Q: What is the point of all this?
A: GrassRoots Hackathon was created primarily to help would-be entrepreneurs interested in the cannabis industry learn how to launch a company by getting their hands dirty with like-minded, passionate people. We also want to help strengthen the cannabis industry, which is still lacking in infrastructure.
In creating an event where curious, smart, and talented people network and build together, we are doing what we love.
Q: I'm already working on my startup idea; can I still pitch it?
A: Unfortunately not. We strongly encourage you to do your homework and research your idea as much as possible prior to the event, but we won't allow previous work: code written, prototypes developed, logos or other design work, etc. We created this event to help people interested in launching their own startup learn and network with like-minded people, not to provide an existing company with free work. If you meet someone and want to hire them to work for you after the weekend, that's great! Just work on something else at the event. :-)
Q: Why hasn't this been done before?
A: The industry is just so new! There's been one other cannabis technology hackathon that was held in Denver last fall, and GrassRoots will be the second. We're hoping that with Seattle's expansive tech scene and with the help of our awesome sponsors, this event in May will be the first of many GrassRoots Hackathons!
Q: What types of materials will be there for prototyping and designing?
A: Past hackathons have shown participant preference for creating software over hardware. Some of our sponsors may provide their SDK's for hacking during our event. However, if there is significant interest amongst attendees for working on hardware projects, we will reach out to our contacts within Seattle's makerspace community and ensure teams have access to materials, tools, and expertise.
Q: Will there be paperwork to sign? (Wavers, NDAs, etc.)
A: There are no waivers or NDA's to sign to take part in our event.
Q: Is there any protection from idea theft?
A: Short answer: No. Long answer: We believe that an idea and $5 will get you a nice mocha frappucino, and nothing more; the value of an idea comes from successful execution of an idea, rather than the idea itself.
Besides, most successful entrepreneurs already have their own great ideas, and don't need to steal yours. :-) We'll even GIVE you ideas to work on if you want!
Q: Who will own the IP rights to the project?
A: Honestly, this is the one area where things can occasionally get fuzzy. Because there's no operating agreement set in place before work begins on a project at an event like GrassRoots Hackathon (at least not from our side of it; if your team wants to spend time doing that, we won't stop you), there can sometimes be friction if some members of a team want to continue working on the project after the weekend, and other team members do not want to continue or are unable to continue. Team members not continuing with the project may feel entitled to some of the company's equity. To this, we would refer you to an earlier answer: execution of an idea is what matters, not the idea itself. Doing a few days work on a weekend-long project is a far cry from the amount of work it takes to successfully build, operate, and scale a company.
Q: Why do I have to buy a ticket to attend?
A: We're feeding (and watering) you over the course of the event, and you're not cheap; ask your parents! We're also providing you with some materials, a space to work in (courtesy of our awesome sponsor WeWork!), and people to work with.
Free events can see huge attrition rates in the number of people who sign up versus the number who actually attend; usually half the people signed up don't show up. We have space for 60 participants, and want to make sure something like 58 show up, instead of maybe 30 - charging an entry fee helps that enormously!
Q: What kind of prizes will be offered?
A: Prizes are TBD. We're hoping to get some awesome prizes from our sponsors! However, the true value in an event like GrassRoots Hackathon lies not in the prizes to be won, but in the knowledge, connections, and experience you gain from busting your ass for a weekend trying to build your ideas and launch a company.
Q: Will there be food at the event?
A: You betcha! We won't work on an empty stomach, and you shouldn't either! We're providing dinner on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and breakfast and lunch on Saturday and Sunday. We'll also have drinks and snacks, and are looking into providing beer & wine for our participants who are over 21.
Q: Will there be media coverage?
A: That's the plan, Stan! Cannabis is America's fastest growing industry, and is often in the news - as is the technology sector. It's our hope that this event generates some buzz, so that we can continue to host awesome events for people passionate about the intersection of these two exciting industries!
We may document the event to support the marketing and publicity of future GrassRoots Hackathons, so please let us know if you would like to remain out of this media. If you want to help us generate buzz, follow us on Twitter @hackGrassRoots #GRH15
Q: Will I be able to consume cannabis at the event?
A: WeWork is a non-smoking venue, as is most of Seattle. We're looking into having an after-party off-site that could be cannabis-friendly. We'll let you know after talking to our lawyer. :-)
Q: I have an idea that isn't related to cannabis at all; can I pitch that?
A: How high are you, maaaaaan? This is a cannabis technology hackathon; emphasis on the cannabis! (Whoa - that last part rhymed!)
Q: How many ideas am I allowed to pitch?
A: One. Make it count!
Q: How long should my pitch be?
A: We're limiting pitches to 60 seconds - speak clearly, but speak fast, and its helpful to have a catchy or a "working" title for the project or idea.
Q: I haven't pitched before - what do I say?
A: You can pitch your idea however you'd like, but remember that the goal is to get other participants excited about working with you on it - if they don't know what you're pitching, they won't get excited.
We've found the following to work well:
1) Who you are
2) What your skills are
3) What problem you're trying to solve
4) What your proposed solution to that problem is (your brilliant idea)
5) Who you need to help make your vision a reality
It's a lot to say in 60 seconds! Because of that, we'll likely be organizing a pre-event workshop the week or two prior to the event, so any participants interested in networking and practicing their pitch can come and hear feedback on it.
Q: How does the judging work?
A: We'll have 3-5 industry experts as judges (from different disciplines and backgrounds), who will listen to each team's 5 minute presentation, as well as participate in a 3 minute Q&A with each team. Again, while winning is great, the main focus of the weekend will be learning, growing, and challenging yourself - don't get hung up on a few peoples' opinions. The true winners are the ones who go out, execute on their idea, and build a successful business.
That takes a lot longer than 3 days!
Q:What is the judging criteria going to be?
A: We're still creating the judging criteria, and will announce it at the event.
A good rule of thumb would be to focus on the design and function of the product, the strength of your business model, the best use of technology in a demonstrable product, or being the crowd favorite.
Q: What should my team cover in our 5 minute presentation?
A: This will depend on what your team is able to get done over the weekend.
If your team is stacked with developers and engineers, and you're able to whip up the entire Minimum Viable Product you were aiming for but aren't sure how to effectively market or monetize the product, we'd suggest focusing on your product demo. If your team is very business savvy, but lacking in the development side, you should probably focus on what market research you uncovered, what your potential customers said during your customer development, and how you're going to build a successful business from this through monetization and marketing strategies. Get it? Play up to your strengths, but be ready to talk about your weaknesses - the event judges are no dummies, and will probably call you out on obvious gaps.