South Africa Summer 2013 Blog

University of the Witwatersrand
June 19, 2013 to July 31, 2013

Hackathon Number 2 at Seed Engine (Written by Anesu Jairosi from KYAAMI)

Elli Suzuki

July 17, 2013


“I am not attending another hackathon in the next six months,” I said to myself after the long overnight hackathon that started the morning of 6 July and ended late the following day.

Either I was completely crazy (there’s a possibility I might have been high on the pizza and cake we had eaten during that hackathon) or that was the quickest six months of my life because I found myself agreeing to attend another hackathon the following weekend. This hackathon was being hosted by Seed Engine and the groups from the AITI class were invited. I honestly did not want to go initially but after hearing of the R5000 prize money, I thought of the pizza we could buy as a group and decided to go. Just to make things clear, our group, KYAAMI, was not motivated by money. We were motivated by the idea of the project. It was just a coincidence that there was a R5000 prize to be offered when we were planning to buy pizza that weekend.

Two members of our group arrived early on Saturday morning and began to research on the work that had to be done. They got a lot of entrepreneurial and technical help from the mentors present and got an idea on how to go forward with the project. The other two group members, me included, came late on Saturday due to other commitments and the last group member unfortunately could not make it. Mustafa kindly accommodated us for the night at his place where he had an enjoyable social evening with other groups. I just honestly went there hoping that there would be pizza. The social evening was a bonus, a bonus that I really enjoyed. There was no pizza but the food offered was great nonetheless.

We went to Seed Engine the following morning to resume the hackathon session. Not too much progress was spent coding unfortunately. This was due to some difficulties in the technical department that I will not bore you with. The competition (yes the one with the R5000 for pizza) started at 5pm. From a group level, we believed that our pitch was exceptional. We also did a demo of our product. The judges liked the group’s idea but thought that our revenue model could have been better. The prize money was awarded to the winning group, some group from Seed Engine (yes, we also believe this competition was rigged). On a serious note, well done to the winning group. We learnt a lot from other groups’ pitches and the judges’ feedback as well. It was also inspiring to see other groups from the AITI class present. A big well done to your efforts during the hackathon as well.

Hackathons can be painful but the output is worth it. I personally believe you achieve a lot during these sessions and encourage other groups to attend hackathon sessions, or at least dedicate a day, for their product development. You cover quite a lot of ground. You might not always get the R5000 for pizza, but at least you’ll have a working demo.


Reflections of MIT/AITI (written by Nkululeko Mindu from HCTC)

Elli Suzuki

July 14, 2013

Going into the programme I had my doubts, but I am grateful that I was chosen to attend this programme. The MIT/AITI programme was a breathtaking experience. It opened my mind to the world of business and start-ups. The technical skills and entrepreneurial skills were really valuable. It also gave me the chance to make connections which are very important when venturing into the world of business. I enjoyed the various guest lectures we received by top class players in their respective industries. It was also great working with a team of aspiring entrepreneurs, I am really buoyant about the future of our country with such great young minds. 

As an aim of the programme, we had to work on our own start-ups in groups. My team HCTC (HealthCareThatCares) made up of Zandile Keebine, Zinhle Sangweni, Anna Lebitsa, Ludo Mphusu, Ladislous Kumirayi and I took it up to ourselves to solve a serious problem in our country, which is healthcare. We came up with a solution that will help solve the administration problems and help improve patient experience in public hospitals. Our solution was to create an electronic system that will help handle patient records and store their data which will form part of a national patient registry, which will be used by hospitals across the public sector. Given the scope of our problem, it was always going to be a challenge which we were not deterred by. We managed to make some progress on the system we are trying to create. Hopefully come Demo Day 27 July, we will have a fully fledged prototype.

In this age of innovation and technology, it is very important to always put your best foot forward and this programme provided me with that platform. I learned how to better market myself and I also learned some useful presentation skills through presenting regularly. My communication skills have been enhanced. I can safely say this programme has changed my life and sort of altered my plans for the next year.

