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A while back H-ACK Farm in collaboration with Intel, Rome’s Asset Camera and other companies hosted an Hackathon at MAXXI BASE which was titled “H-ACK Living”. Three companies briefed the teams with a problem they faced and asked for a smart solution to it; needless to say the Internet of Things was a big part of these projects along with big data.

The project we started from was a smart air cleaner that could be controlled remotely through your phone or computer; it was produced by a huge company (120$+ mil public market cap). First of all we had to re-project the hardware from scratch; the current version couldn’t handle the sensors we wanted to implement. The company would have received all the data anonymously daily (if the user wanted to) in the form of a json file in order to analyze it and see how the product could be further improved. We then wrote an interactive dashboard in JavaScript that helped the user to easily read the data the device sent with graphs and stats. That same json file would have been available to the clients too, making the device some sort of a hardware API for the house so that techies could create a house network with other devices (Arduino, Raspberry, etc). All of this in the span of 24 hours! In the end we didn’t win, the company we worked for chose something completely different that didn’t touch the hardware or software but rather pitched an idea, and I can see why since the launch was getting close.

Does it suck to lose? Yes. Did it really matter? Not at all.

I had the possibility of working on hardware with the electrical engineers on my team and moved out of the “software comfort zone”; I worked with JavaScript which isn't really my main language and created something great with it; I met a lot of awesome people and got in touch with industry leaders; I also had way too much pizza and Redbull but that’s for another post. We walked out of there the next afternoon with more connections and most importantly with ideas that can still be improved. Winning the hackathon is cool, but at the end of the day you’d rather have an idea that develops slowly in something great than a cool app that gives you 24 hours of glory. Keep grinding, try to figure out what went wrong/what was missing and improve it, then pitch it again.

Maybe you have an idea already, but no one to talk about it with. Networking is the second hardest part in creating a startup and hackathons help you a lot with it: ask stuff, share a table with people and don’t be scared of them, that guy that just offered you a coke might be your next co-founder! Winning will give you good exposure for sure, but the connections that stick are the ones you create one on one throughout the event, not on your 5 minutes pitch on stage. Chances are that if they’re attending a hackathon, you won’t bother them by introducing yourself and asking about something.We ended up being invited to showcase Smart Torvy at Maker Faire in Rome and had a blast! Stop reading no, go find an event near you and get to work!

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Alessio Fanelli

I'm a full stack developer with a love for sports.


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Alessio Fanelli

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