What's the secret formula of hackathon winners? Learn from the champions of #hackBW!
Hackathons are not only about winning, but it is also about having fun, meeting new people, building a network, and having a great time. However, to be honest – everyone likes to be a winner. So, if you have finished your 10th hackathon and still have not won, here is what will get you on track!
At Hackdays Baden-Württemberg, talents from IT, business, design, and interdisciplinary directions developed innovative solutions in just three days. There was little time for sleep but in the end all of the submissions, which were produced under great time pressure, were quite impressive! However, there can only be one winner – or in the case of #hackBW there can only be one winning team per challenge.
How did they do it? Let’s listen to three winners and discover their secret formula to win a hackathon!
Mohammad Hammad is a recent graduate and the winner of the Ritter Sport Challenge.
Yadu Krishna is a master student at FH Aachen and the winner of the Eberspächer Challenge.
Martin Ruemmelein studies Innovation Management in a dual masters degree between Aalborg University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences at the Sino-Danish Center in Beijing. He is the winner of the Infosys Challenge.
How did you divide the tasks within your team?
Mohammad: We started with a brainstorming session. What are the tasks? Who has experience in what? We introduced ourselves and identified our strengths. We had an artist, a businessperson and me, as a product designer. According to that we divided all of the tasks.
Yadu: We looked at the challenge description and tried to find out first what everyone can do. We identified every team members’ strengths and divided the tasks accordingly. We had one woman who had already written a business plan in the past, one data science expert, one person who had an extensive network with important people and I brought along my acoustic knowledge which I had acquired from university.
Martin: We divided the tasks by strengths and what everyone is passionate about. Our team consisted of one data analyst, two developers, one for backend and one for frontend, a marketing person and me, a businessperson. It’s important to have a diverse team because a technical solution is nothing without someone who can also sell the solution!
What was the most difficult constraint that you and your team needed to go through?
Mohammad: One constraint was that the event was online. At the beginning we had some trouble to connect. Also, the fact, that we worked from different time zones complicated the process. I was three and a half hours ahead of my teammates, so working together at the same time was not always possible.
Yadu: Since it was an online event and everyone participated voluntarily, we really had to take time for the tasks because everyone also had other things to do on that weekend. It probably would have been easier if it had been offline. Also, we started working with Google documents and found it quite impractical to work there, so Slack [JK1] was a big discovery for us. I was impressed by all the functions this platform has to offer!
Martin: The hackathon already started with an obstacle because none of the teams were complete because a lot of people didn’t show up, so we had to form new teams. In addition to that, we were all in different time zones, we even had one person from India. It was a challenge to coordinate everything. Also, because we were all different people with different strengths, we had to align all different characters as well. But in the end, we found a very well way of task division.
How did you maintain a good mental and physical health?
Mohammad: Since the hackathon was online, it was not that hectic and stressful. We all stayed at home and had a lot of good sleep. We really did not have too much trouble!
Yadu: What was good about the online format was that you could do multiple activities at the same time. Therefore, it was really easy to maintain both mental and physical health. Once I was on a Slack call while getting lunch at the same time. The online format definitely had some advantages! Sleep was also not a problem. The only problem was that we eventually ran out of coffee!
Martin: I stayed at my parent’s vacation house at the Baltic Sea – that alone already gave me lots of energy. In order to get some fresh air, I rode my bicycle to the store. We also did regular check-ins with the team to see if everyone is fine. It’s all about creating a good work-life (and fun) balance!
Do you have any tips on how to be a winner?
Mohammad: Enjoy yourself throughout the hackathon! And do not think too much about winning because at the end of the day its more about networking, getting to know people and gaining new friends! Other than that, I’d say: work hard, don’t sleep too much and push, push, push!
Yadu: Have fun with your team and really get to know the people. Make sure to identify everyone’s strengths because you only work a really short time on that project. Therefore, you need to use all resources as effectively as possible.
Martin: What really matters is to connect a good solution with the right business case. It is important to show that your solution can make an impact and that your solution counts. Your solution might be a failure if there is no business model for it. What is also crucial is to understand what the challenge setters want from you.
Do you have a piece of advice for other hackathon enthusiasts?
Mohammad: Go ahead and just participate, you’ll learn a lot of new things and gain new skills.
Yadu: Have fun, drink a lot of coffee, don’t skip sleep and stick to deadlines!
Martin: Ask yourself the question: What are you passionate about? Understand that and then execute upon that. If you have passion for the product, then you usually make it!
You see, a great idea alone is not enough to win a hackathon. It is the combination of the right strategy, the right approach and the right team that wins hackathons. Sure, it is wonderful to win a prize, but keep in mind: simply participating in a hackathon is just as much fun.
''Don’t be afraid, just go for it!''
So… are you considering participating in a hackathon? Let these guys inspire you!
About the author:
This article was written by Julia Wechsler.
All photos and video are collected by Anh Nguyen.