Energy, fun excitement, hard work, frustration – all coming together
Facebook expert describes outcome from participants as ‘world class’
THIS past weekend I had the pleasure of being a judge at the inaugural Malaysia Developers’ Day jointly organised by industry regulator the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and US telco giant AT&T, which has had a low key presence in Malaysia since the late 1980s.
The hackathon was open to developers and non-developers who had 24 hours to form teams and turn their ideas into mobile apps. It was designed to be a catalyst for innovative thinking and entrepreneurship, and I feel it succeeded.
Not only did it give the 170 participants a taste of what that first step towards entrepreneurism was about, but through the intense 24-hour period of forming an idea, refining it, working in teams to chart a development direction for the app they hope will solve a market problem, they also got a glimpse of the hard work that it takes to overcome adversity and setbacks.
This was best exemplified by the members of Team Pillow, which – fortified by loads of Red Bull, coffee and an intense desire to finish their app called "Perks" – fought off sleep while hugging their favourite pillows, to show the judges enough promise in their merchant promotions app that they walked away with the top prize and a cool US$10,000.
Their app was also one of the few to stay true to the theme of the hackathon, which was “entrepreneurship” – that is, to help existing entrepreneurs out there.
Hint to all eager app developers and hustlers out there: Pay heed to the next theme for Malaysia Developers’ Day.
The MCMC was so heartened by the response, excitement and energy displayed by the participants that it plans to organise another one next year. But I suspect it may organise another one even before this year is up.
The hackathon also proved to be a pull for those looking for inspiration to become entrepreneurs themselves. I met a lady in her 40s who had a senior position in a leading government-linked corporation (GLC), and she was looking to launch her own startup but admitted she had no clue what to do.
But she sacrificed her Sunday afternoon. “I want to meet and be around other entrepreneurs and learn from them as I want to be one myself,” she told me.
I also met a young man who feels he has just the app to solve our transport woes. “I want to find my CTO (chief technology officer) here to build it!” he told me. He did not, but will keep looking.
Meanwhile, second place went to the amazingly young-at-heart team Pronto. Angered at the needless loss of life during the recent Genting Highlands bus tragedy, it developed an app that when activated, will send an alert to the relevant authorities about a speeding bus.
We judges were heartened by its team-members’ can-do spirit, not being put off by the fact that there rarely are those above 30 years of age who participate in hackathons. But this team did, and is reaping the benefits, including taking home US$3,000.
Third prize went to TeamShoutOut, a duo who built a very polished user interface for merchants to track inventory.
Meanwhile, while I was a rookie judge, Marcos Lara (pic), founder and CTO of AudioVroom, an official Facebook partner since September, 2011, was a pro. He knew what to say and what not to say to the participants. I learnt a lot just by bouncing ideas off him.
He goes around the world helping organise such hackathons, and came out and said that the ideas and talent he saw displayed in Kuala Lumpur were “world-class” and comparable to any country.
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