Coming off HackTPS, which is a hackathon sponsored by Toronto Police Services and Ryerson’s DMZ, I wanted to take a few lines to highlight some takeaways from the event and reflect.
Business Case First
To be successful, you need to build the business case first, then worry about building something.
This reflects a lot of the ideas about the design thinking methodology that has gained so much traction. Not only should you find a problem, but you also need to think about how sustainable your model is and your ability to monetize the idea.
It’s really easy to get bogged down in a “code-code-code” mentality, especially at a hackathon like HackTPS. While it’s important to have some product to show, few judges end up asking about the technical stack or how you implemented the solution. What they end up caring about is your thought process on the problem, your business model, and assumptions that you made.
Keep It Simple
Building on the previous idea, you really don’t need to make your code the most complex and advanced as possible. What matters the most is that it works. No judge has ever asked “How many hours did you stay up to finish this? How many bugs did you solve?”
We put a lot of pride on “taking the hard way” and “making something for scratch.” But hey, those “easy ways out” exist and should be used if they fit in with your solution.
As an example, the runner-up for this hackathon made an AI chatbot that would allow TPS to handle and troubleshoot many of the unnecessary 911 calls that could occur to a service.
Did they hard code that themselves? Build the ML and AI algorithms from scratch? Nah, they used Google’s DialogFlow service which had all this information plugged in and ready to go.
The result? They got 2nd place at the hackathon, spent maybe 4 hours implementing their solution, and had something functional to show the judges.
Don’t work hard. Work smart.