Most people do predictable things in December, like getting their Christmas shopping done, counting the days until they can Netflix and chill, or telling everyone that big problems are a 2023 to-do list item now.
We wrap up the year with one final bang, attending OSUT’s Polihack.
Well, OSUT is the Student Organisation of The Technical University here in Cluj-Napoca, and Polihack is the yearly hackathon they organise in December. It’s a big deal: every year around 30-35 teams participate (that’s around 120 people!) to compete for building the best MVPs in the MobileApp, Web, Embedded and Junior categories!
And this year was the second one in a row we participated as a Platinum Partner, doing several things:
- Our #TappSquad participated as mentors to help the teams build their products (9 employees signed up!)
- We held a presentation on Customer Discovery (no matter how you end up building a product, it better make sense for your audience)
- We gave out a special prize: the Tapp Prize for the Best Mobile Experience. And one more special mention!
Considering last year as well, there seems to be a pattern forming where we quite enjoy adopting this event and advocating for giving out more prizes than the organisers had on the list, but we regret nothing.
This year, as well as last year, Tapptitude was the first company to answer our call to action to participate to Polihack. The mentors that joined us came with multiple backgrounds, both business and tech, and they were able to cover many of the challenges a hackathon team could have. They’ve been some of the most open and professional people I’ve met, and having them support Polihack is a real bonus. I can’t wait to see what you’ll prepare for us during the bootcamp!
What is mentoring at Polihack like?
Like last year, we didn’t have to worry the #TappSquad wouldn’t show up to mentor at Polihack. All in all, we had 9 mentors present over the 48 hours of the hackathon, from backgrounds ranging from business to tech.
I really liked the atmosphere, it was full of very enthusiastic people and positive vibes. The ideas were very, very diverse. I was surprised to hear some very niched ideas, but that had a very big impact on that particular audience. The volunteer team running the show were always open to help everyone and make sure everyone is doing ok. And the game corner, where I got to test a VR game, was really neat!
And our mentoring gig didn’t stop at one-on-one advice. Andreea and Tudor, our resident Product Consultants, also held a 30-min presentation on Customer Discovery.
We chose the topic of ‘Customer Discovery’ because the hackathon’s purpose was to pitch startups, not merely products in the end. Thus, it was of paramount importance for the teams (with mostly tech founders) to understand how to create something relevant for real users.
The deal with being a jury member at Polihack
Over the three-day event, we expected the confusion regarding what to build, how to plan business models, or how to tackle code challenges. What we didn’t expect were the team conflicts that seemed to be unsolvable without our intervention, the anxiety before the deadline, the stage fright before pitching.
Perhaps the hardest job was that of being a jury member, which Andreea had. This year’s Polihack theme was Innovating the current world state through leading-edge & smart technologies and it got quickly reflected in the products that were built. It was clear that the world’s current problems were top of mind when the teams were deciding what to build. Sustainability was definitely one of the most crowded spaces, followed by the medical system, and some really interesting refugee and shelter products.
Being a jury member was both a blessing and a curse: I was blessed to be around such motivated, hard-working students and yet I was cursed to have to choose only a couple of teams as (formal) winners.
And the teams had their work cut out for them. After 48 hours of near-constant coding (because it’s not a real hackathon unless you check at least one sleepless night), each team had to show off their product in a technical demo and then present it in a 2-minute pitch.
A not-so-planned prize we offered was for pitch effort to a team that kind of struggled on the stage. I wanted to make sure all participants remember that on the road to success there are lots of not-so-great results. For this reason, we must celebrate ‘failures’ as much as we celebrate successes.
And what about the team that went home with the Tapp Prize for Best Mobile Experience? Their app is called Devastation and, despite its misleading name, it’s all about cleaning up construction sites from ballast in a sustainable way, through certified recyclers.
Together with my colleague Cătă (n.r. Cătă Pop, Tech Lead), we picked the team Devastation as the winner of Best Mobile Experience. I did like their app, but when Cătă (who’s super focused on quality) said he would’ve placed just a button differently – the rest being perfect – it means the app was indeed super-good!
Our takeaway after the intense hackathon
More than 48 hours later, we’d once again confirmed why we love supporting Polihack. It’s all about the positive energy this event generates and the perseverance these teams showcase.
There were a lot of great ideas and products that showed off that, from that perspective, everyone here has been a winner. I encourage everyone to keep participating in events and training, keep getting better, keep building their idea and their startup. Their work and ambition will be rewarded.
Indeed, if there’s one thing we truly believe you can take away after such an event (ignoring the hangover from lack of sleep), it’s the skills to get something done in a short amount of time and how to relate to others in a stressful situation. These skills will be useful for the rest of your life, no matter if you end up a startup founder, or a developer building products in a product studio like ours.