This week’s Didn’t work Wednesday is about something that was never really meant to work, at least not as a business - AppsIGot.
In 2010 TechCrunch announced that they were going to put on a hackathon in NYC for the first time. I had never actually been to a hackathon but often thought they sounded like a lot of fun, so I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to give it a try.
Though it seems less and less common these days - I’ve always believed that the spirit of a hackathon is to build something from scratch. One of the thing I was thinking a lot about at the time was ‘discovery’ and so I thought it might be interesting to come up with something that let you discover new mobile apps (by looking at what apps your friends had installed).
Because it was really just intended to be a fun, interesting, weekend hack I didn’t bother to do any market research (turns out there was already a [funded] company called appsfire that was working on the same basic idea) and I didn’t really think about if/how it would make money.
I was in it purely for the fun and the tech. challenge – could I really build it from scratch over the course of the weekend?
And of course to make things even more interesting, I decided that I would do it using FluidDB as the datastore (I had met and become friends with the founder of FluidInfo which makes FluidDB and wanted to learn more about the product; also it was going to be featured at the Hackathon so I thought that would make it even cooler).
Because I wanted to build something from scratch, use a technology I wasn’t 100% skilled in (Adobe Flash), and another technology I knew basically nothing about (FluidDB)…I knew going in that I was going to really be under the gun to get it working.
I arrived on Sat. at the opening, did a little small talk with a few others who were attending and that I knew, and then grabbed a spot and got to work. At some point in the night, Terry (the FluidDB founder) came by and pitched in a bunch to help get me straight on how to properly think about (and use) FluidDB - but otherwise, I was in pure 'code mode’ and didn’t really network or even chat with too many other people (I didn’t even know GroupMe was there at the time as I never walked around to see what others were working on).
I also didn’t pitch anyone to try and get help with my idea.
When Sunday morning rolled around, I had a *mostly* working prototype and signed up for my presentation slot (3rd or 4th overall I think)…I had not really prepared anything for my presentation, and instead was just planning on demo'ing the hack (which luckily - mostly worked during demo as well). As soon as I was off stage, I grabbed my stuff and headed out to catch a train uptown (I had a softball game to play in – I made it at the start of the 1st inning; though I don’t remember if we won or lost that game).
So it wasn’t until the next day (when I finally woke up from my massive crash) that I learned anything about what else had occurred at the hackathon…including the fact that I had actually earned a honorable mention for AppsIGot.
Earning the honorable mention in many ways should eliminate AppsIGot from this series (it actually worked out better than expected considering my intentions for it), but I still include it here for a number of reasons:
1. It didn’t live much beyond the weekend project (I never iterated on the codebase and eventually turned the site off completely). I should have picked a project I would have wanted to keep iterating on and keep alive.
2. There was existing (well funded and focused) competition in the market. I should have at least looked around to see if others were already solving the problem I was thinking about.
3. I didn’t use the event to network at all.
4. I didn’t take time to actually enjoy the event. I still had fun challenging myself, and am proud to have built it from scratch (mostly alone) in such a short period of time…but I could have done all that in my basement any time I wanted to. I should have worked to get more out of the opportunity. Even if you really are there just to hack, you should stick around and learn from/listen to the others, and do at least a little 'geek networking’ after the presentations.
So all-in-all, it was fun and I enjoyed rising to the challenge…but it also didn’t really work.
Or rather, I didn’t do the right things to make it work like I should have…which is another common theme you’ve probably noticed across this series…*sigh*
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Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.
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