Hackathons: What’s in it for you?
April 19, 2014
What do geeks, entrepreneurs and startup enthusiasts do on weekends? Well, on the
second weekend of May they will be at Microsoft Development Centre engaging in
AngelHack Hyderabad Spring 2014. Hackathons are a brilliant concept in the modern day
startup culture. And AngelHack is as good as it gets.
A typical hackathon lasts for 2 days. You go with an idea and pitch it to the folks in
attendance. People who get inspired by your idea join your team. And together you build a
working prototype that you demo the next day. It is a wonderful place to test out your crazy
ideas that, you think, might become the next big thing.
I was judging at the last AppHack in 2013. The AngelHack hackathon was one of the best
prototyping events I’ve seen in Hyderabad. We went through more than 50 demos on Day
2. And the quality of the demos was just amazing. The winning team ﬂew to Silicon Valley
for a week of celebrations and to pitch to prospective VCs.
The idea of building something in less than 48 hours can be both exciting and terrifying.
You might be thinking why spoil a nice lazy weekend going to a hackathon and ‘writing
code’ when you can spend it watching a soccer or an IPL game, or worse — ideating. Here
• Get out of the rut: You might often be getting into the entrepreneur’s equivalent of a
‘writers block’. At hackathons, people are buzzing with electric enthusiasm. It is a great
place to get out of that rut and get cracking.
• Get involved: There is no better place than a hackathon to become more involved in the
local tech community. You’ll make new like-minded friends and have a lot of fun.
• Learn something new: It doesn't matter how basic or advanced your coding skills are.
Even if you can’t code a single line, a hackathon will help you pick up an awful lot of new
• Build a team: Some people go to hackathons in a team. There are others who form
teams at a hackathon. Hackathons typically throw together a crowd from varied
backgrounds to see what crazy ideas they come up with. It is a great place to meet good
talent. Who know your search for a worthy co-founder might end at a hackathon!
• The loot: Apart from the wonderful ideas your team generates, you also get to walk away
with a lot of swag. Hackathon sponsors reward you with loot for sitting through their
presentations. The AngelHack hackathon in Hyderabad last fall was sponsored by
Microsoft BizSpark, Amazon and Firefox amongst others. And then there is the grand
Now that you’re all pumped up for your next hackathon, here is what you need to know to
make the most out of it:
hackathon was a one
of the best
I’ve seen in
Hyderabad. We went
through more than 50
demos on Day 2.”
Vivek Anand, Judge
AppHack Fall 2013)
• Picking the right challenge: The most obvious choice should be an idea you are already
toying with. Or pick a challenge you are grappling with in your pet project. Or take a fresh
approach and come up with an idea that solves a challenging problem. Remember to
pick an idea that is a stretch by your current capabilities and challenges you. That is the
only way to learn in a hackathon.
• Form the right team: Without the right team, you're going to feel crippled. Pick people
who are passionate about your idea. It is also important to have a good mix of skills in the
team. You need the designers as much as the code mavericks, specially if you are a
business guy and don't understand ‘geek’.
• Homework: Prepare well to save time. Research and decide which technology platforms
you would use at the hackathon. You cant write code beforehand but you can use
existing open source libraries. Study your APIs well and ﬂip through example
• Set realistic expectations: When the team huddles up, set realistic expectations from
everyone and negotiate the focus of the team. You have only 48 hours or less to go
before the demo. Strip down your idea to the bare minimum features. The idea is to build
a prototype or a proof of concept, not a fully functional product.
• All hands on deck: Imagine what you would want to do in your ideal demo and then
work backwards. Keep having regular team huddles to make sure everyone is on the
same page. One mistake can trickle down to the most important features in you
application demo. And take frequent breaks to make sure you don't burn out.
• A bird in hand: Try to have a working demo of whatever you are working on. Done is
better than perfect! Whether you are there to learn or to win, aim to ﬁnish! The challenge
at a hackathon is to make something that works and looks good.
Most teams dissolve and abandon the idea post hackathon. This doesn't mean you’ve to
do the same. Each hackathon is distinct. The kind of people you meet and work with is
diﬀerent. The ideas you create and technologies you work on are new. And hence, each
hackathon is a unique experience.
So let me ask you — what are you doing on May 10th?
Book your seat at AngelHack Hyderabad Spring 2014. Tickets 100% discounted for a limited period. Use code:
Founder & CEO, Filmojo (IncLabs)
Convener, Hyderabad Entrepreneurs Society (HES)