Startup Weekends normally involve several projects with a technical based idea that ultimately wants a website or app creating (not always, I spent one weekend brewing up a new health drink). The idea of the event though is not to showcase your technical talent at producing an apps, it’s to showcase your creativity in identifying and solving problems.
No one cares about the solutions code quality, maintainability, or even scale-ability as long as it solves a problem for people and that people actually want solving. With that in mind here are some ideas, suggestions and tips on solving problems with code.
I recently heard someone use the phrase artificial artificial intelligence, this is where a process looks to be sleek and automated but really behind the scenes a human is pulling the levers and pressing buttons to get a job done, but it’s all hidden behind a sleek UI. This may not be a scale-able solution to the problem but if no-one has this problem or wants your solution then scale-ability is not a concern to have. Automation can come latter on when your startup has actual customers. Tutora was a good example of this, a user would request a tutor for a certain subject in a certain city on a certain day, the request went to a founder not a server, they queried good old yellow pages in order to find a good match. They would then setup the booking in what appeared to be a sleek automated process but was actually a long winded manual effort. When Tutora knew people wanted to use this service, that’s when they created a database and automated the processes.
We all like to create projects from scratch, but a Startup Weekend is not the place for this. If you do have to or want to code, yeoman has many project generators to help you quickly get a project up and running with many features wired up already. This allows frees you up to concentrate on creating the actual value for the customer. Another way to get a quick start is to use WordPress and some of the many themes and plugins available that may be a good match to your needs.
For the more ambitious participant hoping to produce a mobile app I recommend using Exponent, this lets you create Apps for Android and IOS and distribute them without going to the App store. It allows you to quickly get an app running that can be shared with others that can be deployed as standalone apps on the App Stores at a latter date. The apps written with exponent are React Native based which I would really recommend.
Rather than rolling your own server I would recommend using a PAAS (Platform As A Service) such as firebase to quickly configure a data store for your app, push notifications and login server. When I took part in my second Startup Weekend I used Parse.com as a PAAS provider to quickly create a database back end for the web and mobile apps we created. This allowed us to create a working prototype by the end of the weekend.
Use SAAS providers, with so many companies offering rich powerful API’s to a wide variety of products it is possible to create solutions to problems without really touching code. Through use of third party service connection companies such as Zapier or IFTTT you can create powerful solutions that can be wrapped up behind sleek interfaces without anyone knowing that you did not really code that much.
Smoke and Mirrors people