Arnaud Breton

We recently got back from Product Hunts inaugural hackathon.
Originally launched in San Francisco (PH headquarters), the event was open to public so that anyone interested could leverage the brand and host a hackathon. Sylvain from Algolia, jumped on the opportunity and asked if we Mailjet, would be interested in sponsoring a Paris edition – which we did without hesitation! Stripe, Parse,SketchFab, OpenDataSoft, Etalab and OAuth.io followed as well. The Family generously offered to host the event in their space.
I joined the Mailjet team just 2 weeks ago, so it was a perfect occasion to meet other startup employees and developers, wearing my new hat.
The event kicked off on Friday night with a  quick meetup where Ryan Hoover, CEO and co-founder of PH dialed in live from SF, recapped the background of this event and thanked everyone who came for this unique occasion. Shortly after, the classic hackathon pitch session started and teams were formed. Brainstorms quickly followed to model around the original idea.

Rendezvous-ing at the First Ever Product Hunt Hackathon1

On this first night, I met with each team to learn about the hack they planned on building, give feedback and offer any help I was able to provide. Most teams were well balanced (meaning each had at least one business / design / developer) which was great since it meant almost all teams would be able to build a functional product by the end of the weekend.

Rendezvous-ing at the First Ever Product Hunt Hackathon2

On the second day, the rollup was deployed and we had bags full of fun swag to distribute (our Mailjet eye masks definitely came in handy for this overnight event).
I decided to meet with all the teams once again. When I arrived back at the center, I was disappointed at the number of teams in the building. Had everyone given up? Numbers had significantly dwindled from the night before… Turns out everybody was just hard at work in the many conference rooms the Family building has to offer (if you’ve never visited their offices before, you should go!).
The ideas pitched on the first day surprisingly remained the same (which is great IMO!), a few new teams arrived the morning of the second day as well, bringing the total number of projects up to 10. One of the teams which was originally without a developer on the first day, was lucky enough to find one to help code their idea into reality.
I really enjoyed hopping around the teams, helping out with technical issues but also just being there for teams to bounce their ideas off me.
On Saturday night, we decided to end the event earlier than scheduled, mainly due to a logistical issue with the building management – but it actually worked out for the better, letting people rest and regain their energy for the next day. Until midnight, teams had been hacking away at their projects and begun to feel the pressure of the final demo coming in less than 24 hours.

Rendezvous-ing at the First Ever Product Hunt Hackathon3

Here I introduced one of the teams to Mention’s API, a perfect match for their needs.

The next day, I was back in the hall in the afternoon, a few hours before the final demo session. I did my ritual round of checking in with the teams and helped out as much as I could in the final stretch (including bringing around “potion magique” aka coffee). All of the teams were fired up and ready to rumble for the final round.
At 7 pm, the last commits were pushed to Github. People started flooding into the building to  to listen to and learn about the hacks built over the weekend. The idea for PH Hackathon was that instead of the usual judging process, the panel of mentors (Pierre-Edouard from IdInvest, Alice from The Family, Gaetan from Algolia and I for Mailjet) would give constructive criticism and review the building process. No business models were discussed (which was hard for Pierre-Edouard from IdInvest): the only focus was having fun with running demos!
10 pitches and a lot of creativity later, we were all very impressed by the high quality of the hacks. It was a tough decision! Ultimately, we awarded RendezVous, the largest team of the hackathon with first place. They built a mobile app that helps you find the best exhibitions in Paris. SmashTheKitty followed in second, an app that saw many laughs from the crowd. Their toy invention seeks to revolutionize interactive stuffed animals of the 80’s. Hit the stuffed animal and it’ll interact with certain online sites and apps. The team used an Arduino-based controller, to detecting hits and connected this to Zapier (very smart choice, since it opens a wide network of possible integrations). Last but not least, in third was Nomaad, an app that helps you search for cafés to work at based on Wi-Fi quality ratings.
In addition to the overall prize, we also decided to give out a special Mailjet prize based on creativity. RendezVous being the superstars they were, also went home with the first place Mailjet prize: 1 year of our Silver Plan.
To top it off, we’re really proud that RendezVous was also featured on the PH Hackathon Finalists page among finalists from all around the world and upvoted to the top! From an organizer’s perspective this was extremely fulfilling to have watched them reach this level of exposure.
Overall, I was very impressed by this event and the process was very rewarding, considering it was a side project and group effort of all the sponsors (with limited energy and resources). Truly lots of hustling and shared entrepreneurial spirit here.
I’m hoping to see a second PH Hackathon very soon! If you couldn’t make it out to our hackathon, catch up on it over on The Family – they recorded the entire session!
Want to learn more about upcoming events? Don’t forget to follow me and Mailjet on Twitter!