I apologise for such a late reply, but I wanted to find a good chunk of time where I focus solely on writing my review of the ‘SeedHack’ hackathon.
First of all, I want to thank you for making the ticket available for me. I could tell it was hard to get a confirmation as my name was not on the list when I arrived for registration, but it was not much of a problem for they allowed me entrance as soon as I told them I was from King’s College London and the house Commercialisation Institute had got in touch with them regarding my attendance.
I want to come clear and note that this was my first hackathon ever. However, even though I am only a first year undergrad student, I can offer some useful insight. I have been following the tech industry for a very long time and mainly because of this interest is that I decided to suddenly ditch my plans for the weekend and attend a venture fund event.
This event was very well planed and held in one of the coolest venues in London. I had previously been to Google Campus so I knew I was in for a treat. The atmosphere felt friendly and encouraging. We had choice for the food, from salads to barbecue (and it was all free!). People who wanted to stay the whole weekend had showers available. Seedcamp invited very generous sponsors such as Smartables, Resin.IO, and Lateral to promote their products by letting us hack with them.
I had no problem socialising as everyone was very kind and open to new ideas. I even managed to organise a team around a problem I had in my flat the previous week. Basically, when everyone came back from holidays the rota for emptying the garbage bin had been forgotten and there was no communication about who was supposed to empty it first. The bin overloaded and mess ensued. I came onto the stage to tell the story:
I was lucky not only to garner interest but also to have a very skilful team that included a very experienced Java engineer and an ex Google employee. I learned a lot from them. With their help, we managed to attach an ultrasonic sensor to a bin lid, a led and a camera. The camera was capable of recognising users, which is why we were given the Big Brother award. I am still not sure wether I should be proud about it.
The downside was that I didn’t find myself as useful to my team as I wanted to be. But this make sense as this is a hackathon organised by a venture fund and not a university (more on that difference later). I learned that techies love hacking and do so for the sake of discovering what new magic trick they can pull off, but they can’t draw an endgame for their innovative product to have a killer feature, something that would appeal the average consumer. Being able to recognise these project necessities made me realise that I should not only be promoting myself as a programmer but also as a business developer. I spend everyday writing code so I often forget that I’m doing a Computer Science with Management degree.
I was also lucky to have the winner team work right next to me the whole weekend. They basically drafted a business plan for a smart gym. The idea relies on loading equipment such as weights with sensors and giving the user some quantitative data. Even though they managed to develop a working prototype for the weekend, I could tell they were more of the business type as they made real use of a whiteboard with post-it notes. Their ability to draft a sustainable business plan was exactly what the judges were looking for. A venture fund hackathon will look for a solid business model rather than a cool hack. A university hackathon will be about having fun with the technologies, which is also OK. So my suggestion is that the King’s Commercialisation Institute help not only techies from King’s to join these events but also the business students. They’d also have much to contribute in there.
I managed to make very useful contacts such as representative from Smartables and am now interested in putting them in contact with the KCL Tech Society to organise a workshop on how to use their products.
I believe KCL’s partnership with Seedcamp would be very useful for the commercialisation of its projects, we should offer them the opportunity to come talk to our soon to be graduates to encourage entrepreneurship among our students. Currently, the university is not very helpful in terms of funding and I believe pitching to these kind of venture funds can help us pick up some interesting projects in house.
I want to thank you again, please do not hesitate to make me more questions if there are any more. Please sign me up to your newsletter so I can be aware of more events like this.
PD: I will share this letter in my blog. I feel this is a nice account of my experience. I hope this will not be an issue.