Last weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in #blackhack, a hackathon held in Atlanta for the black tech community. Hackathons allow me to binge on the things that I’m very familiar with: building, teamwork, healthy competition, sleep deprivation and consumption of copious amounts of food! The event, thrown by #BlackGirlsHack (they like hashtags), brought together developers, designers and startup entrepreneurs from as far away as Washington, D.C.
The goal: to build mobile and web applications for local nonprofits and tech startups with black founders in 24 hours.
The event was hosted at Hypepotamus, which offers fantastic co-working space in the heart of Midtown Atlanta near Technology Square for free. Its aim is to bring great developers, designers, storytellers and innovators together into one place to foster collaboration, education and creation.
The hackathon started off with a public meet-and-greet, and the competition began on Friday night, with startup founders pitching their ideas to the hackers and designers. Projects ranged from developing features for an existing site to building an entire minimum viable product from scratch. Once the teams were chosen, everyone not hacking or building was kicked out so we could focus and eat all the food. Once the 24 hours were up, each team presented and was judged by a panel of entrepreneurs and investors.
My team took home the first-place prize for Airfordable, and we won the prize for best startup idea. Our product allows users to book a flight and accept payments; not bad for 24 hours of work! Huge props go out to Airfordable founder Ama Marfo for an amazing idea, and to Christopher Walker for creating and executing the game plan.
The winning Airfordable team at #blackgirlshack Hack at the Hype Hackathon. From left to right: Darren Pottinger, Ama Marfo, Christopher Walker and Don Pottinger.
I’m happy to report that all proceeds for #blackhack went to Black Girls Code, who even took part in the competition by building a content management system. In addition, the support from the entire tech community and sponsors was spectacular.
The dearth of black representation in the tech startup community is already well-discussed and over-analyzed, so I won’t harp on the topic. Dr. Paul Judge, who happened to be one of the #blackhack judges, authored an excellent TechCrunch piece if you are interested in reading more about the subject. He shares his thoughts on the current situation and proposes solutions to improve the state of black tech entrepreneurship.
What I will say is that #blackhack demonstrated that there is a larger presence of black tech entrepreneurs in the area than I realized. In fact, I’m looking forward to seeing an even larger turnout at the next #blackhack, and I expect more developers with deep skills in languages like Ruby and Objective-C to be in attendance!