Why you should be entering Hackathons

- April 29, 2015


Competition brings out the best in products and worst in men. Or so said David Sarnoff, the guy credited with developing the communications industry in the U.S.

ChallengePost_logo-7068dde384457e8bb0df644211db381dThere are many on ChallengePost – the platform that powers online challenges and in-person hackathons – that may have a different view on Sarnoff’s statement. Including many of our own clients that fight it out in (kind of) friendly hackathons and online challenges.

Such competitions may not have Simon Cowell or cheesy elimination tasks, but ChallengePost winners (and “losers”) tends to produce more than one-hit wonders. And they certainly get a lot more from entering Hackathons and showcasing their software projects than those who seek that allusive 15 minutes of fame on one of Cowell’s TV shows.

Quilt – an app that uses Filepicker.

The prize money and other rewards may make the adrenaline-pumping workload and intense pressure worth it, but it’s the long-term opportunities that everyone has their eyes on. Free feedback and a fresh perspective from like-minded people can only strengthen an innovative product, transforming it from a small idea to a big creation that will have angel investors fighting over you like a superstar.

Just like it did for GroupMe, conceived at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2010. While the group text messaging app did not win anything at the one-day hackathon, it did get a bit of investor attention. Less than one year later, it was sold for $85 million.

GroupMe attributes its rapid success to the use of the Twillo API, a relationship that began that very first day of the TechCrunch hackathon. Get the right API to play with for these contests and you never know what may happen…

a5f.banner_nycTriptography, an app created for the 24-hour Photo Hack Day NYC, can attest to that. They ended up using 14 different APIs, including Filepicker, and created a slick travel app where users can search for local suggestions for a city and get image-based results.

And their hard work led to a litany of awards, including the Photo Organization Prize, Best Foursquare Hack, and Best Filepicker Hack. And this is only the beginning for Triptography (read about how they use Filepicker’s API).

3 Tips to succeed in a Hackathon:

1. Get to know the vendors/sponsors

Companies want you to play with their APIs, so you can create that something special on the day. We, for example, helped Brandfolder compete in Google’s GovDev Challenge last year. Use this opportunity to get help from people like us to build your project, create long-standing working relationships and free guidance. It’s networking that could lead to a lot more.

2. Do your Homework

Many hackathons do not allow you to write code beforehand, but you can leverage existing open source libraries. Get to know the API and understand how the various libraries work and how you are going to use them on the day of the event. This will save you precious time and avoid headaches, allowing you the time to concentrate on building the functionality of your app.

3. Think big, build small

No matter how much of a genius you are or how much coffee you consume on the day, it is highly unlikely that you will create version 1.0 of your product. Especially in the crazy working environment of a Hackathon. At the end of 24-hours, you need something that will work and is demoable. Take the time to` build good, simple functionality. Less is definitely more in these situations.

If you want Filepicker to sponsor your Hackathon, let us know – support@filepicker.io