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What the hack?

By Alice Gresset, LBS Elevate Class of 2020

After class, a friend from the Elevate cohort asked me if I wanted to participate in a weekend long hackathon at LBS.

I’m not an engineer, and I never saw myself as someone who would spend an entire weekend “hacking.” But, I thought to myself, what the hack? Why not? And I signed up for HackLBS hosted by the LBS Entrepreneurship Club.

Over the course of the weekend, I learned that a hackathon can be interesting and engaging for someone with a business background, both in terms of developing a business idea as well as developing oneself. HackLBS brought together business people, designers and developers both from LBS and from the greater London community to work in teams to develop an MVP (Minimum Viable Product).

Here are 3 reasons to do a hackathon (plus recommendations):

1. You want to practice pitching. You will have multiple opportunities to practice pitching. At the start of the event, you can choose to give a one-minute pitch of your business idea and try to entice people to join your team. Second, you’ll have a chance to pitch your idea again in smaller groups as participants mingle around to ask questions and decide which team to join. Third, at the conclusion of the weekend, your team will pitch the minimum viable product to a panel of judges.

Recommendation: Come ready to pitch an idea. All it takes is a problem and a proposed solution. Even if there’s not enough interest in your idea to form a team, the hackathon is a chance to take a risk. You might be surprised by how much attention your idea attracts.

2. You want to fight perfectionism. If you’ve read The Lean Startup you’ll know that perfectionism is one of the biggest enemies of developing a business idea. There are few better ways to combat your perfectionist instincts than to be given a massive task to be completed in an unrealistic amount of time. At HackLBS, your task is to establish product-market fit, develop a minimum viable product, and flesh out a business plan in just one weekend.

Recommendation: Look to Confucius. "Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without." If you can build an MVP that starts to look like a diamond over just a couple of days, don’t fret about its flaws. (In other words, let go of your desire to make a beautiful final pitch deck.)

3. You’re curious about the technical aspects of development or UX design. If you are familiar with the business side, but are eager to understand what goes into building a mobile app, HackLBS connects you with experts in these areas. My team worked closely with mentors from Code Addict to understand the process to develop a mobile app to help combat loneliness among the elder community. We had access to these mentors throughout the weekend.

Recommendation: To make the most of these experts, make a list of questions you have about software/mobile app development, or wireframing tools such as InVision. Along the way, I bet you’ll learn even more than you had planned.

Elevate has given me a space to explore the tech sector and discover new challenges. The LBS hackathon is just one example of the kind of events we participate in, and how a growth mindset and willingness to take risks can help you succeed.

Opening night of HackLBS. We competed for two prizes, one focused on tech and one on business.

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