Project Winning Hackathons from all the “big” tech companies out there

Ina Yosun Chang
2 min readApr 2, 2017

I stumbled on a notable series of events that seem to have become a complete set, that might be called a (interesting if not finished?) project: Project Winning Hackathons from all the “big” tech companies out there.

Here are some highlights, with respect to the “big” co:

  • 2011 September: Salesforce Hackathon (Dreamforce Hackathon) — KUBIKULO (SocialVoxels)
  • 2013 March: Intel Perceptual Computing Challenge — 3x First Place and extended interview
  • 2013 July: PayPal NYC Hackathon (BattleHack) — DeadDropAR
  • 2015 March: Launch Festival Hackathon Best Buy First Place — Qoyn
  • 2015 October: Google Project Tango “Build an App Contest” Finalist — Wanderlust (published pivot from side interest) | c.f. original prototype
  • 2016 April: Microsoft Build Hackathon First Place — Snapglasses
  • 2016 September: TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon Grand Prize — Pointshop
  • 2016 October: Money2020 First Place — Hovershop
  • 2016 October: AT&T IoT Hackathon Grand Prize — Circuitry IOT AR
  • 2017 April: Amazon Alexa Hackathon — AlexaPet
  • 2017 July: Warner Brothers Shape Hackathon Grand Prize — DC Scene It
  • 2018 September: TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon Grand Prize (again!)— faceStylr

A high-level boil-down of the experience and insights gained:

Time is precious and good (or can be fixed-up-to-be good) libraries exist for almost everything. When your goal is to build an application-level product, in this day and age, the effectiveness of using modern programming means (you must!) feel free to stand on the shoulders of giants. Write your own wrappers for the libraries that do the stuff that needs to be done and become so familiar with them, you can “hack” out an app in an hour “from scratch”. Collect these together into your own framework.

Be good enough at rapidly building software so that it works no matter who’s on your team (and also coming up with a buildable idea and being able to strip it down to a MVP). *Then* manage the complex team psychology required to create “pitch theatre”. Popcorn challenge: Work with random people with random skillsets and random skill levels. Rather than evaluate someone as useless, try to assign them something to do that they seem best at. My most fond example was a picture perfect-looking boy who was just “interested in technology” being as close to no skills as one can be — and, though I hate to propagate the stereotype, he made a great pitch babe. Winning doesn’t always happen, but making everyone feel a part of and useful (no matter how little they do) creates that everlasting team spirit that surpasses the event.

Finally, in balance, I’m not sure which one is worse: the ridiculous Archer-agency-like stories that arise from incompetent hackathon teams or having to deal with the B/S you get as a solo girl hacker. On experiences in the latter boat, I’ve been disqualified-by-default, told it’s not worth the time to pitch, and even physically attacked! Sometimes I try wearing the fake-fur-coat of a team just because a team is what’s expected. I’m trying not to do that these days…



Ina Yosun Chang

{wonder, innovation, elegance} ∈ a hacker's take on augmented reality, 3d graphics, mobile iOS and Android dev, startups, COOL STUFF and life