10 Things I Learnt At My First Hackathon

I’ve wanted to attend a hackathon/start up weekend for a while now, and on Friday I got my first chance. Hosted at The Trampery on Old Street, the MasterCard Trip Hack was a three day event aimed at finding innovative ways to disrupt the travel market. Over the course of the weekend, 8 teams ranging from established startups to complete strangers got together to create solutions to problems people face travelling. Throught the weekend we were offered advice and support from MasterCard, British Airways, TfL and many more skilled and talented experts in the travel and tech industries. I didn’t know what to expect before I went, so I thought I’d share some of what of learnt along the way if, like me, you don’t know what to expect.

You won’t find a room full of developers

I expected this to be a full on dev fest, to the point where I wasn’t sure if attending as a non-tech would be worth it. I was wrong. From musicians to managers, you’ll find all sorts at a hackathon.

Three days is a really short time

Travelling to London I wasn’t sure if I’d find myself at loose end at some point during the weekend. Sure, there were a lot of talks and extra activities but I thought I’d maybe have time on my hands, I was wrong.

You can’t be shy

I’m far from shy, but sometimes I like to sit and observe a room, especially when I don’t know anyone, before diving in and saying hello. There is no time for this, and right from walking in (and grabbing a much needed beer) I was chatting away with people.

This is a team event

Whether you’re part of an established team or you’re pairing up with a bunch of strangers, this is a team players paradise. I was very lucky to find myself paired up with a great bunch of people all prepared to share ideas, listen and work together. Even if at times we didn’t see eye to eye, we found ways to make sure everyone had a platform and input, and used our individual strengths to get things done. I probably learnt more about teamwork than anything else this weekend, and I came home very proud of what we achieved as a group.

You have to let go

At some point, you’re going to have to give up a few ideas. Whether you come with a strong concept and pitch, or you’ve just got a pre conceived idea of how a part of your product might work, your team mates, organisers and mentors are going to make suggestions that challenge your ideas. Whether you like it or not, you have to learn to accept the changes and move on.

You have to stick to your guns

In contradiction to the above at times you’re going to have to stand your gut instinct. Just be 100% certain you’re doing it at the right time!

You aren’t going to invent Facebook…

I didn’t pitch at this event but I did join up with someone who did, who had an idea not dissimilar to a concept I had pondered. We were solving a problem that already had been looked at by other platforms, but we approached it in a different way. We didn’t win, but from what we’ve learnt this weekend, we have a good idea we want to pivot and explore.

…but someone else might!

Out of the 8 teams that pitched, there was one standout idea that was for me, the clear winner. An absolute lightbulb, moment that makes you say ‘why isn’t someone else doing that already?!’. Simple, yet solving an obvious pain point, with a clear and achievable revenue model. You can check out flyto here and trust me, if you like to travel, you’ll want to.

You will get tired

14 hours in a room working non stop takes it out of you. Make sure you don’t turn up tired because the days are long and intense. Its worth remembering your all still in the same boat when your thrashing out an issue with the team at 22:16 on the second day.

If you have an idea pitch it

I had a couple of ideas in mind before I went but being my first hackathon, I decided to sit back and see how the event worked instead. I don’t regret it, this isn’t the only chance I’ll get after all. Yet it would have been nice to get some validation on the ideas just by seeing if the room liked them. I loved presenting our idea along with my team mte Fiona at the end and I’d have enjoyed pitching at the beginning just as much. Next time I’ll be first in line!

It will be worth it

As mentioned, I wasn’t sure if a marketer would be of use at this sort of event. I wasn’t sure what to expect or if I’d find the experience worthwhile. Trust me when I say these events are amazing. Winning is only a small part of what you can gain from attending. From meeting great people to learning skills, challenging yourself and networking with industry professionals. Oh, and the food and drink on offer was something else. There really is such thing as a free lunch.

Big thanks to MasterCard, TfL, British Airways, London & Partners, The Trampery & TravelTechLab and everyone else involved in the weekend, especially the triphackers. It was a pleasure to share this amazing weekend with you. 20 hours after waking up, it’s time for bed. If you want to find out more about our ShareMyCity, the platform we created, visit www.sharemycity.co