The ADE Hackathon (Dark Beauty at ADE 2017 pt.6)

For the first time during ADE 2017, I see light rain in Amsterdam. I’m making my way from DeLaMar to the back of the Centraal Station, where ferries dock. My circadian (and all other) rhythms are already messed up, so I’m not really worried by the fact I might not be on the proper one. While the ferry passes by Aitana (the hotel we stayed in with Martin), I am considering bailing out for the last time – as I imagine a comfy bed up there. One does not simply sleep at the ADE Hackathon. 

I had no trouble finding MTV Headquarters, really. An old shipbuilding facility, that’s now refurbished into a very very very modern workspace. What I really meant – it is majestic. All the fancy startups would be jealous. I’m signing my soul to Viacom in exchange for an ADE Hackathon T-shirt and making my way into something, that could be described as a lobby. But in reality, it’s a giant creative space, where your brain gets stimulated wherever you look.

ADE Hackathon at MTV NDSM

It’s me x100

I’ll be honest – it’s always nice when your peers openly think of you as smart. It happens to me and it’s a bit more than occasional, I feel special when it does. But my god, I wasn’t really able to imagine a 100 people just like me in one place up until today. Well, here we are, the illustrious “Brightest minds of the music industry” at ADE Hackathon 2017!

I’m passing by the DJ booth while looking for my teammates.

But first: How did we come together? It all began few weeks before departing to Amsterdam. I got invited to a Slack team with instructions. From there on, you pitch ideas in one channel, recruit team members or get recruited in another one. If you feel adventurous (I did), you create a third channel, where you coordinate everything with your newly recruited team members.

Fast forward a week before ADE Hackathon, it all gets shaken up – people change plans or… bail out. That’s harsh life of hackathon teams. Teams start panicking merging, and lucky for me – I manage to get into one that’s very active on Slack. Bruno from Brazil, Kellie from the US, Dennis from Rotterdam, Sebastian from Austria. Fresh minds, first-time hackathon attendees, known as “Ghosts ‘n’ Hackers” and guys who are making the Moov, later on. We adopted a flower-shaped couch and about 15 cans of beer. Why not.

Intro keynote

Meindert Kennis. This guy, CMO from Spinnin’. He talks about the magic behind their talent pool, innovation, and of course – he’s hiring. All the high profile names and brands support the ADE Hackathon because this is 100 rockstars that are able to disrupt the industry in a snap, literally. Everybody wants a piece of us.

We clap, try to speak with all the important people, get business cards, get job offers… And we are introduced into the hackspace – which is a huge room well prepared for being creative. By that of course I mean there are post-its and Red Bull in quantities that are possibly going to kill us.

Let’s think and have dinner

What happens when team members get connected last minute: you need to agree on a problem to solve first. Luckily, there are industry Pros from Phillips Hue, KPN Technium, and Woov staying onsite and are very eager to consult. Best thing: they are people who are a step ahead in the industry. Instead of consultation, we opted in to get as many insights about the development of their products as possible.

We are collectively leaving for dinner. What we don’t know yet is the location – it’s a secret. Until we enter a magical industrial area in the dockyard. With a huge DGTL banner and two full-blown stages. DGTL x Kompakt is happening here, tomorrow. And we already know what it’s going to look like while stuffing ourselves with super delicious burgers. That might well be the highlight until I suddenly get the silly idea to hijack the DJ booth. I get silly ideas in Amsterdam. Don’t ask. I am allowed to play by the organizers. At the booth in MTV.

People start dropping. Like flies.

While we iterate on our ideas, there is a sudden trend. Some people are leaving for a smoke and not returning. The last ferry leaves at 1 am, this is going to be a deadline. I think it’s mostly because some of the people are participating in their first Hackathon. The coffee machine breaks down. It’s getting colder (somebody left the doors open). This is what you would normally call a “shit hits the fan” situation.

It’s 1 am and my team is now Kellie and myself. We decide to call ourselves Ghosts & Hackers and are safely heading out of analysis paralysis. Bruno and Sebastian join us remotely later on to approve the final idea. We are going to build an AI-powered, geolocation-based recommendation system for ADE. All based on the problem, where best-promoted venues get crowded and people are not aware of alternatives because there’s so much happening. Suddenly bits and pieces start coming together, as we mock the first low fidelity prototype on paper. As soon as we are done, Kellie decides to move home as well.

My moments to shine

As the team’s chief of UX and UI, I need to create the wireframes first and ultimately ship the prototype and User Interface. ASAP. I have no idea when I finished, but I know Sebastian and Kellie did have already parts of the backend done. There is hope!

I need a place to crash…

Suddenly, it’s morning. I find myself on an inflatable mattress next to the elevator. Two hostesses who try and try not to wake us offer me a smoothie and I graciously accept. I feel like a hobo (and possibly look like one). A shower is something I’d enjoy now, but a stylish cap is ok as well. Yes, this is the moment when “Peter with the thinking baseball cap” was born.

