5 Reasons to Attend a Hackathon Near You
First of all, lets start with with explaining what a "hackathon" is for those who may be a little intuitively challenged ;). A Hackathon is essentially an event where programmers, developers, designers, and managers alike can come together to collaborate intensively on a particular project (almost always relating to software).
Sometimes Hackathons are also referred to as: hack days, hackfests, or code fests, but most of the time, it's just good ol' "hackathons". It is true that occasionally hackathons are hardware focused, but most of the time these events are software centric.
Hackathons typically last anywhere from 24 hours up to a week. While some are more focused on welcoming newbies and more for educational or social purposes there are some hardcore hackathons where attendees are aiming to build a shippable product by the end of the event. It's not too uncommon for teams to launch a startup after developing their prototype at one of these events and deciding to continue refining and building a business around it.
Most hackathons tend to have a specific focus which could relate to any of the following: programming language used, operating system, apps, or API's. Other times, it's pretty fair game as to what attendees can build. Whatever their heart desires.
So Why Should You Attend a Hackathon?
Let's talk about that..
1) It's One of the Best Ways to Network With Those That Are in the Trenches
Have you ever found yourself at a Eventbrite or Meetup event scouting out potential talent for your "tech co-founder" position only to return home with a handful of cards of people who just didn't have "the passion" for starting something, let alone with you? Granted, you may have met one person who said: "Yeah, I'm working on XYZ right now as a side project, but really only in my spare time because I'm really busy with work." Sure these ideas could materialize into something eventually, but it's more likely these people will work towards advancing in their careers vs wanting to join you in creating a Startup.
I'm not saying you should avoid making connections with these types of people, I have a few good friends who have until recently been on this route who I've sought advice from in the past several times.
What am I am saying is, if you're going to scout for talent for someone who's as passionate and interested in starting something as you are, then why not spend that time surrounded by people who share the same type of thinking and passionate for creating, building, designing, and shipping things as you? It really comes down to time effectiveness, let me give you another quick example before moving on.
It's Saturday night and you're looking forward to a night out with your friends. Would you rather go run the same circuit of bars/clubs/lounges that you guys usually do, or would you rather attend the Fashion Show that's happening this week ONLY with the killer after party? Hopefully this is a no-brainer and I shouldn't have to tell you that the latter decision would like be more effective in your pursuit of uhm, ..a good time of course.
2) Meet Potential Investors
While Hackathons are notorious for attracting a wide variety of Developers, Designers and Project Managers, they're also a great place to meet with investors. Investors are always looking for "the next big thing" so why wouldn't they be interested in attending an event where they can quickly and easily assess many different projects and products in a short period of time? Again, it's a no-brainer.
While certainly there are great events (especially here in SF) where you can go and network with others and MAYBE run into an investor that MIGHT be interested in what you're doing. If you want to be more effective with your time, then it makes sense to make them come to you (especially if you're just proving the concept or still creating the MVP). As the old saying goes, "if you build it they will come". Actually, that's not completely true - but let's just assume it is for now. Trust me, you want to be at a hackathon.
3) Get Feedback From People That Know Their Sh!t
If you're the type of person who eats feedback for breakfast like the rest of the driven entrepreneurs out there, you're going to love
having your face handed to you being judged by a group of experts in the industry who can actually give you the feedback you need, negative or positive. I'd say, as a Startup one of the biggest gems one can get is true, honest and credible feedback.
I recently had this experience myself about a month ago and while at the time I felt like an F'ing idiot, in retrospect, it was probably one of the most helpful meetings/feedback sessions I've ever had in my life. It really broadened my perspective towards things that I may have continued to overlook otherwise. This is precisely why you should strive to always get the best feedback regardless of its from a judge at a hackathon or elsewhere. Fail. Fail often, and fail fast if you can.
There's no point or excuse in going through a slow and painful death anymore. Judges will determine the winner and if you're not it, you know what you'll need to do to improve for next time.
4) Learn What You're Truly Capable of
Sometimes it isn't until we're under a lot of pressure or intense deadlines that we perform at our best. While certainly it's not the case for everyone, it DOES push everyone to learn what their limits are. Knowing what you're capable of gives you the confidence to take on bigger projects, strive for bigger goals, and take bigger (calculated) risks.
In my case, when I was studying at VFS towards the last 6 months of our curriculum most of us were pulling 16-18 hour days. I would have never thought that I could function on only 3-4 hours of sleep, actually it's kind of crazy to think about. If there is one thing I learned throughout the course of the 3yrs in 1, it was work ethic. And trust me, if I can do 6-months you can do 24-hours :).
This brings me to my last point.
5) Fist Pump vs Career Bump
Let's face it. If you don't go to a Hackathon chances are you're going to spend the weekend hanging out with your friends drinking the night away with your hands up in the air; only to awake on Sunday feeling the last iota of magic from the night escaping you as the sun shines into your ever so sensitive eyes.
You could spend the night coding, building, striving, and connecting with others who are as driven, passionate, and excited about technology and product development as you are.
I don't know about you, but if someone told me that they were competing/had competed in an event to create something that had value under the constraints of a Hackathon, I would be more impressed by their attempt to make the world a better place over someone who is merely perpetuating their existence from their derivative driven reality.
But that's just me.
I'm not your employer.
I'm not a judge.
I'm not an investor (yet).
..I do wonder what they would think though. 😉
AngelHack is one of the biggest Hackathons in the world. Catering to over 35 Cities, 6,000 attendees, and 1.5k projects you don't want to miss out on the over $1M in prizes already given away. RSVP Below, space is limited.