Pitches, Keynotes and Networking: Marie's Hackathon Learnings

This year, we've been busy attending a variety of community events. A recent event we sponsored stood out for me and I wanted to take the time to share with you. Startup Hacks 2018 took place over the last several weekends in Vancouver and was a new business hackathon. Participants were mostly in their 20's and partway through business and commerce degrees. One group of outstanding young women, however, were still in high school and their ages range from 14-16 years old. HEXONET not only sponsored the event, but I mentored and spent an afternoon going group to group to meet with the teams and discuss their ideas. I can truly say, meeting these young people and hearing their ideas and pitches was a remarkable experience and gives me great pride in what's coming up the ranks. There was an estimate of 18 teams, each with unique ideas and skillsets. Some concepts were bang-on for solving common problems, some were a little off the mark for viability, and others missed the mark completely but showed true creativity.

On the second day of the hackathon (the day after St. Patrick's Day no less), I ran a marketing workshop for all of the participants. Considering it was a rainy Sunday morning, I found the group of youth engaged and keen to participate. It was a great opportunity to share some of the real world learnings I've picked up along the way, and help them hone in on their pitch and presentation skills. One of the highlights for me at this stage in my career is being able to give back and contribute what I can to those seeking the experience and knowledge of others. And for those of you wondering - yes, I did talk about domains and our industry! As HEXONET has recently gone through some brand and marketing updates, it was a natural tie-in to not only use it as an example but to present the importance domain names play in building a brand. 

Our friends at Radix worked with us to offer free one-year domains to teams wanting to register their ideas. It was a great addition to include and speak to.

The finals took place this past Friday, and I along with our Marketing Coordinator, Ana Milosavic, attended. The top three teams pitched their ideas to a room of around 250 people, and the afternoon event also included an entrepreneurial panel and two keynote speakers. Of course, the teams did an excellent job presenting their ideas and handling the judges' questions. Excellent by not being as smooth or polished as they could be, but excellent by putting themselves out there and taking a risk. It reminded me of the importance of practice: of being in the hot seat, of being prepared for the unscripted, and of the confidence and grit required to build something from nothing.

Building on those points, I was impressed by Jennifer Li Chiang who told the story of her startup journey building Musefind. From giving up a shared New York apartment and going homeless with her two co-founders to save money, to doing 148 investor pitches in one year, Jennifer gave a humourous and inspired keynote titled: A Series of 'Un'fortunate Events. It was no surprise to realize that one of the most impressive teams I met during my mentoring sessions was a group of her employees (team Flexride).

Events like these really do drive home the creativity and ambition that's out there. It's also incredibly motivating to be exposed to such a wide variety of ideas, and bring that energy back to our domain industry. I'm inspired by the talent and motivation coming up the ranks. Stay sharp and be on the lookout for fresh talent, friends. There is no shortage of unique perspectives and hardworking individuals headed our way!