How we won AngelHack and you could as well

Team Testlio is one of the winners of AngelHack Fall ’12 and therefore we would like to share our experience how we won the world’s biggest hackathon competition.

Me and Marko have both been to hackathons in different countries with different durations, atmospheres, and people. We must say if you go there without an idea or without a team you are most probably going to end up with a team who’s going to leave the hackathon at 10pm or who just really don’t give a sh**t about the team or the idea.

We started with Testlio at AngelHack London and we are going strong to make this a real company and make the world a better place. Here are some pointers how you could succeed in the next hackathon you attend.

Work on something you’re passionate about

We started working on something we both were passionate about. As I’m a software tester and Marko is a hacker, we both value good quality in products and want to help others achieve good quality level easily too. This is a story and people like stories. Work on something that you are passionate about. Passion and belief helps you work faster and prevents distractions.

Pick your team members carefully

Finding the right people to your team is probably the hardest part. Marko has plenty of mishaps with lazy team members. If you really want to get something done fast then you need fast hackers and product people. After all the whole point is do something great with a little time.

We went to AngelHack as a “complete” team (me and Marko) so we wouldn’t have to worry about finding new members. Marko is a fast hacker and the best coder I’ve ever worked with. So far he has taken care of the design, front-end, back-end engineering and let’s be honest – we’ve achieved a lot with 2,5 months. Our teamwork is very smooth and even better – feedback from one of the judges Frank Chen was: “Great founder to product fit!”. This is what you want when your goal is to win a hackathon like AngelHack where you build an actual product for the finals, and not just one night hack to forget about.

Also I think it’s quite important that you know your team members. It’s pure luck if you end up with people you match well. We’ve been working together on different projects before the AngelHack and we knew we can immediately focus on building the product. Again, you have to remember this applies to AngelHack format of a hackathon because if you get a ticket to the finals you are expected to work with the team for years and you better work well.

Pitch it like you mean it

Different demo days have different pitch lengths, in case of AngelHack we had only 3 minutes. It’s much easier to demo longer, but really hard to get your point to people in 3 minutes. At Global Demo Day we saw teams who really hadn’t practiced their pitch at all. I almost felt embarrassed when the alarm rang and the most important parts of the pitch were yet to be covered (market size, adoption etc.).

So it might be a no-brainer but practice your pitch before you get on stage. Our finals were in front of very smart people and that’s what you need to keep in mind when you prepare your pitch, specially when you have little time. Give them enough to want more and don’t explain every little detail they know anyhow. Remember, they hear 10s of pitches a week and most probably in one form or another they have already heard what you’re pitching. What’s important is showing why your team is best one to execute the idea!

We started practicing our pitch exactly one week before the finals on the plane ride over to San Francisco and we still went on the stage shaking. If you haven’t done it before you better practice even more and do it in front of people. You will probably “black out” when you go on stage so I advise you to have the pitch in your subconscious mind so you could do it anyhow. In fact this was the case for us and many others as we heard. But we did it and oh how we did it – winning is the best feeling!

These were the things that we think are important when going to a hackathon with the goal of winning it. If you have any other tips to share with us, let us know! This will not be our last pitch so we would love to hear your input how to be better next time.

Oh! And one more thing … AngelHack is the best damn hackathon we’ve been to, seriously! Preparations for the next AngelHack are already on and it will be bigger than ever – in 30 cities! So be sure to mark your calendars and be the next one to win it big!