Winning a Hackathon revisited: 2nd place on my first hackathon (and 1st place on the second)
This is an addition to the original article My research on how to win a hackathon. In this one I will outline my own learnings after ranking 2nd on my first hackathon (Gorenje Hackathon) with a team I never met before.
It’s always good to do a retrospective after a project. This is my retrospective on Gorenje Group Hackathon. Here is a list of approaches, changes, … I would implement for my next Hackathon:
Start with problem discovery by mapping user Journeys
Next time I would start by mapping the user’s journey from start to the end:
- Where, when and how is user exposed to the brand?
- What is company trying to achieve with a specific activity?
- How do user’s interactions with the brand look like?
- What about after sale?
Talk to all the mentors to get more details on this and be on the lookout for problems and opportunities. They are knowledgeable about existing efforts of the company and have a lot of experiences at what is possible and why. Including them in the research phase and listening to their inputs will help you get to the right problem/solution + they will remember your efforts during judgement time.
Call your friends / parents / … users you know
Fastest way to access real users is via your phonebook and social media. Talk to your friends and family who had experienced the brand or type of products the brand is offering and ask:
- Ask them about latest experiences.
- How was it like in the past (5, 10, 15,… years ago) experiencing this same activity?
- How would they want it to look like if they would have a magic wand?
Keep the team unified
If you are working in a new team it can happen that each of you will be pulling the strings in different directions. This is because you see different problems differently interesting. Guide the team by:
- Presenting good arguments and ask hard questions,
- interview mentors/users as a group so everyone gets to hear and ask,
- if you talk separately to users or mentors have a group briefing,
- if there is a disagreement on the direction — get 1–3 new users to interview them as a group and you will see what problem/idea has bigger impact.
You will be pivoting
Matej Golob and Daniela Bervar Kotolenko said it nicely — you will be pivoting, finding yourself at square one and that’s normal.
It happened to us multiple times. We needed the whole first day to find a problem worth solving. We changed our idea/problem at least 5 times. Just be calm, talk to people, test, prototype,… A good problem will come. Half a day is enough time to build a good pitch (Read: How to not suck at presentations).
Test the pitch constantly — it will re-shape your product/service idea
As a presenter, you will most likely be writing the pitch/presentation yourself. What you might not be aware of is that you will also be shaping the product. It’s important to present the pitch to the whole team as soon as you have one paragraph written! Get input as early as possible. This will keep the team aligned and get you additional ideas to adapt the product.
Use the judges that haven’t heard your idea yet as test subjects. Use their feedback to reshape your pitch and product/service idea.
And last but not least: Don’t forget to take a break and bond with your team!