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How winning Start Weekend empowered me to co-organise the craziest Train Hackathon in Europe


What have I actually built?

I am Sally, 22, a Chinese girl who has always wanted to start her own business. With a background in linguistics and social psychology, I love to observe problems in life and try to solve them in the smartest way. One thing that I have learnt about how to start up is to ‘start fast, learn fast, and fail fast’. I started joining business competitions, playing around with theories and creating pitch decks.  In the process, I faced challenges like co-founder problems, cultural barriers and technical difficulties. All these experiences are still invaluable to me, but something seems to be missing.

What can you do in 54 hours?

You can go hiking, camping, to an outdoor concert or to the beach for a break. But how about building an actual workable prototype? From generating ideas and forming teams all the ways to innovating business model, building a working prototype and pitching it in front of judges and investors? Is it possible for someone with zero experience like you?

The answer is YES!

What have I done during Startup Weekend Sheffield?


I formed a team with these awesome people: Elizabeth, the NHS insider and innovator; Pete, the magical developer; Nima, the entrepreneurial doctor; Laury, the genius PhD in Physics; Hidayah, the developer ninja and Jamil, the all-rounded engineer.

We instantly clicked with each other, identified the problem of missed doctor appointment, and decided to work on Appointment Dr, an interactive SMS system for patients to book, cancel, rebook and swap appointments. We managed to perform customer validation, reaching out to general practitioners (GPs) , patients, and department heads of hospitals.

The most exciting thing was that our idea had been pivoting from the first hour till the end. Now you can imagine that we have 54 hours of heaven and hell – you kept on shaping your business with the most talented people who you could imagine in all kinds of ways. There was a moment that we started to shout at each other and could not bare to breathe in the same room with each other’s presence; but eventually, we got back together and worked towards a common goal: building the product. As expected, we actually built a long-lasting camaraderie and friendship.

What happened after winning SW Sheffield?

In the end, we were lucky to win the first prize at Startup Weekend Sheffield. We didn’t carry on with the project after identifying with a thorough market research. Yet, this experience has opened my eyes and empowered me with a seemingly impossible confidence – you can co-create anything in 54 hours, with the right people and right approach.

During the event, I met River, an all-rounded techie entrepreneur and we talked about co-organising a hackathon on a moving train. So here we are now, running our SECOND crazy hackathon on a moving train, travelling at 200km/h. This time, the Department of Transport and the rail industry is providing full support for  making the greatness happen. I have fallen in love with giving back and empowering more people like myself; and have also co-organised a variety of hackathon and SWs, such as Ameehacks and Macau Startup Weekend.


The 54 hours has changed my life. And my life at the moment is dedicated to creating life changing 54-hours for those who embrace innovation and make amazing things happen.

I believe that when a cool idea becomes a real life innovation, it will benefit millions of people whom you might never meet in your life.

Stop talking? Start doing?


There’re loads of ideas popping out. There’re loads of problems waiting to be solved. Have you taken any actions other than just putting it down on your Eureka notebook?

Go to a Startup Weekend or hackathon! Form a team with random talented people and build it over the weekend! I guarantee you that the 54 hours is definitely gonna be AMAZING!!

Sally is now a marketing associate for Hack Partners, the co-organiser of the legendary Hacktrain. She is also doing a MSc at Imperial College London and founded Startground, an invite-only community connecting quality start-ups to Investment in China.

Samantha Deakin