Why You Should Participate In Hackathons, Startup Weekends

Hackathon

Hacking on StartupBus en route to SXSW Interactive 2012.

By Esther Crawford (Co-Founder, glmps)

I’m writing this from a bus that’s traveling from Las Vegas to Austin with 30 guys and 4 women who are working round-the-clock to launch companies on this year’s StartupBus. My team is building Open Wallet, an app that lets you get cash from people nearby instead of having to go to an ATM.

It’s an invitation-only community of hackers, hustlers and hipsters passionate about startups that started in 2010 and has become an annual hackathon-style competition on buses traveling across America at 60 mph towards SXSW. Teams get formed and then the trip is spent building companies, gaining traction, and preparing to pitch top-tier angels and VCs in Austin.

Traditionally I’ve thought of Startup Weekends and hackathons as being places primarily for coders and designers, but I was wrong – there’s a place for everyone.

This is my first experience being a participant so if you’re sitting on the fence or worry because you’re a non-technical founder here are a few reasons to go ahead and put yourself out there:

#1 – Pitching.

A good pitch is needed for a team to win and a hackathon is the perfect place to practice pitching – you’ll have to do it a lot. Having a solid design or prototype is important but they can fall flat if the problem and solution isn’t able to be concisely conveyed.

#2 – Networking.

While there are a lot of great networking events and conferences there’s nothing quite like working with someone on a project, on a very tight deadline. A hackathon is the perfect place to find a potential co-founder, no matter what skill set you need for your next venture.

#3 – New skills.

It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll have to do something new because teams are small and everyone is scrambling to accomplish a lot in a short period of time. That means getting the chance to try out new roles and to learn from others – you can get real-time feedback and pick up shortcuts and tricks from your co-founders or e watch how other teams execute.

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.

About the guest blogger: Esther Crawford is Co-Founder of glmps, a mobile micro video platform for sharing life’s moments. Previously she was the digital spokeswoman for Weight Watchers and is weeks away from moving from Wisconsin to San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter at @EstherCrawford.