Sitting in a room coding for 24 hours straight isn’t what typically comes to mind when most people think of a fun weekend. But throw in an endless supply of pizza and Red Bull, experienced mentors eager to help, and 20 fellow founders working diligently towards creating a business around technology, and you have a bit of a different story.
Last weekend, we held a 24-hour hackathon to mark the midway point of our program—transitioning from a phase of intense market research and customer development to a period of rapid prototyping and technical development.
The goal for the 8 teams was to make as much progress as possible towards a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)—whether that entailed wireframing, prototyping, designing a landing page, or developing a fully-functioning app. For many teams, it involved a combination of the above, with teammates possessing different strengths focusing on different aspects of the product.
Team YES!, working on a mobile payment management system, did just that: while Kgothatso hacked on an Android application, Flo learned her way around the WordPress platform to develop a landing page and Sandiso created a promotional video.
The Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) offered a welcome change of scenery, with large tables facilitating collaborative work, blazing-fast Wi-Fi, and a kitchen stocked with coffee.
We were fortunate to have skilled industry and entrepreneurial mentors volunteer their time to accelerate the learning and development: Toby Kurien (freelance software developer), Brad Kingon and Kevin McKelvin (developers at Platform45), Mixo Fortune (founder of Geekulcha), Tshepo Sibanda (Managing Director of Sibanda Communications), Martin Myburgh (engineer and social scientist), and Sandile Nhlapho (Wits graduate and GSL alum)...just to name a few.
Not all mentorship came from external sources. During a casual awards ceremony Sunday morning, a heartfelt moment emerged when founders acknowledged each other for the technical guidance they provided throughout the night—even across teams. Through nominations for the Rookie Award, it was clear how much learning took place—on all levels—in the 24-hour span.
The following awards were presented by judges Barry Myburgh (Program Manager at the JCSE) and Sibanda:
Most Progress Made: Philani SA
Most Technically Impressive: tech re:PUBLIC
Best User Interface: PinkSlip
Rookie Award: Pink Festival
Each winning team received $100 in Digital Ocean web hosting credits, and the team with the Most Progress Made earned an additional R500 in Uber credits. All hackathon attendees also enjoyed R200 off their first Uber ride, thanks to a generous Uber sponsorship. Our friends at Platform45 generously sponsored food (lots and lots of Red Bull and pizza!)
The best part? According to Gabe: “Building friendships and camaraderie with the various founders in the course. It was also great to be pushed and see that I can still make progress even if I'm exhausted. This was a great learning experience."
Read more about the hackathon on htxt.Africa: Red Bull, red eye and runtimes: when MIT’s 24 hour hackathon came to town