Dash 2018 Takeaways – How to Approach a Hackathon?

by Miikka Paakkinen

 

Last weekend I participated in the Dash 2018 design hackathon. During the event our team was challenged to design a new service business concept in less than 48 hours. The experience was wonderful, so I thought I’d share some key points on how to approach this type of a challenge.

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Point #1 – Keep the Pitch in Mind

 

  • To present a project, you’ll have to pitch it to your audience.

 

  • Having in mind what’s needed for a good pitch helps you define the key questions you need to answer during the project.

 

  • This helps you in choosing the way you work, the design tools you want to use, etc.

 

  • You might want to follow a design thinking model if a free-flowing way of working doesn’t feel natural to your group.

 

  • Here’s an example of a pitch structure that was suggested at Dash:

 

  1. Tag Line – The reason you exist for. Catch the interest of the judges.
  2. Problem – What is the problem you’re solving and who’s experiencing it?
  3. Solution – How are you solving the problem?
  4. Value – Why would someone give you money?
  5. Business Model – Who pays, how much, how often?
  6. Competitive Landscape – Map of competition + how are you different?
  7. Team – What’s your unfair advantage, why are you working on this problem?
  8. Traction – Why will it generate money, how much money per time unit?
  9. The Ask – What do you want from your audience?
  10. (Design Process) – This is specific to a design hackathon: you’ll need to be able to explain briefly how and why you got to your solution.

 

  • Points 2-5 are especially useful to keep in mind during the process. If you’re not solving a real problem that people face at a price they’re willing to pay while also generating profit, your project does not have real-world potential.

 

  • When it comes to the actual pitch, every second counts. If you’re lucky, you’ll have up to five minutes – use your time to deliver the essentials.

 

 

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Point #2 – Have Something Tangible to Show

 

  • It’s easier for your audience to understand your concept if you have something that in a very concrete way illustrates exactly how it works.

 

  • This could be, for example:
  •  
    1. Raw version of an app or software
    2. Interactive demo
    3. Animation of how your solution works
    4. Website
    5. Any sort of rapid prototype
    6. Video

 

  • This separates you from teams that have just a good concept or idea.

 

 

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Point #3 – Enjoy the Ride

 

  • Learn as much as you can from others.

 

  • Be open to new ideas and ways of working.

 

  • Don’t stress too much – you don’t have the time to achieve everything you want.

 

  • And most importantly: have fun with your new friends!

 

A big thank you to Aaltoes, the Dash crew and the challenge partners – see you again next year!

 

 

The author Miikka Paakkinen is an MBA student in Service Innovation and Design with a background in business management and information technology.

 


 

 

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