Get Out of the Comfort Zone

On April 22, I joined hackUST 2017, a hackathon organized by HKUST Entrepreneurship Center. For those who are still wondering: A hackathon is an event where groups of designers, idea-generators, technology experts get together to solve a problem under 24 or 36 hours, backed by technology and business ideas.

My team won the Champion by developing a prototype app under 24 hours and pitching it in front of 14 judges in 3 minutes

I wrote this piece because I wanted to not only document what happened, but raise awareness on hacker’s mentality.

How It Began

People join hackathons for all sorts of reasons:

  • cool swag
  • free food
  • free accommodation (in larger hackathons)

I have to admit, that in our university, the hacking spirit is not in every student. Most of us could not join because of coursework or exam dealines. So I am also grateful for just being able to join the hackathon.

“This would be the last hackathon before I graduate.”, I thought to myself, “Make it worthwhile. Don’t beat around the bush. Make something!”

(skip to the hackathon details here)

The first hackathon I joined, was one called CodeIT Suisse, a hackathon held by Credit Suisse. I partnered with 3 fellow students. We didn’t know one another. At the end, I realized how unsufficient my knowledge was. I realized I was incompetent. I wasn’t able to contribute anything in that hackathon.

They know so much. Why can’t I?

I started to code in highschool, starting from C and basic Wordpress authoring. At that time, I was not even aware of setting up servers or mobile apps. Fastforward to college, all I knew was some Python and C++ and making offline, non-reusable applications for course work. I seldom spend time on personal projects, mostly because I lacked the motivation.

I am more intrigued by the latest technology news or release of a new tool than completing assignments. This period of me beating around the bush lasted for a few years, while I wasted time on


“I want to win the hackathon.”, I said to myself.

I got the skills and time and determination. I just needed a team of good people, people who also want to win, to make this come true.

I want our team’s idea to be solid and battle-tested (meaning we can answer difficult questions from the judge in the Q&A).

What Makes Up A Hackathon Solution

  • Business

    • Business Model
      • How does it make money?
      • Who will pay you?
  • Tech + Design

    • User Design (UI/UX)
      • Colors
      • Shapes
      • Animations
    • Functional Design (Code)
      • Efficiency
      • Elegance
      • It has to work!
  • A Good Pitch

    • Story
    • Painpoint(s)
    • Solution
      • Why it works?
      • How it works?
    • Evaluate (demo time)
    • Future outlook

Further Reading

Secret Sauce for Winning a Hackathon
Presentations at Uber: The Gift of Giving