Hakathon (written by Patrick Mugazambi from ShopNow)

Elli Suzuki

July 9, 2013

The term “Hackathon” itself was unfamiliar to me until less than 24 hours before the event. At first I was not very enthusiastic about pulling an all nighter as I had done so in the past and had realised they are not worth it; mainly because my efficiency deteriorates rapidly as the hours pile up. However, despite this, I decided to soak up the enthusiasm that was flowing all around as it was a new experience to many of us.

My experience during the Hackathon was akin to that of jumping off an ocean liner into ice cold churning waters with no knowledge of particular swimming stroke. This was because I was not familiar with either the Android platform or the Google maps API. With such little experience in both, I was not sure where to begin and it seemed like I was the only one using Google Maps.

My team, ShopNow, set some very ambitious goals for the Hackathon. Our objectives were to have end-to-end communication working by the end of the Hackathon. With very clear and well defined roles, we set out to work. We had barely set sail when we were halted by a wave of pizza and cake since it was Mustafa’s birthday. It turned out that more waves of pizza would “hamper” our progress as there were several deliveries (I lost count). A pleasant variation to the pizza was bunny chow which added a pleasant divergence (thanks to Dipika and her family). As with all voyages, singing and celebrating (it was Mustafa and Nkululeko’s birthday) did help to break the grimness of the task at hand.

On a personal level, I spent the better part of the Hackathon being tossed back and forth in the ocean. I did get valuable assistance from the mentors, especially Tibo and his cousin, who were present most of the night.  But it felt as though I would gain ten yards before a tidal wave swept me backwards. I lost many hours downloading missing files which also took hours of their own for me to realise they were required. I only attained my goal of getting the map working on the phone an hour before the end of the Hackathon. Thanks to Max, a mentor who came in late in the afternoon. Overall we managed to get end-to-end communication running but there are still some facets of both the back end and front end that need to be attended to before the prototype can  be up and running. Thank you to all the mentors, I think we can all testify that they were very helpful in different areas.

Although the Hackathon was more of Mustafa’s show, it was really great and inspiring to see the ladies (Elli and Mahlet) who stayed up (for as long as possible of course) with us for as long as they did. It gave some sense of encouragement and also more reason to work hard since such personal sacrifices were being made for us. Thank you AITI team. J All in all, it was a fun experience but something I wouldn’t consider doing again in the foreseeable future. A big thank you to everyone who made it a success!

Hakathon (written by Jason Huang from ShopNow)

Elli Suzuki

July 8, 2013

My first hackathon was a fun and memorable experience, though I wouldn't say I'm keen for another one any time soon (or ever). It was one of those experiences where it was hell going through it, but not so hell-ish looking back. I exaggerate of course, with the choice of 'hell' as the main adjective. I just really don't like losing too much sleep. I had a pretty good idea what the hackathon involved so what transpired wasn't exactly a shock to me. I was prepared to program, eat, bang my head, program, bang my head some more, nap, program and eat. As it turns out, that was a pretty good summary of events with much more eating.

The ShopNow team set out with the apparently unrealistic goal of having an end-to-end functioning prototype. I'd like to say we did a reasonable job of trying to live up to those expectations - big thank you to the team for all the hard work.  We achieved our first goal of obtaining end-to-end communication. Thereafter, we split up to build the front-end and the back-end separately. The result was an end-to-end product with unfinished ends (missing some functionality on both sides), which is a pretty good result. On behalf of the team, I'd like to thank the mentors who helped make this possible with our lack of back-end services knowledge and our inexperience in Android development.

Aside from the programming, eating was a pretty big theme for the night and sleeping wasn't. With four pizza deliveries from Debonairs and a bunny chow delivery (thanks Dips for introducing the concept of variety), I can safely say I've had enough pizza for the year. By the third meal of pizza (Sunday morning), I could barely bring myself to eat another slice. On top of that, we had a couple of birthdays and lots of birthday cakes. It was quite a struggle to be productive with lack of sleep and postprandial hyperglycemia.

