I attended the Launch Hackathon a couple weeks ago and here are a few things I learned.
(Thanks @jason for putting on an awesome event)
Think mobile first
We built a bookmarklet that did not work on mobile, and the judges hated it. They knew it was not built for mobile but they asked us anyways what our mobile strategy was. Haha of course we just said “there isn’t one…it doesn’t work on mobile.” They then looked down at their papers and scribbled down some notes that I can only image said “these guys are idiots.”
The next hackathon I attend our team will be thinking entirely mobile first, I suggest you do the same.
Styling out CSS elements
I learned how to style out all my design elements in CSS. Under our time constraints it was necessary for me to help out with what little development I am capable of. It was an awesome experience to pick up a new skill in literally a few hours. I actually learned some cool CSS style tricks that the developer I was working with didn’t even know.
Always be open to learning something on the fly, even if you don’t think you have the time. The pressure and time constraints will help you focus and learn faster than you normally would.
When meals are served, get in line right away
If you don’t you risk missing out. They ordered a ton of food. But it was all gone within 15-20 minutes (breakfast was the exception). In a room filled with hungry, tired and irritated devs, food does not last long.
Time your breaks and team progress updates around your meals. Don’t wait for the ideal stopping point.
Think company as well as tech
Going into the hackathon I figured the focus would be on the technology we built. Though of course that was important, I found the judges favored hacks that could become real companies. This was clear in the finalists they selected. Additionally, the judges asked us what our monetization strategy was. It sounded like a ridiculous question to have to answer, since what we created did not exist just 48 hours prior.
When you start thinking about what you wanna hack, think about the true value you are creating and how that can be monetized. Do this from the beginning, not at the end!