Home Automation Hackathon Redux

Last weekend, startups from the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in Seattle with American Family Insurance, conducted a Home Automation Hackathon (#homehack) that included 50+ hours of intense "hacking" starting Friday night at 6:00 pm, all the way through Sunday night at 8:00 pm.

These numbers only tell half the story:

  • 64 competitive developers and hackers vying for the best hack(s) of the weekend
  • 21 technical evangelists from Microsoft, including the TED team, DX (US Field) and Product team Hardware & Design
  • 14 developers from other companies including Qualcomm, American Family and Intel
  • 178 Tacos, 2 pounds of Tiramisu, 195 Red Bulls, 5 cases of beer and 3 cases of Monster energy consumed
  • 7 prizes for best hack, most progress towards helping the business and most diligent developer
  • 9 sleeping bags for 11 people who slept less than 10 hours over 3 days

Now let me tell you the rest of the story:

Each team had a goal they wanted to achieve for the Hackathon. It was as if we had a multi-ring boxing match, with each team trying their best to knock others off with the size of their teams (Playtabase won with over 10 people) or ambition of the hack (Chai Energy won with the best update to their product) or endurance of their hackers (Sentri won with a solo developer going the entire distance). Others were trying to get as many developers from Microsoft on the team to build their web presence and preorder site.

Here were the seven teams:

  • Chai, trying to build a way to get any device to be detected by their energy monitoring algorithm
  • Playtabase, looking to integrate their solution to the cloud via AllJoyn
  • Heatworks, integrating with Alljoyn
  • Novi, creating a new version of their website
  • Scanalytics, building an update to their new smart mats
  • Sentri attempting to get their UI for the mobile interface completed
  • Wallflowr, providing an easy way for their customers to view the countertop usage on their product

We had multiple hackers helping teams achieve their goal, using all possible mechanisms to help their favorite teams get ahead. Holding a hackaton is a great way to hone in on a piece of the business to really drive it forward. If startups only have a limited amount of time to hack, that small, but important, piece of the business then becomes the scope of the project. If there is too much scope, the team can feel overwhelmed. My biggest takeaway was that everything that did go wrong, was still a win!