I saw down with Josh, Casey, and Sidney, organizers of HackCC, to talk about hackathon planning, marketing, logistics, and their most uncertain moments as organizers. We talk about lessons learned, frustrations, and ultimately the plan for next year. (Organizer Ahmed was not present)
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0:00 - Organizers intro, general shooting of the breeze -
Casey Spencer - Business Manager
Joshua Wallace - Technical Stuff
Sidney Eubanks - Media and Branding
3:20 Overview of the event
HackCC is first community college hackathon - special circumstances
Intentionally wanted a smaller scale event
Targeting an underserved group - many attendees has never heard of a hackathon before
Organizer Ahmed basically spammed facebook, rest of organizers talked in person at different schools to invite
6:40 - promotion and attendence
Worst case scenario was being ignored when inviting, not really rejections
In person visits were the schools physically closest to Santa Monica
Had an ambassador program - people are other schools who were in charge of attracting attendees
Furthest attendees came from Sacramento and Canada
Power law distribution effects for ambassadors?
It helped to start promoting early
At one point HackCC orgs got nervous about oversubscription and stopped promoting - next time they would just oversubscribe the event
10:45 - Why throw a hackathon?
Casey attended HackTech and wondered why there were no community college hackathons. At LAhacks met organizer Ahmed at science fair demos, connected over being a CC student
Decided around 6 months ago to start planning
Josh - didn’t even know what a hackathon was, Sidney had to explain
The term hackathon wasn’t even clear to Josh at first prior to Sidney’s explanation
Sidney found out about hackathons by volunteering at LAHacks (biggest hackathons ever) picking up garbage
Volunteered at around 4AM on Sunday morning - crunch time
John gets way too excited when he realized that he met organizer Casey at HackTech one year earlier, remembered his quadcopter drone project
organizer Ahmed cares a lot about hackathons, kept energy level high the whole time
19:20 - Hardest part of being an organizer?
Casey - Sponsors
Josh - Balancing sponsors and attendees
Sidney - Not sure. But learning how to work together
Disputes are tie broken by Josh
There is no reason why organizers all make the same mistakes
21:45 - Biggest problem for HackCC was - how do you talk to sponsors and what to they want?
Varadh from LAHacks helped a lot
Varadh helped HackCC figure out sponsorship tiers by simplification
Original sponsorship packet was 6 pages long, then they condensed
“First” was the most effective excellent selling point :)
Casey - depends on sponsor - initially we thought it was advertising, but eventually discovered that sponsors case most about being there in person
Sidney - at one point the balance of power shifted - sponsored wanted to get what we have versus we are trying to get what they have
Josh - main thing is to keep it simple. We found sponsors by seeing who was recruiting, finding their email, and sending an email. Had a spreadsheet of hundreds
The outreach template kept changing with new info and honestly just changing your mind
GA and Twilio both offered their branding to kick things off by getting mentors and just putting their logo behind the event
Key point - just get your first one
Yo and Versal were very quick to help out
27:50 Choosing the Venue / Setup / etc
MLH sanctioning was easy. Their main value was during the event. They provided Justin Brezhnev who came with the hardware lab and did closing speech.
Between July and August 2014 the plan completely changed...
Initially they thought SMC would handle money, provide the venue, and help w fundraising
“They screwed us over and kept us waiting for over 1 month”
Partnerships can backfire, you want control.
Sidney “forget about anyone else’s promises, do everything you possibly can yourself”
Initially the plan was LA Reef - it has huge capacity but not great Wifi, and adding wifi would cost $15k
CrossCamp.us was the eventual choice, and it turned out great. Benefit of CC was their prior experience.
In negotiating, they never confirmed they were going to definitely go with them before putting a deposit down.
“Most comfortable hackathon I’ve ever been to” see pic of CrossCampus
Beginners & gender balance - no concrete numbers, estimated 70% beginners
On-ramp program for 2015? It’s a way to teach beginners how to code for first time and feed directly into your event. (the week before)
41:20 - The Hacks
Winner - “Node” (challengepost repo is private, sorry) - an IoT solution to warn you about flooding damage
Judging panel - Public Vote, Judging Panel, and Sponsors all had a say
“The Mob, Elected Officials, and Rich people all had their say”
45:00 - Organizer stuff
Slept sparsely - Josh slept at home, Sidney crashed in a chair. Probably 4-6 hours of sleep total over the 36 hour period
180 attendees - there was a sleeping area in the boardroom
The further you travel the more cranky you get about sleeping?
Coffee bean went all out on pastries
Saturday had to hit up Ralphs 3-4 times
Provided healthy stuff
Lots of Pizza - 100 pizzas on Saturday
51:20 - API’s an Products you like
Casey likes Arduinos, Leapmotion, Myo, Oculus, Rasperi Pi, etc
Winners brought their hardware
Hardware hacking with soldering can be an issue with liabilities
Drones - Casey loves drones and has specialized
At HackTech Casey flew the drone inside, At LAHacks gave it gesture control (and won leap motion prize), CalHacks gave the drone mind control
Last words - Contacts