A Hackathon: What's in it for you?


"The first thing that caught my attention at Hack The North was the insane amount of passionate students that are coming from all over the world. It’s a little crazy to think that some people travelled from across the world to attend this 3-day event. In addition, I don’t exactly remember where I saw this or who said it but, I remember seeing: “I want to make it easy for people to dream big”. I feel that everyone that participated in Hack the North, has that mindset and it's simply amazing. - David Luong, Connector at LOI and volunteer at Hack the North.

Hack the North came back this year and turned University of Waterloo into a race for innovation, prototyping and problem-solving. Over 1000 students and industry leaders from all over Canada and the world hacked the future of technology and brought new ideas to life in only 36 hours. The campus was filled not only by air mattresses, good food and energy drinks, but also by outside-the-box workshops and events that fueled the next generation of entrepreneurs with insights and valuable feedback on their endeavours.

League of Innovators was invited to conduct two workshops at Hack the North 2018: Hacking the Ideation Process and Idea to Market. LOI Team gathered together around 40 students who dove into the ideation flow and had a collaborative discussion around how innovative and viable were their prototypes and how they could move forward after the Hackathon.

"I think right off the bat one of the most notable things I noticed from the event is just how passionate young people really get in events like these. Hackathons weren't very popular until recently so I find it really interesting that these competitions are a way for students to showcase their skills and tap into new ones to discover. I think that Hack the North especially was a show of how dedicated some people are to implementing and building on their skills as people gathered together from all over the world. I think that Hack the North and other hackathons are really starting the change the game for many young people as it provides a space where students aren't as afraid to fail or try new things- they can take risks that they may not be able to in school and so it really brings together a heightened sense of creativity and growth." - Mylene Tu, Founder at FEM in STEM.

What really surprised the team was the diversity of backgrounds involved in this year's edition. Although hackathons are usually packed with tech students, Hack the North brought a lot of marketing and business minds to the table that all converged into making these ideas one step ahead of the current market situation, as well as making sure they have a strong unique selling proposition and unfair advantage based on the lean canvas model our team covered at the workshops.

And this piece on Hack the North will highlight what's in for hackers, based on what LOI Team observed after spending three days in Waterloo, ON.

The workforce game has changed dramatically

If starting your business is not your piece of cake, bear in mind that companies are no longer recruiting based on your academic curriculum, but in your skills and experience during your studies. That's right. And this follow the global trend announced by companies like Apple, Google and IBM, that don't require employees to have a college degree anymore.

This era of employment is all about how coachable and how motivated you are to learn new skills every day and apply them to solve relevant society's problems. Go beyond your your classroom's walls and develop something that matters.

Forget the solution you love. Does the market need it?

Ok, if you are working on your business - here's a heads up. Have you asked around and found an imminent need for what you're building? Not listening to your customer from day 1 is one of the most obvious but yet most common mistakes an entrepreneur can make. Avoid wasting time, money and energy on something nobody wants and focus on talking to your demographic and building something they actually need and love. The way to the wicked problem might be time consuming, but it's definitely worth-it.

At a Hackathon, hackers are usually paired up with industry experts or armed with workshops and resources that make them think of something that is really missing in the scene. This exercise requires open-ended questions, a good number of users' interviews and creative thinking. Make sure you're asking questions and not jumping to your solution right away.

Do you finish what you've started?

At the end of the day, you need to bring an idea to life. It doesn't matter how raw it looks or how unsatisfied you feel with it. At the last hours of a Hackathon, you need to launch something and be ready to pitch it for a whole audience. Perfectionism doesn't fit here, neither does being afraid of getting fearless feedback.

It is also not the best time to be pragmatic. You will be selling the future of something that barely exists, but that you proved it has value and, most importantly, it solves an important problem. Launching and pitching your prototype gives you the incredible feeling that you can follow deadlines and work under pressure without losing your way. And these are important virtues expected from a true leader.

Hackathons are not all about coming up with a prototype or working relentlessly. They are real opportunities for self-growth and skills development, no matter your background. Not only do companies value the hacker profile, but our world has switched to a faster pace, where everything happens incredibly fast and problems need less perfectionists and more go-getters.

LOI Team