2 hackathons in 2 weeks

November 12, 2019

tl;dr went to two 48 hour hackathons in two weeks, learned a ton of stuff, shipped cool products and took home a price

You know what? I love hackathons! ❤️ Since my first one a few years ago, it was love from first sight. Okay, besides the lack of sleep. But hey, that’s what you got when you really want to experience a hackathon. Usually, the time around autumn is the start of the hackathon season, and the offer here in Germany has grown tremendously in the last few years. And crazy as I am, I grabbed some friends, my laptop, the idea notebook, and applied for some cool events! 💡

The outcome was two hackathons in two weeks. That’s a lot. But the best thing comes now: Both hackathons had a duration of 48 hours. Yes, you’ve heard right. Forty-eight hours. Coming from hackathons that usually last 24-28 hours, that’s one big step up! And you typically start thinking about how to organize yourself, your team, and all the work. I mean, in 48 hours you can do a lot of things! Important lesson here: Keep the pitch time in your head. It’s totally useless to build a full-blown app, staying awake all the time and only presenting 1/3 of it in the pitch ⏳

But enough of that talk now! What were the events, actually? The first hackathon I’ve visited was the Climathon 2019 in Mannheim 🌍. The Climathon is a global hackathon with hundreds of cities participating. And everything is dedicated to one big topic: climate change. I think in our times, this is one of the most critical issues of humanity. And I’m personally super interested in the possibilities and roles technology can play here. The event and all the organization was just brilliant, keeping the whole event as CO2 neutral as possible and providing the perfect environment for a creative hack festival. There were a ton of challenges from water management and energy consumption to mobility or even circular economy. My team and I came with no clear product idea, but pretty quickly, we found ourselves in the mobility challenge, hacking together two applications for a better and automated complaint management in public transportation.

This first 48-hour hackathon has taught me so many things. For example, how important sleep and proper nutrition are during an event like this. I mean, you can’t be productive if you’re awake for 48 hours and only eat donuts and pizza (hack: it’s super useful as a quick sugar boost during a night coding session). Also, from a technology and methodology perspective, this hackathon was a perfect starting point for the next one. I think the methodology is hugely underrated when it comes to hackathons, and an excellent and structured process for ideation is one big key to success. In the end, the Climathon was a full success with super cool winners. I’m super excited about how the projects will continue. You can read more about the whole event in this german newspaper article.📰

So, okay… 1/2 done. What’s next? Well, traveling across the whole country to be part of the Symbioticon Hackathon 2019, of course! 🚀 I went to the Symbioticon last year already, and it totally blew my mind! This event was so huge! And boy, oh boy, I was not wrong with my expectations for this year. Again, the whole hackathon has a theme about finance, banking, and insurance in the future world. With the motto being ‚beyond tomorrow‘ everything was set for some fresh ideas and projects! The funny thing is always how fundamentally different a lot of hackathons are in their structure. This time, the symbioticon was a hackathon with 5 fixed tracks, fixed teams, a lot of mentors, and a very clear structure. Of course, the whole environment and atmosphere were brilliant, as always! Symbioticon is just a hackathon with so much passion that you can feel it in the air!

With the learnings from the previous hackathons, we’ve had a clear focus on ideation on the first day. 💻That was actually pretty important because we got some secret ingredients in the form of megatrends that we needed to cover in our solution. For our solution in the insurance challenge track, this megatrend was sportivity. And boy, we had no clue. But after some hours and a lot of coffees later, we had a pretty strong concept. A platform for all your sport tracking apps that gives you data insights, clear actions to take for a healthier life, and all that connected with a cashback program with your insurance. The most challenging part was to get that concept into a usable application. And as the product designer in the team, this was by far my most demanding challenge on a hackathon. But hey, a hackathon is teamwork, and that is what we made out of it. Hours and some tasty meals later, we had our prototype and focused on the pitch. I think everything came perfectly together as we had our 3 minutes in the spotlight. In the final price ceremony, we took home the victory in the insurance track. I’m so super proud of the team and our work! And even more excited about how the project will continue. Of course, I will keep you up to date!

I’m so super thankful for the experience. Two hackathons in two weeks, with a total of 96 hours of coding is enormous. And afterward, I always feel some kind of „empty“ in terms of creativity. So now it’s time to regenerate a bit and coming back strong for the holiday season! There are so many projects to be done. 😍

You can also listen to my german podcast with a good friend of mine where we talk in detail about everything around the two hackathons. 🎙

Keep Creating! ✌️

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