How To Win A Hackathon

  • You have typically 2 to 3 minutes to demo. Either show a killer designed and functioning product and let it speak for itself or make sure you have a funny spin to make them laugh (chance to win a people’s choice).
  • Work on something that does one thing really well. Show it off- focus on it for your demo.
  • Tell a story. If you think you are solving a problem (big or small), tell everyone about the problem and how you solved it. People like stories. If you are solving an interesting problem and have a cool/working product you have a high chance of winning something.
  • While you might not win the top place, by focusing your project on a specific API you may come away with the best use of the API. I’ve seen people enter hackathons saying they want to win Face.com or Twilio’s prize (whether an iPad, Kindle, etc) and focus their project entirely in that direction.
  • Don’t bet the house on a project/hack joke. They are always seemingly transient and don’t have a high chance of lasting after the weekend, which is traditionally one of the criteria that the judges use when voting. You should make jokes during your presentation, but just be wary of making your entire pitch a joke.

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Building Upstream. Previously co-founder of SocialRank (acquired by Trufan) and Business Development and Partnerships at Dwolla & Aviary.

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