Mentoring @A Hack

1400171_778462712169750_1371700295_oThe weekend was started with two parties in Tartu: two startups – Fortumo and Fraktal – both celebrated their 6th birthday and threw a party at their respective offices. Since these are only a couple of hundred meters away from each other there was quite a lot of traffic between the offices.

The parties were nice, I met a lot of people that I hadn’t seen for a while and so it happened that I got back home around half past 2 and got to sleep 3 hours before I started going towards Helsinki, to mentor in A Hack.

1470258_777765925572762_1787438295_nEven though it’s only the second time ever I mentor in one, I really like the concept of hackathons. People come together for a weekend, pitch their ideas, form teams and try to come out with a very rough prototype by Sunday evening and pitch again for a prize. Whereas it’s absurd to expect that there will be a valid business formed by Sunday, there’s still a lot of sense in the hackathons if you look at longer perspective. Some of the teams continue developing their ideas and might get far with it. For example in Estonia we have a startup called VitalFields that started in Garage48 hackathon, later on joined Startup Wise Guys and in the summer announced a round of financing, raising €250k. Not bad at all.

Even for the people and teams that do not continue working in their hackathon idea after the weekend there’s a lot of value in the participation. The event as such adds so much inspiration and enthusiasm to the participators increasing the chances some of them starts their own business in the future. The events also serve as a good networking opportunity to meet other enthusiastic and like-minded people.

Therefore, when being invited to mentor in the event, I agreed without too much thought. So it happened that I had an early wake-up call on Saturday morning and by 1pm I was already in Espoo, at the premises of Aalto Venture Garage.

1422455_777765452239476_1892146015_nThere were 7 teams alltogether in A Hack, with quite different business ideas and products. Perhaps the only common denominator I could think of, is social – all of the startups had at least some social aspect to their idea. It makes a whole lot of sense, of course. With 100+ existing apps in AppStore and Google Play to any possible idea you can come up with (even if you have this “special feature” that nobody else has), going social and having a unique way to do that can be your way to make the difference.

1404940_777530635596291_1556431732_oThe weekend got through pretty quickly. In-between meeting with the teams there was also a conference call with an angel investor Semyon Dukach, very inspiring guy! On Sunday afternoon we had a quick pitch preparation session because you might have the best idea possible but if you can’t communicate it, the chances are you will not get very far. Then in the evening we had the actual pitches and it was great to see how much the teams had evolved during just a couple of days. Just after hearing the last pitch I had to leave to not miss my flight back home.

All-in-all a weekend great spent with wonderful people!

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