Know what makes them different. This is so you know your business model is actually better than theirs and if not, you can either improve it, or drop the idea and find another one.

Bring all the people you need.

We were in serious lack of people and skill variety. We were all developers with roughly the same skill sets and we didn’t have enough people working on other crucial stuff like the presentation and the pitch. We were multi-tasking like hell, which didn’t really help our case.

Bring a Designer.

This was seriously a problem. Our presentation looked horrible. We didn’t have someone working solely on the logo, on the mockups, etc. We were in great need of a designer and we didn’t have one.

Bring a business-savvy person.

We didn’t have a domain expert with us – in this case, an expert in banking. But it doesn’t have to be banking. Having a business-savvy person on your team will save you from many revisions to your idea from the get-go.

Prepare a dynamic pitch.

The pitch isn’t everything, but a great pitch will get people to listen to what you have to say and what value your product can give.

Prepare a pretty presentation.

Make your presentation look great. If it looks horrible, it would communicate to people that your work is sloppy and you’re not prepared enough. Also, people won’t focus on your presentation if it doesn’t look pleasing.

Make a video if you can. It’s easier for people to see it in action than to just hear about the features of your product.

There you have it! I hope you learned something! Hackathons are FUN and you should definitely try them out! 😄
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bernhardwebstudio profile image
Bernhard Webstudio

I'm going to my first hackathon in September, this post gave me a nice insight, thank you!