The first Silicon Valley tech startup I ever created was Hackathon.io, a platform for managing hackathon events. It was a product built out of necessity, as I was organizing large hackathons and needed a system for communicating with attendees and keeping track of the things they built. It was a fun product, but no matter what we did the product never took off.
Hackathon.io was a beautiful tool for helping organizers push notifications, showcase attendees, prizes, and sponsors, and get essential metrics on the technologies used and being developed at the event. It also had a judging platform built in, which allowed us to create multiple user profiles for different access levels to each feature of an event. You could create teams, find team-mates, creep on other teams projects and even give teams anonymous feedback on their project. Basically all these near little things that I thought would make the event better. In the field of software development this is also known as Feature Creep. Of all the features we built in, there was little reason for users to come back on a continual basis. After a year in a half building the product, I realized I was building a product that had zero chance of success.
When I decided to build hackathon.io, I assumed I could make a product that hackathons around the world would use. I assumed their problems were the same as mine. I assumed I was making a product for organizers. I was wrong. My failure in hackathon.io was a failure in understanding my users. I thought the problem was that we didn’t have enough features built in, but the real problem was we didn’t have the RIGHT features built in.
There was a competitor to Hackathon.io, a featureless site called Hacker League, which consisted of a hackathon directory, a landing page for hackathons, and an entry form for submitting projects to events. This janky site, developed in 1/10th the time of hackathon.io and with atrocious design was sold to Intel. Their founders became millionaires. And they fully deserved it, they built a simple product doing the one thing hackathon attendees wanted — a simple way to find hackathons, event information, and submit hackathon projects to event organizers.
Hackathon.io is still alive and kicking. It’s been through another re-design, has nearly 100,000 users, and helps people organize hackathons every day. But it’s not the game-changing site I wanted to work on for the next 5 years and thus I left it in the hands of AngelHack. Shout out to Nick Reed, Greg Osuri, Ben Taller, Kieran, and everyone else who helped in building this thing.