Winning a Hackathon revisited: 2nd place on my first hackathon (and 1st place on the second)

Sašo Jakljevič
Nov 1, 2017 · 4 min read

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.

Edit: Next Hackathon was for Lidl and with a semi new team we won using this approach. Our solution that you can try out was chatbot LIVI.

Picture of my “Team #3” on Gorenje Hackathon organised by CorpoHub. From right to left — me, Anica Mojsov, Petja Jarm, Moses Emuze, Luka Klarendič, and Danijel Volčič + our designer help.

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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

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

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!

Random pictures throughout the two days. Thanks for the pictures Eva Antoinette! — she also participated and did a great job presenting her team’s idea.

Sašo Jakljevič

Coach in product validation expert.