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TechCrunch Hackathon at VivaTech 2019 — my impressions and findings

One of the best pointers I’ve seen

VivaTech is the biggest tech conference in France, which takes part in Paris during last 4 years. This year it has been the biggest and the most impressive one, with 2 halls taken by 9000 of startups and big companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon, SNCF, BNP and hundreds of others.

Hall 1 photographed from the top

But I didn’t have enough time to enjoy the conference, because I participated in even more amazing event — traditional Hackathon organized by TechCrunch and BeMyApp.

What’s the h*ck?

We don’t hack any databases, banks, governments etc. Everything is quite in boundaries of law (even such complicated one as french). The goal of any hackathon is to gather many people from different backgrounds to propose innovative solutions for sponsors.

It’s a very flexible event, so you can come alone or with a team, with an idea or without one, with skills or, well, with passion to do something useful :) And then you need to work on some project during some time (usually from 24h to 48h).

This year, TechCrunch Hackathon at VivaTech had 5 topics to work on:

  • EDHEC Business School: help students to find the path that suits them best for their future career
  • Sanofi Cegedim IBM: make Healthcare professionals’ (HCPs) practice easier and bring better care to people living with cardio-metabolic challenges like Diabetes
  • ERAMET: find a solution that can provide our customers with 100% transparency on our supply chains
  • Corvid by WIX: build the tools you’ve always dreamed of that will take your productivity to the next level
  • Galeries Lafayette Publicis Sapient: help to identify major upcoming trends and measure the potential of a brand or collection by uncovering fashion trends of tomorrow

Each challenge had a prize of 5000 euros for the first place. There was also the Grand Prize by TechCrunch of 5000 euros for the most “awesome” project. In other words, there were no reasons to not join the event.

Organization and Agenda

BeMyApp is the company who does a lot of hackathons and each event is organized on very high professional level. BTW, it was my 5th event from BeMyApp, where I’ve participated.

This year they’ve succeeded to bring together more than 300 participants, which formed 60+ teams. All those teams were working during 36 hours to come up with innovative solutions for 5 challenges mentioned before.

Agenda of TechCrunch Hackathon at VivaTech 2019

With those numbers of participants, it’s needed to bring dozens of stuff and mentors to organize and guide them. Big thanks to all the stuff: Florian Clevenot, Alexandre Sutra, Fabien Pardo and many others.

ERAMET Challenge

ERAMET is a French multinational mining and metallurgy company founded in 1880. The company produces non-ferrous metals and derivatives, nickel alloys and superalloys, and high-performance special steels. It has more than 12000 employees all over the world and revenue counted in billions of dollars.

I’ve chosen this challenge, because I wanted to test my skills in something exotic and really different from what I’m doing in everyday life. I had only one potential teammate, which finally couldn’t come.

So I was sure I will be alone on challenge, but what was my surprise when I’ve met several of my teammates from previous hackathons. What a close community of hackathons lovers there must be? 😂

Our team — ERAMET G (Ore Chain)

At the end of the day, I’ve teamed up with one of them and we’ve together joined another team, so we were 6 — max headcount for the one team. So we started to work on ideas and discuss them with mentors.

Ideas and Mentors

Almost each developer has a wrong perception of hackathon at the start. Hackathon isn’t about coding all the time to present something technically perfect. It’s more about talking with mentors, discussing their problems and potential solutions, working on great presentation and demo.

Lack of soft (or social) skills is one my biggest problems. I’m the classical programmer from movies, which likes coding and don’t like people. But I’m working hard on changing my attitude. This is one of the reasons why I participate in hackathons.

This time I even was able to pitch my idea to mentors. Special thanks to Tatiana HERNANDEZ RICO, Alexys Dianoux and Bérengère Papin, who spent a lot of time validating my idea of Alloys Isotopic Signature.

The idea was to add tiny amounts of different isotopes to alloys to identify them later in other processes and even with a final customers. Even though I wasn’t working on it further, I think it was a good one. Maybe next time :)

As a team we were working on the Cloud Platform, which uses Blockchain to keep track on the whole path of materials from mines to final customers. The only drawback with this idea was that almost all teams worked on something quite similar, so it was difficult to differentiate ourselves.

Pitch and Demo

The apogee of hackathon is the final presentation of project, for which you have only 1 minute. In that time you must communicate problem, solution and do the demo. Many pitchers fails this challenge - it’s really-really hard.

It means that pitch and demo must be polished really-really well. So the best investment of those 36 hours is to work hard on presentation and demo. This is exactly what we were doing.

Beside of that every team must fill the project page on Ideation platform with problem, solution, presentation and so on. All code this time had to be submitted on GitLab. BTW, I was working not on the mobile app this time (which is my profile), but on the Proof of Concept of the web-platform.

Final pitches were somewhat delayed this time due the technical problems and also some pitches were moved to the end due the same technical problems. Here is the space for improvement, of course.

Up to me there was too much AI (Artificial Intelligence) in pitches. I think, we as humanity need a better understanding of what AI is and what it can do for us. We can’t just take any great idea and say that AI can do it :)

One of the pitches for Sanofi Cegedim IBM Challenge

Our pitcher Louise came to the scene 3 times, but presentation didn’t want to start right way. Finally she did it and did really well. It’s not an easy thing to do on that scene with TechCrunch logo 😉

Results

Unfortunately, we’ve not won this time (not the easy thing to do). Nonetheless I’m very happy that I had a chance to participate in such a great event and work with such an amazing team!

The main reason why you should participate in hackathons isn’t a victory, but the experience you get. So don’t hesitate and sign up for next events from BeMyApp! See you there!

BONUS: VivaTech ticket for 3 days costs several hundreds of euros, but you get one for free when participating in the hackathon. Plus you get a cool t-shirt, a lot of food and drinks, amazing people and emotions. Isn’t that a good deal?

References

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