54 hours of FashTech
This weekend I attended the FashTech hackathon as part of startup weekend London and London Fashion Week. Our team came second out of 9 teams — yay! The idea was to create the YPlan for fashion events.
Here are some reflections and things I learnt.
1. Don’t build because you can, build because it is needed
Everyone thinks their idea is great. Otherwise they wouldn’t have let it go past the filter in their mind that says shut up this is a stupid idea. For myself and the fellow developer it was a case of sure we can build this but SHOULD we be building it. This is where the validation part comes in. Is it a genuine problem or pain point you are solving. As the developer role it is also very easy to hide in code and just fulfil your developer needs. Does every line of code you are writing actually need to be written? What are hacks you could use to achieve the same result? Could you be spending your time better i.e. could you spend it actually making a difference. Here it is also important to take a non-technical outlook, is this actually viable outside non technical terms? Really being able to build it is the last of your worries because near enough anything is possible to make, or at least the closest thing to it.
2. Your environment dictates your work ethic
There is something about sitting in a room with people bashing away at their keyboards. I am working on a startup myself and I felt re-energised sitting in a room with like minded and talented people vs. my front lounge. Inspirational places are a thing.
3. People like things that look good
The first and second place winners had a number of things they did well but what was noticeable was their prototypes and pitch deck was visually a lot better than the other teams. People like stuff that looks good whether it’s food, fashion or people; a prototype isn’t that much different.
4. It is easy to kid yourself into pretending you are doing good stuff
Let’s set up an instagram account, how about a snapchat, someone even suggested kickstarter (!?!?!?WHAT). Let’s make a moodboard. Let’s have a meeting.
What do you actually need to do to get what you need done. First things first.
I totally understand why accelerators and investors always harp on about how important it is to have the right team and the right individuals. It really isn’t about the idea. It is about the ability to get stuff done, use initiative and execute. When partnering with others in a hackathon don’t look for the person with the most original or coolest idea, really and truly those aren’t hard to generate. Choose someone who:
Can articulate themselves, sounds so trivial but you would be surprised with how difficult this can be for some.
Someone who is problem obsessed rather than idea obsessed. Building a solution for an actual problem is a lot more satisfying and productive than building a nice to have. Ask them what problem they are trying to solve rather than what idea they have. Compelled by the problem. Let’s go.
Some one who is proactive. This is the most most most important one. There were a number of non technical people in the room but that didn’t stop them from getting their hands dirty. To be honest myself and the fellow developer on the team were left with a bitter taste as we did most of the work from building a prototype to sorting out the pitch deck and getting followers. I guess it is the dark side of hackathons. It is a shame because although neither of us had the idea, we were the ones that made it happen but all we are left with is a bitter taste as we no longer want to work with the individual who had the idea. It was the definition of ideas are cheap, execution is everything.
Regardless, I am proud of what me and my team mate achieved in 54hours and had a great time meeting everyone and seeing the fruits. Thanks to the #SWLondon organisers, you put on an amazing event with insightful speakers and great mentors. I also wanted to add that it was one of the most diverse and inclusive tech events I have been to, between the top two teams, there were 4 developers and all four female. Win for female visibility and girls who code. Congratulations to ModeForMe, follow their kickstarter for ethical fashion.