Hardware Hackathon Myth Breaker

Notes from a hackathon newbie

Recently, I was involved in my very first Hackathon. I’d heard of them and read about them but had never really been at one.

To be honest, I kind of thought you had to be a designer, an expert or just plain cocky. I wasn’t sure what I could add to anybody’s party.

Sure, I knew markets – but was that really an issue on a hackathon weekend?

Yeah, I’d been in business since forever but seriously, did they really think they’d have time for business questions?

Fine, I get sales and marketing but where does that fit in at this early stage.

So when I was asked to help out at the PCH Hardware Hackathon in the DCU Innovation Campus by Ronan Furlong, I was seriously curious.

Check out our first ‘What’s a Hackathon’ Blog to get the gist of what happens.

Mythbreaker No. 1

Everybody can come along. Everybody has something to offer. They need engineers, coders, designers, graphics, marketing, business, presenters, talkers literally everybody who from the shyest hacker to the mouthiest marketeer.

Teams had every profession, race, gender. Outside, the country was voting on equality and inside we were living it.

Mythbreaker no. 2

You don’t need to be an engineer to pitch an idea. Anybody with an idea can pitch it and everybody listens intently. The more you know about your target market the better.

The best example is Stephen Keane who successfully pitched a great idea to make Triathlete shoes smart. Based on his experience as a triathlete he knew that fastening the cycling shoe caused triathletes the all important seconds and sometimes injuries.

Mythbreaker no. 3

It’s all just fun. Think again the teams met on Friday night and were living in each other’s pockets until Sunday evening. They were thrown out of the DCU Innovation Campus at 11pm and were back by 8am the next day. I heard that some teams adjourned to a house or apartment to work further. I certainly didn’t see any hangovers and huge advances were made overnight.

Mythbreaker no. 4

Makers, hackers and developers eat pizza. The spreads put on by DCU and PCH International were magnificent salmon, beef, salads and fruit. Carbs and energy drinks were hard to come by. I was kind of looking forward to pigging out on pizza!

So what were the facilities like? The Innovation Campus was great. A huge big space to work and think in. The mentors were experts in their fields Evercam, LayerLabz, Intel, Stoney CNC, Tog, Design Burst, Each & Other, AutoCad, Golgi, Websummit, British Gas. Mint Tek Circuits, RS and Alert Me. The field of expertise would put a Fortune 500 company to shame and the generosity of time and support given by them was fantastic.

The panel on the final day were serious business people, Dublin’s commissioner for start-ups Niamh Bushnell, Frontline Ventures partner Shay Garvey, TNS co-founder Ivan Eustace, and Pete Dice, director of technical marketing and innovation for Intel’s Internet of Things (IoT) Group.

PCH footed the bill and were excellent in their support. The team from Toronto of Katherin, Gwen & Erika were there to support and answer questions.

Things that surprised me

  • Hackathons are great places to test teams. If you can take the weekend pressure chances are you’re are built to last.
  • Hackathons can lead to job opportunities. People get to know each other and their abilities. Who knows who you’re talking to!
  • Hackathons are competitive but in a collaborative way. Sure the teams want to win but they will help their fellow hackathoners out.
  • Hackathons are a great business experience. Where else can you pitch cold, design a product, create a team, create websites/twitter accounts/logos, learn pitching skills and present in front of serious people in 52 hours and for less that €50.
  • Hackathons don’t seem to be a good way to find true love. There were no pitches from women and a low turn out of women over the weekend. The ladies that were there were great and worked hard with their teams and as mentors.
  • Hackathons can lead to new companies and startups. The winning team BlueTape will get €3,000 and an office in the DCU Innovation Campus once the company is official. They have access to big name companies and people such Intel, PCH and others.

Congrats to Blue Tape, you played a blinder– well done to all it was fun and exciting and will not be my last.

Were you at the hackathon? Do you have any hackathon experiences you want to share?

Let us know!