Ladies Embrace Hacking Health Challenge at UC Berkeley, and Win

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By Ipsheeta Furtado (Co-Founder & Consultant, FTW Group) The butterflies in my stomach finally quietened and I felt at ease -- our team completed a demo and a presentation that didn’t run over time. As Chung-Hay Luk and I sat down, I passed off my cue cards, not nervously fiddling with them anymore.

We participated at Hacking Health at UC Berkeley last Saturday. We were inspired with talks by industry leaders, motivated by mentors and volunteers, and energized by innovative ideas from designers, developers, and jack-of-all-trades that attended.

This wasn’t the first time I’d presented, nor would it be the last. But for some reason, I was really anxious! I hadn’t been exactly successful at the previous hackathons I’d been to (once thinking my idea sucked, or another time, not finishing the demo).

I wanted to see our idea and approach be conveyed as best as possible to the all-star judging panel. There were 11 other teams that could have ousted our product. I knew everyone had experienced that hour around 4pm when doubt sets in and you just want to go home and nap. At last, the evening was finally out of our hands.

We had spent an entire day “hacking” but it was more than just writing code, we were creating change. Through our product, we had decided to help alleviate a condition over 50 million Americans suffer from: tinnitus.

When Chung-Hay finished our presentation with, “...healthcare's objective is to improve patients' lives, and this is what we're doing directly”, it clicked with me that our project encapsulated the ethos of “hacking for health”.

Having the capacity to help someone directly and meaningfully was what gave me the confidence to KO this hackathon. There was something inherently encouraging about it and the chance to share our idea with such a large group of resourceful and game-changing people was thrilling.

That morning, we set out to find teammates, overcame the technical challenges, and brainstormed an appealing user interface. I was excited for the compressed execution of Lean Startup principles.

We spent 5-10 minutes instead of days or weeks on pivot/persevere decisions. Development details compromised perfection for “good enough for the demo”. And finally when we came through with a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) of our idea, I was exhilarated and satisfied. Though rushed and panicking near the end, we had identified our value proposition early on while designing and our pitch fell out of the process much easier than I had anticipated.

I was surprised and delighted when our team was called to accept the award for Best Mobile App, sponsored by Morgenthaler Ventures.

A combination of simplicity in the idea, focus of impact, execution of a working demo, and scalability was the recipe to our success.

The hacking community describes this quick-and-dirty production as a “pressure-cooker environment”, and it takes some getting used to. From my experiences prior, I got easily frustrated with the time crunch or teasing value out of a crazy idea. It took me a few tries to realize that it was more a mental challenge -- one that entrepreneurs go through on a daily basis. So don’t shy away from the next hackathon near you. Think of it as a low-commitment trial of being a founder because, in all honesty, it just takes getting used to the mindset.

Photo credits to Liz Rockett.

Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. headshot_biggerAbout the guest blogger: Ipsheeta Furtado is Co-Founder of FTW Group, a consultancy with experience in education, finance, and healthcare industries focused on leveraging technology in business and operations. She practices yoga, teaches swimming, and is learning guitar in her spare time. Ipsheeta holds a B.S. in Engineering Physics from UC Berkeley. She promises to tweet more @ftwipsheeta. Ask her to tea if you’re in the Bay!