In May, we participated in CraftHack 2023 hackathon. To our delight and surprise, our team was awarded the grand prize from among forty competing teams. It was an unforgettable experience. This is what happened, these were the mistakes we made, and this is what we learned.

The hackathon occurred as a concurrent event. Our team participated in CraftHack, and consisted of the following members:

  1. Gabriella Feliciano (Brazil): Concept, research, logo design, presentation design (has participated in multiple hackathons in the past).
  2. Gábor Pásztor (Hungary): Concept, backend development, video moderation (first time at a hackathon).
  3. Bikash Kumar Mahanti (India): Concept, data scientist, video moderation (first time at a hackathon).
  4. Marin Balabanov (Austria/Bulgaria): Concept, frontend development, video editing, pitch (first time at a hackathon in person, participated at last year’s CraftHack online).

Remarkably, we began as complete strangers, initiating communication a few days prior to the hackathon via Slack, and meeting in person for the first time on Thursday in picturesque Budapest. Our collaboration proved fruitful, resulting in a highly effective team.


Lessons Learned

The hackathon was an enriching experience. Here are some of the lessons we learned.

1. Preparation Before the Hackathon

There are numerous aspects you can prepare before the hackathon. Read the organizer’s information, create accounts in the necessary tools (e.g. Canva, GitHub, Miro), and familiarize yourself with their functionality. Set up your IDE. Secure a webspace. This way, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running. Uncertainty is a given, and things will invariably go wrong. Don’t make your life harder by being unprepared.

2. Time Management

Always keep an eye on the clock. If a deliverable is due, ensure you submit it on time. While CraftHack organizers might occasionally show kind leniency, an incomplete project with essential pieces missing will lead you nowhere.

3. Keeping Track of Deliverables

All team members should stay aware of all deliverables. As humans, we tend to forget things. Each team member may forget different aspects, and it’s through collective vigilance that you cover all bases.

4. Read the Material Provided by the Hackathon Organizers

This point may seem repetitive, but its importance merits repetition: read all the materials provided by the organizers. Doing so ensures you’re clear about the objectives, the schedule, and the deadlines.

At multiple points, we were either going to deliver at the wrong time or deliver the wrong thing, if one of the team hadn’t taken a close look at the organizers’ instructions to get us all back on track and saved our bacon.

5. Pitch Your Project Not Your Team

The culmination of a hackathon is the pitch. And yes, this is a sales pitch. You need to sell your product, not the team that created it. Explain the problem your product solves, how it does it, and how it generates revenue.

The product doesn’t have to be perfect (yet) because you will be able to fill in the details during the presentation.

No one cares which team member came up with an icon, who made the wireframes, and who researched the topic for the presentation. You are a product team, so show your product!

6. Practice the Presentation

Rehearse your presentation by presenting it to your teammates multiple times. At CraftHack, the finalists only have four minutes for their presentation. Perfecting takes time and practice.

We took nearly seven minutes when our team practiced the presentation the first time around!

Of course, the nice and quiet spot we had chosen in the park to practice the presentation quickly turned into a hellhole of noise. Four landscapers spontaneously decided to cut down the innocent little tree right next to our practice spot… With a frigging chainsaw! Once we moved to a different location, our presentation took just over four minutes!

Don’t stop practicing just because you think you know it all. You don’t. The more often you rehearse, the better you will get.

7. Let the Hackathon Team Help You

The hackathon organizers are invested in your success. They want you to succeed! Utilize their resources and take their advice seriously. Dora Kádás’ presentation on how to pitch was invaluable for us. Our mentor Bálint Horváth’s advice put us on the right track.

Reach out to the organization team in a focused and productive manner and they will provide you with the help you need. Of course, you will have to do the work yourself but they will be there for you at every junction (pun very much intended).

After the hackathon was over, Bálint told us that consulting a mentor early on in the hackathon is one of the most important things. It helps the team eliminate mistakes early on and quickly find their path.

A week before the main event, CraftHub organized a hackathon preparation workshop for first-time participants. Unfortunately, none of our team could join. If I could do it again, I definitely would have participated.

8. Treat Ideas like Resources

Embrace the ideas within the team. Some seemingly innocuous ideas may turn out to be extremely valuable, while others that seem good initially might lead to a dead end.

Don’t be too much in love with your own ideas. Be willing to sacrifice them if something else works better.

9. Each Team Member Has Their Strengths

Our team composition wasn’t meticulously planned out, yet in hindsight, we had an ideal mix of talents and skills: a marketing and design lady, a backend guy, a data science geek, and me as a front-end dude. While we did have some discussions, we worked together surprisingly harmoniously. We worked out the concept together, then everyone brought their specialization without much ado. In the end, we delivered (and I still don’t know how we did it).

10. Overcome Your Doubt and Deliver Your Project

It’s okay to experience self-doubt, as long as it doesn’t hinder your progress. Fulfill the requirements, tick all the boxes, and deliver the project. Remember, you can’t win if you don’t play till the end.

Things We Could Have Done Better

Despite our successes, we made some avoidable errors. The silver lining is that we’ll prevent these from occurring next time (while probably making new ones, woohoo!). Here’s what you can learn from us.

1. We Neglected Design

In all honesty, our design left much to be desired. The version you see in this article has been improved and refined from what we submitted, which was not particularly appealing.

2. We Hastily Created the Video

Our preparation for the video was insufficient. With more practice and the proper equipment, such as a microphone, we could have produced a higher-quality video. The sound quality was poor and the editing was choppy. We overlooked many opportunities to create an impressive video, instead settling for an adequate one.

3. We Were Unaware of the Location’s Advantages Until It Was Too Late

We didn’t realize the potential benefits of the location until after we had completed our project and video. In fact, we only appreciated the tranquility and beauty of the surrounding park after we were done with everything.

If we had noticed this earlier, we certainly wouldn’t have shot the video next to the trash cans behind the catering area.

4. We Could Have Provided Better Screenshots

The Junction app, used for managing the teams and submissions, offers a space to upload images and screenshots for the project. This platform is an invaluable opportunity to showcase your product.

Each image could contain multiple screenshots, showcasing different views and screen sizes (like the full desktop version and the mobile version of the app). We didn’t take full advantage of this, but we should have.

5. Some Of Us Could Have Benefitted from a Change of Clothes

Lastly, a personal reminder for myself: bring a spare shirt to change into. The first day was cold, while the second day was hot. The excitement of the second day resulted in a lot of sweating. In all the pictures, there are dark spots around the armpits of my shirt, which, to put it delicately, are not just shadows. (This is a tad embarrassing.)


Over forty teams of exceptionally talented individuals came together to compete, collaborate, and showcase their solutions to one of the three proposed challenges. The opportunity to engage with such a multitude of skilled and motivated individuals was both amazing and inspiring.

Read about the team’s strategy behind choosing and creating the winner project on Marin’s blog in more detail!