The HBF Hackathon event was held on the weekend of August 27-28th. Sam Mead facilitated the event, and recaps on his experience of the event.
It might be a big statement, but this could have been the best Hackathon I have ever been involved with! That’s out of more hackathons than I can count on both hands, and from the various perspectives of a participant, a mentor, an organiser and a facilitator. It was very well organised, the catering was delicious, and the mentors managed to strike a fine balance between being helpful enough without interfering too much. A perfect recipe for success!
The quality of the pitches on Friday night was higher than average, with the participants all gathering momentum in the run up to the final applications to the HBF Activate Accelerator ($30k funding for 6% equity).
As often happens with any hackathon that’s focused on a specific vertical, health, in this instance, there were a number of very similar sounding ideas thrown out to the full house at Spacecubed. This turned out to be a very good thing, as several pitchers joined forces on Friday night to create two or three super-teams.
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The ideas ranged from improving existing initiatives (such as daily exercise options; keeping track of your medical paperwork; connecting people who need disability assistance with the people who offer it) to brand new, blue sky innovations (such as putting elective surgical operations out to tender to surgeons; tracking brain waves to monitor focus levels; using virtual reality to improve the quality of life of patients in hospital for longer stays).
We kicked things off with 120 participants and observers playing a huge game of epic rock-paper-scissors. A champion was crowned, and we jumped straight into the pitches. From 24 one minute pitches, the cohort whittled down to 13 teams of between 3 and 6 people, and didn’t waste any time getting things going.
Before we closed the doors on Friday night each team had already made decent progress. Slack teams had been opened, Trello boards created, and roles for the weekend assigned. One team even managed to get some early customer validation by getting on the phones to potential clients in the US, which is a genius stratagy for any B2B idea at a weekend hackathon. All too often we see B2B ideas hamstrung by the lack of business operations over a weekend, so it was very clever to use timezones to their advantage!
Saturday morning and 12 of the 13 teams managed to come back for a delicious breakfast. We kicked off the day with two quick workshops for everyone, and then the building quickly emptied out as each team hit the streets to validate their ideas face to face with their target audience.
Saturday evening brought some unusual excitement as two teams sitting on adjacent tables both invalidated what they were working on within about half an hour of each other. They combined forces to work on something new, but quickly split up into two new teams, each mixed up with members of the original teams. If you’re confused trying to play along at home don’t worry — it was just as confusing on the night!
With a bit of yoga and mindfulness to break things up on Saturday afternoon — it was a health focused hackathon after all! — the teams arrived back in the building on Sunday morning looking an awful lot fresher than you usually see at your average hackathon.
The teams started working on their pitches a lot earlier than usual too, which proved to be a great strategy as the quality of the final pitches on Sunday evening was certainly well above average. A very experienced judging panel of four good cops got comfortable to recieve the 12 pitches: David Gollan and Jennifer Solitario from HBF were joined by Lori Tyrell from Health Engine, and last but not least, Matt MacFarlane from Yuuwa capital.
As the accelerator applications were open to anyone, regardless of hackathon performance, the three prizes were mainly restricted to how the teams performed over the weekend. And the winners were…
Best Pitch: Care Collective — who provide a better way to navigate the National Disability Scheme. It offers a platform for support workers to list their availability and skills online for free. Families can search for support according to their preferences, taking into consideration gender, language and culture.
Best Pivot: Sortable — half of the team had worked on virtual reality and the other half on elective surgery tenders, before bending to the will of their prospective customers and working on providing an online storage platform for medical records.
Mentors Choice: Mindset — Who scanned folks brainwaves to tell them when they were in (or out!) of a state of focus. The mentors were almost unanimous with their decision, a testiment to the team’s ability to ask for help and then impliment the advice.
As I said at the top, it was a brilliant hackathon to be involved with, and great fun to facilitate. It’s usually a good sign when facilitating if you start to think you’d rather be participating!
Special thanks go to the Spacecubed team for doing such a good job of organising, the HBF team for their support over the weekend, and the mentors who volunteered their time and were useful to every team. But I’ll save my final thanks for the participants — the success of a hackathon is totally determined by the people who participate, and this cohort did a thoroughly excellent job all round!