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Win a Prize at Your Next Hackathon

Simple Invoice App on the AppStoreA couple of weeks ago I decided to participate in the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon. My app, Simple Invoice (www.sendsimpleinvoice.com), ended up winning a prize.  I think if I hadn’t already learned about the vendors’ APIs and come up with some ideas before the Hackathon I would never have had a chance.  Here are a few tips for you to win your next Hackathon!

Think ahead. First and foremost, take a look at the Hackathon website and learn about the sponsors ahead of time.  If the first time you learn about the sponsor APIs is during the event, you are probably behind.  That’s the big reason why popular APIs like DropBox, Twilio, and Twitter always get a lot of hacks – people already know them and might even have some code stashed somewhere.

IoT > Mobile > Web. The second tip is to use hardware if you can help it.  In terms of the things that are most likely to win prizes, I have noticed that wearable technology is perceived more advanced than mobile apps, which in turn generally beat pure web apps.  If you have a choice between building then keep in mind that IoT > Mobile > Web.

Involve technical evangelists. Next tip: always involve the evangelists from the API companies.  They can help you; they can debug their own code and they can guide you in the right direction.  Don’t forget that they want you to be successful because a great app using their platform gets them on stage and in the news!

I worked closely with Evo Snap team and they helped me quite a bit.  They have several different APIs and one was easier to call from iOS than another.  They were also able to give me internal error codes when I couldn’t figure out why my parameters didn’t work.  Without their involvement I wouldn’t have been able to complete my app in time.

Practice your pitch. Practice your presentation and make sure that you can deliver it in less than the allotted time.  It’s always good to have a few extra seconds to add a joke in if you think of something funny.  At TechCrunch Disrupt, we had 60 seconds per presentation.  Here is a link to my pitch – I tried to waste zero time:
http://techcrunch.com/video/simple-invoice-presents-at-techcrunch-disrupt-hackathon/518403996/

A good app with a bad presentation is unlikely to win.  The judges do not have time to go through all of the apps, so they will likely only pay attention to the ones that caught their attention during the first round of presentations.

Establish a web presence. The last thing is to hire a designer and direct part of his/her time into putting together a one page website.  I grabbed a template and put together quick information on a one page website: www.sendsimpleinvoice.com.  The template cost me $13 and I just filled out all the info.  Between registering a domain and launching the site on Digital Ocean, I only spent a couple of hours on the whole thing.

Good luck in your next Hackathon! They are fun, they are winnable, and they offer a great opportunity to learn about new technologies.

PS:  you can download my app here https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/send-simple-invoice/id917501386
PPS: If you liked this post you might want to check out the post about using Test Flight and about Starting a Mobile App Business.
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