By Pamela Day (Founder, Stealth Startup)
“Life is always either a tightrope or a feather bed. Give me the tightrope.” — Edith Wharton

I won the hackathon at BeMyApp on Sunday, June 5 by unanimous agreement from the judges: Jeff Scott (148Apps), Anthony Ha (VentureBeat), Jay Jamison (BlueRun Ventures), Isaac Mosquera (Socialize) and Tom Deckowski (Intel). Judging categories were idea, execution and business potential.

My inspiration to pitch at this hackathon came from a Dhana Pawar, a panelist at the “Women in Mobile” APWT iWANT event in May in Mountain View at Hacker Dojo. I asked Dhana for advice as to how a non technical person could learn and gain some understanding.

Dhana immediately responded “Go to a hackathon” and described the hackathon she had organized at Facebook, noting that the people who learned the most were the business people.

The BeMyApp Mobile Hackathon

I saw this listing for the BeMyApp mobile hackathon on Women 2.0. I immediately signed up, not really clear what I was going to pitch. The main project I had been wire framing was not right for this event – I had other ideas from which I pulled. The time was approaching and I started receiving reminder emails from Vera Glavova, the organizer of the event. I was getting nervous, so I chose to pitch an idea that solved a problem that was frustrating and costing me money.

There were 30 pitches that night and Cindy Terdimana, Anisha Sekar and I represented the female contingency.

Five ideas were chosen -– of those five ideas, two were pitched by women!

Anisha Sekar “Size Winder” app was the other woman beside myself chosen to have her idea hacked.

The Development

The developers, UI and special skills hackers then chose with which project they wanted to work. On Friday night, I had a Shoru Hamatov, business model; Carl Tanner, Ruby Rails; Siavash Nejad, UI and Peter Bloom assisting on the backend. We mapped out the initial frame flow, identified our roles/skills and got the vision down. I was nervous because we did not have an iOS developer; this was going to be difficult since this was after all a mobile hackathon.

Saturday morning arrived with the previous nights crew minus Peter as he had previous commitments. We were working on design and functionality when Martijn Te, Jorn van Dijk and Leo von Driel (aka The Dutch Ninjas had just arrived the day before from Holland and were here for WWDC. What they did not know was that they actually came here to make my idea a reality. At that point we were focused on gathering data, UI design and porting it to the iPhone.

On Sunday, Noodlewerk was going to Alcatraz so we would be without an iOS developer once again. Our numbers wizard, Shoru made a phone call and arranged for an iOS developer to come — Marco Heddes drove up from Sunnyvale on Sunday to help us and help us he did. But we were still missing some key skills, like getting the data from the back end to the mobile. Once again, a traveler saved us — in walks iOS rock star Gustavo Ambrozio hailing from Brazil and Gustavo had the exact skill we needed.

It Worked!

I was dancing all around Citizen Space (co-working space) where the event was held –- I had my idea on my iPhone. It is really nothing short of magic when an idea is materialized in 48 hours.

To echo Dhana Pawar -– get to a hackathon! Now! Even if you don’t have an idea to pitch, listen to the other, join a team, help in any and all ways you can. There is nothing like it. I have headed that 9 women cannot have a baby in a month, well guess what – we did!!

Here are some upcoming hackathons -– PLEASE go. It will up your game and move whatever you are working on into an upward spiral.

  • HAPI Hack Weekend (Friday, June 10 to Sunday, June 12, 2011) is a hackathon focused on leveraging APIs to create cool new software. The event brings together designers and developers for a chance to win prizes, create products and meet talented people.
  • The Muther! (Friday, June 24 – Saturday, June 25, 2011) is part Hackathon, part DevCon covering the entire lifecycle of an app. Whether you’re just starting out with app development, or already have successful apps that you’d like to improve, the Muther is the place for you.

Thank You’s

I wanted to thank Citizen Space for wonderful hosting and for two months at the Space, Hiten Shah of KISSmetrics for a lifetime account, IconSign prize, Featured App with Free App A Day, and GitHub with a year of silver hosting! And of course BeMyApp, in particular Vera Glavova who made the whole experience pure delight. Also to Women 2.0 for listing the event, Dhana Pawar for giving such actionable coaching and last but not least Shirley Lin who organized the event at Hacker Dojo (and so many others) supporting women entrepreneurs.

About the guest blogger: Pamela Day is an Entrepreneur in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter at @zibbyz and her startup at @stealthsf.