It’s Friday evening and a group of 200 plus women are meeting at the Dream Factory, Footscray to participate in Girl Geek Academy’s 3-day #SheHacks hackathon. The largest all-female hackathon globally, #SheHacks encourages Hipsters (designers), Hackers (programmers) and Hustlers (marketers) to come together and create an MVP (minimal viable product) in just 48 hours.
Organised by Girl Geek Academy, the team has an impressive goal of teaching one million girls to code, and it is events like #SheHacks that support and encourage women in technology (whether or not you can code) to learn new skills and create start-ups. A massive shout out to Girl Geek Academy for brining women together across Victoria to support and encourage their endeavours of creating new business ideas and being part of tech and start-up eco-system.
After hearing about this all-female hackathon, we partnered with Girl Geek Academy as a corporate sponsor and enrolled a team consisting of a Hipster (Hilary Harrington), a Hacker (Emma Tan) and a Hustler (myself). In the week leading up to the event, we began wondering what exactly was in store for us and decided it would be best to start discussing possible start-up ideas so we did not waste too much time on the Friday night. With several team meetings booked in, we eventually landed on a start-up idea after working our way through a list of 10+ blue sky ideas. We were now ready for #SheHacks!
What happens when you give 200 plus women the chance to collaborate, innovate and work together on new ideas?
Running from Friday evening and finishing up on Sunday afternoon, all teams were representative of a Hipster, Hacker and a Hustler. Kicking off with nervousness and excitement, we got underway pretty quickly to validate our idea, design the prototype and build a product. Our deliverables were simple, by 2pm Sunday we had to be ready to pitch our business idea to a panel of judges. Endless volunteer mentors roamed the space, helping with programming, design and pitch questions which was an invaluable asset especially in the times when you required external guidance.
As corporate sponsors, we were given a dedicated workspace where we could whiteboard our ideas, conceptualise the prototype and develop an action plan to ensure we could successfully build an MVP ready for pitch in just 48 hours. Being sent home around 9pm each night and encouraged to get some sleep (though some teams powered through the night), the hackathon employed a strict “no pizza and beer rule”, instead we were treated to delicious food, a yoga session on the Saturday, endless cups of tea and even a #SheHacks scarf.
Before we knew it, Sunday afternoon had arrived and we were busy practicing our pitches to anyone and everyone who came past our dedicated workspace. We were busy working hard, making last minute tweaks and finessing our pitch to sell our concept and the overall problem it solves. Due to the amazing turnout and the number of teams, pitches were videotaped for the panel of judges to review at a later stage.
It was absolutely amazing to see a group of women come together, network and share their coding, UX and marketing skills to support one another and build start-ups. We spent the weekend meeting new people, hacking up new ideas, eating delicious food, drinking tea and generally being impressed with what we and all the teams could accomplish in only 48 hours. As I reflect on what we achieved in a short period of time, it is pretty damn impressive. By 2pm on Sunday, we had achieved what was set out – we had co-founded a start-up including a working prototype, a website, commercial and revenue model and a team to successfully deliver it.
#SheHacks was the perfect opportunity to collaborate and get to know the MessageMedia ladies more, build lasting friendships and be inspired by the teamwork and creativity displayed by all 200 plus women. It was truly inspiring to partner and work alongside Girl Geek Academy and all participants to highlight the role of women in technology and start-ups. If you haven’t been to #SheHacks, you really should!
Here’s some #SheHacks advice:
- Download the right piece of software and find the right tools to use before the start of the hackathon
- Solve a problem NOT create new ideas
- Communicate with your team, stick to the schedule
- At the end of the day, it’s all about the pitch! Practice, practice and practice on your presentation.
- Most importantly, HAVE FUN & KEEP LEARNING