I’m grabbing breakfast and a (possibly the 56th) cup of coffee. I make myself comfortable in the DJ booth and people seem to be waking up. So I did what I naturally would do – I started playing. Guys from team Angel App join me in the booth moments later and we have a tech talk while playing a b2b2b. After few mins, it’s just me again, but folks from team JokR are in the mood to dance. Here you go you beautiful French people, have some house tunes on me! (little did I know)

Kellie and Bruno come in and it’s time for work. Sebastian stays remote, and Dennis is sick at home. But holy shit. I just DJ-ed at MTV Headquarters!

Maarten, the most phenomenal host

We did have everything we needed, not just food and drinks, but also tech, data, and gadgets. And if there was something we didn’t have – we called Maarten. Maarten is the GM of Young Creators. He is the person who makes absolutely everything possible, is able to provide even more data on the fly in the middle of the night. He is inflating mattresses, repairing the coffee machine, making sure people are on Slack, and literally everything. Shoutout and a big round of applause!

Guys from Trancefamily can possibly picture me, on a party we were organizing – in full Duracell-Bunny mode – and quadruple that effort over 24 hours. Yes, that’s Maarten and I don’t believe he’s human 😀

Time flies when you’re having fun

Instead of picturesque description what happened next, I will leave it up to your imagination based on bullet points. We had about 5 hours left to hack, most of us pretty much nothing to show. Some teams didn’t exist anymore, others were thriving.

This happened for pretty much all of the teams including us, in chronological order:

  • “Damn, half of my team didn’t show up”
  • “Ok, one final update to the design”
  • “Ok, now that’s really the final design”
  • “Final_Final_Production.sketch”
  • “Ok let’s split the effort – you do the pitch deck, you do code, I do the final design”
  • “We all code”
  • “We all code and enjoy it in a very perverse way”
  • “Somebody messed up the commit”
  • “Oh crap, the Jury comes in and preliminary pitches start”
  • “This place is now a nuclear reactor of creative energy”
  • “Guys, hacking stops in 15 minutes”
  • [7 minutes later] “Guys put everything down and commit finals”
Preliminary pitches, Finals, and Winners of ADE Hackathon 2017

At 3 pm, we start pitching our ideas to the Jury. We need to show at least something and know there’s going to be some time to do some final_final_final touches. Bruno is doing the pitch for our team, and I’m commenting, mostly related to UI. I try to be funny with lines such as “look, there’s this Melkweg venue you’ve possibly never heard of, with a young prodigy Armin van Buuren setting the decks on fire”. Yeah, in our jury group, there are people from Armada and they don’t seem impressed. Dammit.

You’d normally be stressed as hell when doing this kind of pitch to an investor. In a hackathon setting, it’s pure excitement. There’s nothing to lose, and so much to win!

The hacking for ADE Hackathon 2017 stops, everybody does final commits and we all move out of the hacking space into the lobby. Guys from JokR hijack the decks, playing techno. I love it. We’re chilling out while we wait for the jury to decide 5 finalists. Maarten summarizes the past 24 hours in a slide deck. I hope the picture of sleeping hobos never makes it out of MTV HQ.

We are not part of the top 5. The finalists present their final pitches to all of us and it’s all amazing products. It’s no surprise that the most daring product wins. AngelApp – a drug consumption app that can save lives. Having seen intoxicated people collapse on the dancefloor a lot of times, I can only agree.

Little did I know

I have mentioned team JokR numerous times throughout this post. Their product was about “re-living the musical journey of yesterday’s party”. Which means: you open the app, lock your screen, dance. And in the morning, you get an e-mail with the playlist of tracks you loved so much, yesterday. Might be a nice cure for whatever stupid thing you did through the night 🙂

The technology is based on your phone’s motion sensor, which is an awesome idea indeed. The guys apparently tested it in the morning while I was taking over the MTV booth. Now we know, that Orkidea – Nana (Jerome Isma-Ae Remix) is the most banging tune. (And it is, for real). So yeah guys, enjoy your KPN special prize! 🙂

ADE Hackathon: An experience I never want to miss again

I’m bailing out of DGTL x Kompakt, even though we have free access thanks to participation in the ADE Hackathon. I’m calling my wife while floating on the ferry. I need to sleep and I need to sleep badly. And my head is buzzing from all the beer with creative energy. I know I need to sort my head now; the only thing now I’m sure of is that I need to resign from my day job to do stuff like the past 24 hours (which I ultimately did and built Discover DB as the first of many). I just had the time of my life.

(Of course, I did not sleep, at least not right away)

Obvious question is obvious: #TeamDarkBeauty on ADEHack 2018, let’s do this!

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