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4 Top Tips For Competing in a Hackathon


Dear developers who are joining our Startup Asia Hackathon this weekend, I’m sure you have prepared your guns, gathered up your team, and picked the challenges you want to compete in. The hackathon is just around the corner, so I hope you’re focused and ready.

But just in case you need some presentational and strategic pointers for our Bandung event, let me share some hackathon tips I found when I got myself lost on Quora last night.

These tips come from John Sheehan (the superbly-titled developer evangelist at Twilio) and we think they’re so great and helpful we’re just going to share John’s top tips with you here. But please do check out the original post as well because it’s full of useful ideas from all sorts of people in the comments section.

Show up ready to play

The moment pitches are over and teams are formed you should be ready to push code to a live, publicly addressable server within minutes. Do not waste your first few hours fighting with hosting account setup, dev environment setup, creating accounts on your APIs of choice, etc. Register a domain using a made up word and use it as your project’s code name (in fact, don’t spend two seconds discussing names before building anything, it will come naturally and you’ll have a code name to fall back on).

Designers are king

The key to winning a hackathon is a good demo. Almost universally the best demos not only work but look good. Designers, if they even show up at the event, will be in high demand. Actively recruit them to your team. You’re looking for a sexy prototype, not a final polished product.

Show, don’t tell

In your presentation, give the audience something tangible. Avoid slides at all costs. Don’t talk about what isn’t there, people are smart enough to fill in the gaps. Focus on the problem being solved. Do not talk about the technology behind it unless that is somehow relevant to the problem being solved. Show examples of real people using it. Have someone work on the pitch exclusively from the beginning.

Build something awesome

#1 to #3 don’t matter if your project is boring. You won’t be able to get people to join you and the presentation will stink. You can only put so much lipstick on a pig.

We hope that helped! Kudos to John for those. For our Bandung hackathon this weekend, you may want to check the list of API/challenges available here. Be creative, keep things simple, and solve a problem – because that’s what our judges are going to be looking for!

[Source: John Sheehan on Quora]

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Asia is big. Its place in the world, even bigger. Tech in Asia is an online technology news startup based in Asia, with team members all across the region. As a crew of journalists and bloggers with a passion for new ways of delivering the news, we’ve bonded together under one goal – to create a great Asia-focused tech news site to tell the world about the wonderful things that are happening here.