Monday, October 17, 2011

Yahoo! Hack Competition Rundown

To cut to the good news, my team for the business plan portion of the Yahoo! Hack came first!

So, what is Yahoo! Hack? The original competition is actually for computer science undergrads. They're required to "hack" a piece of software/hardware/robotics/whatever out in 24 hours. The coolest one wins, essentially. This competition is around the U.S at a select no. of institutions.

Unique to Tepper, however, is the second piece. Tepper MBA students partner with the CS students after the Hack and build a business plan around the product they created. After two weeks, Yahoo comes back and judges the presentations to win cool prizes. This year - $2000 for first.

There were a few hurdles. I went to the kick off meeting, and while I scored a couple of nice shirts, all the CS students pretty much disappeared as soon as the presentation was over. Granted, the business plan wasn't sold to them very well (really, all that had to be said was that the MBA students would do all the work and they just sit back and let the monies roll in). Disappointed, I slunk off, my ego deflated.

My partner and I - we're strongly recommended to just have a two person team - finally were matched up with one of the CS students, a fellow who produced the hack "Locality."At first, I didn't think it was a strong product; it was reliant on QR codes, and I personally don't like them. But knowing that the two weeks would be very short - and my partner was going to National Black - I got into gear and scheduled our meeting sessions in advance.This is usually how I go:

1) Braindump. Intended to be the longest session where everything and anything gets thrown out as ideas. A SWOT analysis is performed; the general direction of the plan starts to take shape
2) Presentation building. Action items from the previous meeting - usually numbers - start to get incorporated into a presentation. Data gets moved around. Graphics get thrown into the mix. In this meeting, our CS guy joined us (he was absent the prior one) and a great differentiating idea came out. We essentially solidify what our direction will be and what our information is.
3) Presentation Building part 2: the slidedeck is essentially to be complete at the end of this session.
4) CECL review: CECL is the communications service available on campus, where 2nd years will help you with your communication skills. So I scheduled time for a CECL-paid 2nd year to look over the slide deck and provide recommendations. A couple were given, and the slide deck was revised for legibility.
5) Presentation practice. We practiced the presentation, timed it, removed redundant slides and information, and got comfortable with our presentation roles.

We build our presentation around the idea that we'd be pitching to venture capitalists. I find out on the day of the presentation that it's expected we're pitching to Yahoo. That required an abrupt change in a few slides so that we could tailor it to Yahoo! We weren't given guidelines.

But the win is really good, and not just for the money - it does have to be split amongst all 6 teammates, even the CS kiddies that didn't do any of the plan work. I now have something to put on my resume.

As well as a business opportunity to pursue...

That's the great thing about CMU - is the collaboration opportunities that are available. So now I can say that I worked effectively with a Computer Science undergrad, and developed a solid contact there.

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