The most important part of a hackathon (and every group project)

Having been to over a dozen hackathons, I have had the fortunate experience of winning prizes while also miserably failing to complete some of my other hacks. And it is until the last couple hackathons I realized that, despite how rough and intensive the process is, the ideation step in the very beginning, followed by a solid pitch at the end, are the most important parts of a hackathon. The reasons are surprisingly simple: a good ideation guides you to building a great product, and a great pitch showcases the world a fantastic idea (of course, it has to work).

From diving straight into a newly conceived idea and unable to finish at the end of a 36 hour sprint, I always felt exhausted and would ask myself why we are never getting products done despite an awesome idea and having spent an awful lot more time than others. Then I slowly realized it is the communication and coordination that matters. No matter how much engineering power or prowess, as the team grows larger, the communication overhead increases exponentially.

Just recently at IDEA Hacks, I joined a team where we did not expect to win anything but experience from the start – however, all of us listened to each other and after careful consideration and collaborated planning of one’s idea, we divided our responsibilities and focused on executing it. With great team chemistry, we were able to finish the hack in about 10 hours and rewarded ourselves with nearly two full nights of sleep. Feeling energized and confident after impeccable refinements, we delivered a sensational pitch with such a simple but perfectly executed idea. The judges liked it; the audience loved it; and a month later, we were contacted by the primary sponsor for a demo at its educational campaign both online & offline. People often heard the saying “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – heck, it’s true.