Overall, I'd say the hackathon was a success for team ShopNow (and hopefully for the other teams) in both product development and gaining weight. I'd like to thank everyone who made this hackathon possible. Much love!


Hakathon (written by James Allingham from Community+)

Elli Suzuki

July 8, 2013


Being my first Hackathon I wasn't very sure about what to expect, which showed almost immediately on arrival at Wits. Everyone else had thought of so many good ideas: bringing a second screen to work on and bringing their own coffee mugs, to name a few. I was also pretty worried about the non-existent sleep schedule, as among my group of friends, I am that person who always wants to go to bed early at parties. I really like my beauty sleep. All of that said, however, I coped really well and managed to get by with only an hour sleep throughout the event. 

My team, Community+, and I had set some pretty ambitious targets for the Hakathon, as suggested by our tech-lead Mustafa. We wanted to have a full working prototype, with a finished user interface and connection to our servers. Unfortunately due to a combination of technical issues with Git-Hub and the large amount time spent eating birthday cake (Mustafa's birthday was on the first day of the Hackathon), we were not able to complete our database goals. That said, thanks to a major increase in productivity on the second day, when we had no more birthday cake to eat and had given up on Git-Hub, we were able to get a pretty good user interface and front end working. I'd like to thank our tech mentor, Toby Kurien, without whom, I do not think that even our front end or user interface would have been satisfactorily done.

The Hackathon, despite our slow start was a success and was very enjoyable. It was a good first Hackathon and I can see my self having another one someday... once I have recovered from the lack of sleep!  


Elevator Pitch Contest (written by Dipika Harduth, Runner-up of Elevator Pitch Contest)

Elli Suzuki

July 1, 2013

The elevator pitch contest was a very daunting idea. We weren't exactly sure what to expect and given that we had a day to prepare the pressure was on. We knew that we had to captivate the judges and that we had to sell ourselves as well as our products. Doing this however is easier said than done. After scribbling down some ideas that day in the lectures I decided to give it a break. The morning of the contest the panic set in. I had not prepared a thing! What am I going to do? I had quickly typed something out on my phone while on the treadmill in the gym thinking to myself, I hope it will be good enough.


I had not expected to make it through the second round let alone be the runner up. The competition was most definitely strong and intimidating – so were the judges. It was a great learning experience for us all and the critiques and guidance will really help in the weeks to come. I am certainly very excited. Congratulations to Meralda and Tiisetso! And well done to all the teams. Oh and go team PANTRY!!






Elevator Pitch Contest (written by Tiisetso Murray, Winner of Elevator Pitch Contest)

Elli Suzuki

July 1, 2013

I found the elevator pitch concept to be rather daunting initially; conveying an idea in a minute or less probably much harder than giving a lecture on it. I started writing my pitch on the morning of the competition and struggled to keep the drafts within time. Removing a few lines was not enough, and entire paragraphs were either scrapped or condensed to a single a sentence. However, the result was not compelling as the facts were simply stated. The solution seemed to be that the detail was not important and rather spending time on why the idea was needed in the world and how it would work and generate revenue was more important.


In the first round I gave what I felt was a reasonable pitch but having listened to what my competitors were pitching I abandoned my notes and went for something completely different. The aim behind my second pitch was not to deal with the hole that the idea would fill but rather how it would change the users’ lives in ways they would never have been able to predict and once they tried the app they would not be able to replicate the effect without it. This time feedback was given from the amazing panel of judges and that directly inspired my third pitch. In general my style of pitch, not unlike an advert, was liked and what was needed was to connect more closely to each person, deal with future inadequacies and speak more about revenue in order to motivate investment. I made a completely new pitch and tested it with my teammates who supported it. The pitch attempted to put the judges in the world of someone in the near future who was reflecting on the app after having used it for a month. In this future reflection I tackled the key points. It was different and felt like I was taking a risk and maybe because of that it was incredibly fun to present.


I really enjoyed the competition and the challenge of the elevator pitch. It was a great and perhaps sneaky way of the AITI program to both teach pitching and have the teams hone their respective ideas. I eagerly look forward to the coming weeks filled with more activities and challenges.