When VCs conduct hackathons... Bangalore Hackday, by Sequoia Capital


For 24 hours of work, Rs 4 lakh may seem like a lot of money.

But this was the prize money allotted to the winning team for the Bangalore Hackday, organized by Sequoia Capital. You would think that this would be motivation enough for people to sacrifice their weekend. Of course. So, instead of catching up on their personal lives, 250 technologists turned up at the Zuri hotel in Whitefield, Bangalore, to take part in the first hackathon conducted by Sequoia Capital in India.

Given how uncommon the practice of hackathons is in the VC community, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sequoia was the first VC firm in India to do so. This initiative garnered a lot of interest from the developer community in Bangalore, resulting in 1400 applications for participation. Of these, the Sequoia team had shortlisted 450 applicants and 250 turned up at the day of the event.

The complete meeting area at the Zuri hotel was booked, and 250 developers began hacking away. The whole spectrum of Bangalore’s developer community was there, ranging from startup and corporate employees and even entrepreneurs. Sequoia also made sure that technology experts from their portfolio companies, like Sandipan Chattopadhyay, CTO JustDial, as well as renowned technology experts, like Joydeep Sen Sarma, founder of Qubole, were at the venue to mentor and judge the hacks for the 24-hour duration.

The guest of honour, Bill Coughran, partner at Sequoia Capital, was at the event, to judge the finalists. Gautam Mago, Principal at Sequoia Capital, shared that Bill was part of the team that set up Google’s Bangalore office, and he had exclusively flown down from the US, only for the hackathon.

There were an interesting assortment of hacks, as there wasn’t a constraint on what could be built. From games, to mobile apps to web applications to even IT infrastructure apps, it was a true confluence of a variety of talent. Some very impressive hacks that we saw were -

1) Jarvis - A raspberry-pi board, that controlled various OSs at the same time.

2) Punching game - An app like beat up you boss. Only, it involved you holding a device and punching at a computer screen. The accelerometer reading on the device would translate to a score on the computer.

3) TweetDial - Justdial had opened up its APIs for the hackathon participants, and this app made great use of it. You could tweet what you were looking for using hashtags, and the app would DM you answers.

4) Government information aggregator - This one is close to my heart; a tool that aggregated government information to empower journalists with data.

The winners

Web track winner

Prizes were given away for three tracks - mobile, web and infrastructure, each of whom, were to win Rs one lakh as prize money. Micromax mobiles, a Sequoia portfolio company, awarded mobile phones to the top 3 hacks voted by the audience. Apart from this, there was one overall winner, which won the grand Rs 4 lakh prize.

Infra track winners

A team from payments startup, Juspay, won the mobile track award, for an app that aimed to look to reduce the number of steps in mobile payments. The web track’s winners was a hack which was working model of popular neo4j project, graph search for IMDB. (check it out here). The infrastructure track’s winner was an impressive hack which brought mapreduce to browsers.

Mobile Track Winner

The overall winner was a working platform, which converted ecommerce websites to native apps.

Overall Winners

Overall, the Sequoia team pulled off a great event with few glitches with respect to infrastructure, but which hackathon doesn’t face glitches. We hope Sequoia and other VC firms take up more such initiatives.

But the highlight of the event was the happy developers going back home, irrespective of winning or losing. It didn’t seem like they came for the prizes. It was for the joy of knowing that 24 hours will result in an innovative product - something that every good hackathon manages to do.

Stay updated with all of the Hackathon’s happenings on their Facebook page


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