Over the last weekend (23rd -25th March 2012) I took part in the HackLDN event organised by the founder of MyVoucherCode and CEO of Markco Media, Mark Pearson. The hackathon took place in the Markco Media office, near London Bridge.
The idea of HackLDN was to create a business and hack together a prototype (or a full product) in 48 Hours and the office was open the entire time so that you could keep going as long as you wanted to (or until you passed out from fatigue).
I pitched an idea that my collegue, John Slade, and I had come up with a few months before and had talked about starting up. The idea was selected and we got a really great team together.
The team worked incredibly hard and most of us worked through the Saturday night and all day Sunday to get a prototype and business plan ready. I have never witnessed such dedication from a large group of people before. People that, at the start of the event, had never met each other worked in perfect harmony and gave 110% to every aspect of the idea.
I attended Launch48 a few weeks prior to this event which has a very similar structure; pitch idea, get a team together, hack away, present progress and business case. The problem I faced at Launch48 was that there were so few developers, the only real progress that most teams made were with the business case.
So what made HackLDN so much better?
There are a few things that made this event stand out from other events, these were:
- There were so many developers present that all the teams had enough developers to produce some really cool technology (exactly what a hackathon should be like!!)
- The office stayed open 48 hours so people could keep going (this created a real buzz in the place)
- There were some real VC and Business heavy weights present to give advice and motivate people to push harder and further into the product and business.
- All Food was provided (this may not seem important but believe me, when you have been hacking away for 18 Hours on redbull and coffee, nothing cheers you up more than a croissant and some cereal)
- Mark Pearson and his team (especially Ben who was there most of the time and organised a lot of the event) were so cool, dedicated and excited that they increased the excitement by spurring people on.
- The event had a really casual, lets see what happens, feel which made people feel at home in the office.
- The office was cool….really cool…even the painting of Mark Pearson on the wall
- Mark had arranged for a number of the people who work for/with him provide API’s for some cool technology (I must thank the VouChaCha guys for helping us and providing an API to their service, thank you Ben and Julian).
So that is why this event stands out from the other startup weekends. If you are planning a startup weekend, you can learn a lot from these guys.
On to my team.
I was the leader of the team, with John Slade providing the technical leadership. We worked long and hard and had a real mixture of age and talent. We had two seventeen year old guys who were fantastic and produced some great stuff. It was great to see young people wanting to get involved with these events and having the confidence to sit in a team of professional developers and hold their own. We had two of the Markco Media staff which were absolute rocks within the team and remained focused on their tasks until the very end. The two team members producing the business plan never stopped researching, writing documents and doing competitor analysis and I zig-zagged between the two parts of the team doing what I could.
Every few hours we would stop, have a meeting to see where we were and decide what to get done by the next meeting (worlds shortest agile iteration??). This worked well, and we even received the comment that we were the most organised team there.
The other teams.
The other teams were just as dedicated, very few people at the entire event slept and those that did sleep, did not sleep for long. Testament to the dedication of every one at the event was the output. I have never seen such great technology developed in such a short period of time.
If events like this carry on taking place, the future of tech startups in London looks promising!
Finally, I would like to thank Mark Pearson and his entire team for a totally fantastic weekend.