27 June 2013

Angelhack 2013 Bangalore Experience

Angelhack 2013 was held at Microsoft Research/Microsoft Accelerator for Azure Office at Lavelle Road, Bangalore. We were given 23 hours to code/hack, from 2PM June 22nd till 1PM next day. Me and my partner divided the work and started to code. Soon we realized that there were issues with wi-fi connectivity at the venue, there was no internet for a long time and we were expected to code/hack without internet. After a couple of hours when technician could not sort out the issue, we were given a generic wifi access, which was slow to the death, occasionally inaccessible. For important things I relied on my mobile data connection, many had USB modem, this situation did not improve at all.

Organizers were happy to help/instruct.
Facilities were good, probably the best I've seen in an IT office.

I slept around 3AM after a 2nd git commit. Some did not sleep. I woke up around 6:30AM. We resumed our work around 7AM

Demo Time

Demo session started somewhere around 2:30PM, each team was given 2 Minutes for presentation + 1 Minute for QnA from judges. We'd prepared a video of whatever we could finish, it was not even half backed, just featuring some HTML mockups and FB integration.

Judging (Only reason behind this post)

Initially when the judges were ROFLing and making fun of the ideas and passing stupid comments, I was forced to think that these people really knew what they were talking about. But when a team presented an idea of querying the data by typing the human readable questions in a text field, one judge (the dominating one!) started to compare it with Wolfram Alpha, and went on saying that Wolfram Alpha was not present in Indian market, but when they come, your app wouldn't stand a chance.

Another team presented an app based on some medical data, it could tell you what disease you might have based on your symptoms. One Judge suggested him to participate in a kaggle competition "The Heritage Health Prize" . BTW that event ended in April 2013, it may re-start this year sometime, but no announcement has been made yet about the dates.

When we presented an idea about a generic platform for peer to peer learning, the judges responded with "many tried it and failed".

One guy presented an app which created cinemagram of a video, he explained how it worked and claimed that it was faster than the apps present in the market. When judges asked why it was faster, he simply said that he didn't know. Guess what? he won the hackathon.

Finding out that something like cinemagram already exists was just a google search away, in fact there is a company named cinemagram which has got apps on both Android as well as iOS app stores. And when you search cinemagram on Play Store you get more that 60 apps.

Why am I pissed?

My hackathon partner has a startup and he told me that he'd met most of these judges at least once for pitching his product. They are well known in India's VC circle, kind of celebrities in startup world in Bangalore.

This is what upsets me, at an event like hackathon we don't need celebrity judges, who can only focus on India when the event clearly wasn't about India. These people have a certain mindset, for example "this has failed before and would fail again" or "this already exists" or the ignorance about what has been happening around the world, like this cinemagram concept. Judges had great knowledge about Indian market and showed complete ignorance about outside world. Imagine about the people who seek funding from these ignorant people. Lots of great ideas may be dying everyday.

Now I am a bit concerned, because I'd be launching my startup in near future, and if the whole Indian industry is filled with such idiot VCs, I am going to face some really hard time.