6 hackathon ideas that turned into million-dollar startups

As a melting pot of creativity, ideas, and skills, hackathons have helped in building some of the coolest apps of our times. Hackathons offer the opportunity to meet like-minded people, mentors, and potential investors. This makes it easy for participants to test and validate their product. The hackathon environment has led to the invention of many successful business ideas.  Hackathons have helped solve pressing issues and business challenges, worldwide. Here are some of the most popular hackathon success stories about apps invented at hackathons:

1) Carousell

What are the odds of winning your first hackathon? Lucas Ngoo and Quek Siu Rui found the answer at their very first hackathon conducted by Startup Weekend in Singapore in 2012. Their idea for Carousell, an app to simplify the process of selling unwanted household clutter, won the first place in the hackathon and turned into a successful startup. They closed their series C funding at around $70-$80 million.

2) GroupME

Conceived by Jared Hecht, and Steve Martocci at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2010, GroupMe raised over US$10.6 million in funding. One year into the venture, the popular group messaging app was acquired by Skype for a whopping $80 million.

3) Docracy

Docracy is another product of the TechCrunch hackathons. Designed by Matt Hall and John Watkinson, Docracy is an app that allows businesses to locate legal documents safely. Seven months after winning the hackathon, the founders raised around $650,000 in funding.

4) Zaarly  

The winner of LA Startup Weekend 2011, Zaarly is an app designed for hiring and scheduling different kinds of local services. Creators Bo Fishback, Eric Koester, and Ian Hunter raised close to $15.1 million from investors including Ashton Kutcher, Felicis Ventures, Paul Buchheit, Bill Lee, Naval Ravikant, and Lightbank.  

5) Appetas

The winner of AngelHack in 2012, Appetas is a website builder for restaurants. Founders Keller Smith and Curtis Fonger raised a funding of $120,000. The startup was later acquired by Google in 2014 for an undisclosed amount.  

6) EasyTaxi

EasyTaxi was born out of the Startup Weekend Rio in 2011, where Creators Tallis Gomes and Dennis Wang started out with an idea of a bus monitoring app. After winning the hackathon, the duo launched the beta version of the E-hailing app and succeeded in raising close to $75 million from investors since its inception. The app covers a network of 30 countries and 420+ cities.

Tips to build a winning product

Looking for a million-dollar idea? Here are a few tips to get started:

1) Create a product that you would use

Start by solving a problem for yourself in a simpler way than anyone else. Is there a problem your friends complain about for which you have a simple solution? Can you offer an innovative solution in place of an outdated product? When you build a hack for a problem that you face, you get a clear end-user perspective. You are more likely to build a product that you would use personally. It’s very likely that such a product will be used by others as well who face the same problem as you.

2) Know your market

Getting the product-market fit right is the secret to the success of a new product. When you give people what they want, they are more likely to use and endorse your product. By investing time in understanding the needs of your target market, you can build a loyal group of users for your product.

3) Validate your idea

A hackathon is a great a place to test and validate your ideas. Take inputs from teammates, companies, and mentors to see if your product is likely to solve their problem. Test your prototype with friends, family, and colleagues. Collect honest feedback to know if you are on the right track.

4) Don’t be afraid to take the plunge

Often, great ideas happen by chance. It is OK if you are not 100% confident about the result. Start small and build a simple prototype. Don’t be afraid to give your ideas a chance. Who knows, you may be working on the next billion-dollar project!

Do you have a hackathon success story that you want to share? Post them in the comments below.

About the Author

Tharika Tellicherry
Marketing professional, blogger, movie buff, music fan, traveler, collector of memories, and tic-tac bottles.