Help Blacks in Tech Fund Startups: Get VUE with Brian Clark
People ask me all the time “Who are the African Americans in technology? What can we do to help them?” I want to highlight one today who is on the grind every day about his business and deserving of our support. As if it wasn’t enough to launch two startups within a year and win 4 hackathons, Brian Clark recently launched a crowdfund campaign to fund his latest startup, VUE. VUE is a mobile analytics tool that provides a new way for mobile-focused teams to effortlessly understand their users. Not only is Brian building something incredible, he’s also giving back by teaching highschoolers how to code at MissionBit, inspiring youth at Startup Weekend Black Male Achievement hackathon and writing awesome blogs about his startup journey.
I encourage you to help a brotha out by doing 2 things RIGHT NOW:
1. Contribute to his crowdfund campaign. Give anything! The lowest VUE is asking is $3 bucks!
2. Share the crowdfund via twitter and facebook and email with the following “Help Blacks in Tech Fund Startups: Brian Clark – @GetVUE: Behavioral analytics for mobile users https://ramen.is/projects/get-vue-analytics @blksintechnology“
If you do these two things you can take it as a badge of pride that you are taking a step in the right direction to help build more startups with people of color in leadership. It’s a way to join Brian on his startup journey as not just a supporter, but a contributor. I’ve posted the advice Brian provided in his blog to encourage folks to participate in hackathons as a way to jumpstart their own innovative products. Blacks in Technology encourages everyone to share this incredible campaign and get this funded in the last 10 days!!!
Funding Your Startup With Hackathon Winnings by Brian Clark
I participated in my first Hackathon about 8 months ago, and since then I have won almost $45,000 in Hackathons. Being that VUE was born from winning a hackathon I feel this is a great avenue to share some strategies I’ve used to win hackathons and fund my startup.
1) Know what the judges are looking for
Hackathons are built for hackers, but they’re built by people who are looking for something from those hackers. Whether it’s a unique way to test our new APIs or finding the next best developer to revolutionize an idea that the creators of the hackathon have, they’re always looking for something specific.
Go and talk to the judges (if they’re available).
My best experience with this was from the LAUNCH hackathon. I participated in their second Hackathon this past November, and while we only won a very small prize, it was very obvious what they were looking for once I had pitched to them.
Being fortunate enough to know this, I came to the third LAUNCH Hackathon earlier this year, much more prepared with what they wanted, and took home the grand prize for VUE which is just now moving into private beta.
2) Only “build” what you are going to demo, have a plan to execute, and take shortcuts
Hackathons aren’t about polished code, data validation on forms, or designing an amazing new interface.
Hackathons are about shipping a meaningful vision of your idea.
With VUE we did exactly that. During the Hackathon we pitched an SDK that could track all user behavior on iOS with one line of code, a powerful dashboard where you can query your data, and a feedback system to ask your users what they were thinking.
So many people couldn’t believe two of us did this in a 48 hour hackathon. we actually did it in just 23 hours.
The key was there was a vision of what we wanted to build, so we spent the first hour hashing out exactly what we would build over the next 23 hours and here’s what we came up with:
- Write the mobile SDK for tracking, but don’t build the endpoints to save the data – Brian
- Write Python Script for simulating sessions so we’d have a lot of data to show – Brian
- Buy a Dashboard template for $10 so it looked pretty – Patrick
- Load the fake data into the template with Node/Mongo – Patrick
- Write a feedback system that just pings the server on every app load for a new question – Brian
- Simulate one possible query by using a for loop – Patrick
This is VERY manageable to build between two people at a hackathon. We built out this list, defined any endpoints where our code would interface, and got to work.
The key here is everything we built would be shown on screen with the demo. There was no user authentication, no form validation, and not even a fully working query engine. Use shortcuts, buy templates, and build exactly what you need to demo your idea and nothing more.
3) Tell a good story
Winning a Hackathon often all comes down to your pitch (and this does not mean a powerpoint). You generally have 1 to 5 minutes to demo your 48 hours of straight work, make the best of it.
I participated in a Sears Hackathon where I built an app called Instagift. Need that last minute gift for your girlfriends anniversary or mother’s birthday? Scroll through our list of gifts and with one click get one shipped overnight, gift-wrapped, to your door.
With this competition we only had 2 minutes to pitch our idea.
Instead of spending 2 minutes pitching the tech specs of the app and how it was going to make money, I wove a story around how a man named John had completely forgotten to get his girlfriend a present and he had no time left to pick one up and get it gift wrapped, he knew he was in trouble. I even asked the audience if they’d ever been in this situation and every guy raised their hand.
I would say this was certainly noticed by the judges as I took home $6,000 in prizes from that event. Even better? I made the app in 4 hours — a scrolling page of gifts with the Sears API, a buy now button, and some pretty graphics.
The compelling, relatable story was what won the hackathon, and the hack was a simple demo of what the solution to the problem of the story could look like in an app.
4) Follow the rules, Build something you want, and have fun!
Every hackathon has different rules, some they’ll check that your API calls hit their servers, others are fine with photoshop templates on a website showing your idea, make sure you know the rules and follow them.
Also do nothing less than build something awesome with really cool people, make some new friends and have a ton of fun. Hackathons are some of the best events you’ll ever go to.
What are your secrets to winning hackathon? I haven’t won every one I’ve participated in but I’m certainly getting better!
Lastly we’re also looking for support on our crowdfunding campaign! Help VUE come to life faster
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