I learnt the importance of setting MVP (minimum viable product) goals right at the start of the hackathon.
By Priyanka Godbole (Product/UX Designer, Hipmunk)

I participated in the TechCrunch Disrupt hackathon this year. My team won 2nd prize from Locu for iPad web app hack MaitreDeal.

I did the design and frontend development, whereas Sai Shenoy (my husband and project partner) came up with the idea and did the backend.

The MaitreDeal iPad web app can be used by both restaurant owners and restaurant patrons. For restaurant owners, the app has an analytics dashboard that allows restaurant owners to keep a check on trending menu items. Based on this information, owners can push deals / special offers dynamically to all the patrons. This helps to boost sales of menu items which are not trending and thus, effectively use inventory of perishable ingredients which could otherwise have gone waste, improve customer engagement and increase revenue. Restaurant patrons select items from a dynamic menu, place orders and even pay right from the app without waiting for a waiter.

Why I went to TechCrunch Disrupt:

I participated in the TechCrunch Disrupt hackathon because the idea of building a product from ground up in less than 24 hours is exhilarating. The hackathon experience gives a taste of what it can feel like to start your own startup. Within less than 24 hours, a team has to be formed, roles have to be assigned, a common goal has to be established, technologies to use need to be determined, an hourly schedule needs to be set. Figuring out what to do and how to do is the easy part. The hardest part is keeping everyone aligned to the common goal, without getting distracted or discouraged.

TechCrunch, being the leader in technology news, attracted a lot of talent for the hackathon and we were competing with about 150 teams in the end. It is not often that you get to see 150 teams work and present on so many diverse and awesome ideas.

The number of women participating in the hackathon was not as much as I had hoped for. I would encourage more women to participate in hackathons as it gives a big confidence boost and could potentially open up tech job opportunities. It is easier to design and build an app / website today than it has ever been. You don’t need to have a degree in Computer Science to hack. You just need to feel inspired, hungry to learn and ready to take on the challenges, especially when it feels easy to give up.

What I learned:

Lesson #1 – Figure out your MVP right away.

I learnt the importance of setting MVP (minimum viable product) goals right at the start of the hackathon. It is very easy to get carried away by all the exciting possibilities and lose focus. One has to stick with the MVP plan, implement it, have a demo ready which is good enough to describe the salient features of the product. In my opinion, it also helps the case by proposing a future product vision through a couple of high fidelity mockups for a few advanced features.

Lesson #2 – Keep moving.

The key is to keep moving and not procrastinate over a thought / edge case / possible good idea which just won’t get implemented in the short time.

Lesson #3 – Limit the size of your team.

Just as it is important to limit the scope of the project, it is crucial to limit the number of members in a team. Ideally, one should not increase the number of key members much later in the game. People who are involved in shaping the idea right at the start of the project will feel more involved and committed to completing it. Getting in a team member later on, changes the team dynamics and incorporating any of their new ideas in the MVP gets very risky as the hours pass by. Unless everyone in the team is on the same page about the goals and is equally committed and passionate about the project, it is hard to persuade members to work to meet the deadline.

MaitreDeal demo at TechCrunch Disrupt hackathon:


Pitch Deck:

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About the guest blogger: Priyanka Godbole is a Product/UX Designer at Hipmunk. Before Hipmunk, she worked at social gaming startup Kabam as a UX Designer. She holds a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Austin. In her free time, she enjoys urbansketching, reading interesting stuff on Quora, learning about other design disciplines (industrial design and interior design) and training for a half-marathon. Follow her on Twitter at @priyankagodbole.