How to win a Hackathon (or at least give it your best try)

Winning the PayPal’s Battlehack in TLV

There are many Hackathons today. They’re fun, challenging and they make you think out of the box.

Here are some of my own thoughts about the way you should do it right.

  1. Come prepared in your mind!
    Most of the times you’ll have just 24 hours, so you should know exactly what your product should do, how it’s supposed to work and what functions it should have.
    Do a small research about the tech you’re going to use, just to see if there are any limitations.
    Don’t come with a code you wrote at home. In most hackathons that’s the rule, but it should be yours as well.
    Part of the fun is to do the whole thing from scratch.
  2. Believe in your idea.
    It’s very hard to do something that you don’t believe in.
    In addition, I can promise you that after 20 hours of coding / designing, all it takes is a word to break you down and make you feel that it’s a sh**ty idea.
    Choose your idea carefully, and make sure that no matter what, you’ll fight all the way until you’ll finish it.
    Leave your comfort zone, that’s where great ideas are coming from.
  3. Have fun!
    You are not coming to fight someone or just to win. Winning is fun, but still, as we said, there are at least 24 hours until you’ll know if you won.
    You’ll probably meet cool people and mentors, drink a lot of beer and eat a lot.
    So in my opinion, that should be you main goal: fun fun fun.
  4. Delivery.
    If you managed to create the entire product, that’s great. You can now show it at the presentation stage. In case you haven’t, that’s ok as well. You have only 24 hours, a P.O.C is acceptable.
    Either way, the judges don’t know what’s going on inside your head, they should see a nice short presentation which shows the main idea and the WOW factor that your product obviously has. You’ll have just a couple of minutes, so use them wisely. A 4–6 slide presentation should do it, and a small demo. 
    You can see our presentation here.
  5. Team.
    Your team is also one of the important things.
    You have to be a team player, you won’t have time to do it all alone, so try not to fight over stupid things, you can do that later.
    Split the tasks between you, if you’re done with yours, helps the other guys.
    If you finished everything, the product and the presentation and you still have a few hours left… something is wrong… :)
  6. Sleep!
    You’re going to be awake for a long time, make sure you come ready and fresh.
    You can take a nap here and there, but that’s on your own time.

These tips helped me and my team win PayPal’s BattleHack in Tel Aviv, on October 2015.

Hope they will serve you just as well.

P.S: I also had a great mentor, so thanks again Shai Mishali.