Hack Belgium 2018
The Botwiser team's hackathon adventure
Last week, we at the Botwiser team packed our stuff and headed off to Tour et Taxis to participate in Hack Belgium, a three day hackathon in which around 850 participants from around the country form teams and attempt to develop projects that will "hack" one of twelve societal challenges Belgium is currently facing today, and with which we partnered by supplying our event chatbot, Eventumbot.

These challenges range from clean mobility, meaningful work and energy access for all, to a new relationship with our oceans, future proof education, and a new era in food.

The event was held over three days, each with its own theme and focus. In this post, we will recount our experience as our team came up with and developed a project to make Belgium, and subsequently the world, a better place in just 72 hours.

The culmination of our efforts resulted in FreshStarter, which I encourage you to check out!

3 Days

12 Challenges

850 People

Day One
The first day was all about exploring: exploring the grounds, the people, the technologies, and the ideas. The very first thing we were told to do during the introductory presentation was to talk to someone we didn't know, and within 30 seconds, explain to them which problem we had come to solve. This was a fabulous ice-breaker, and set the tone for the rest of the event that we were all here for the same purpose.

We settled into our workspace, and immediately started bouncing ideas off of each other. They ranged from a matchmaking platform that would unite willing volunteers with organisations which needed them, to a food community in which less busy people would cook homemade meals for those who simply didn't have the time, and a virtual banking assistant for children who would help them save and "invest" money and teach them basic economics. Notes were taken, ideas flowed and evolved, and in order to get more inspiration, we attended a couple of workshops offered by experts in various fields.

Team tables were spread throughout the vast location, and our team chose a cosy little corner with two walls on which we would be able to hang up our game plan and get a good ensemble view of our developing project... A project that we had yet to come up with!!!
Day Two
Upon arrival on the second day, we laid out our plan...

Our idea was a platform through which people could exchange their children's old toys with the rest of the FreshStarter community, donate them to organisations such as charities, orphanages, and second hand stores, or give them to artists who use discarded materials in their creative works. The core user interface of the platform would be through Messenger, using an AI Chatbot and photo recognition technology. The chatbot's persona would be fun and engaging in a manner that parents could get their children to use it and learn about subjective value, and how giving away their unwanted toys could create happiness for other children.
This project would fall under the Clean Circular Economy challenge.
We started by creating our plan outline, examining potential pitfalls, and setting up our tasks.

We set up one on one meetings with experts, who happily dropped by to give us their input. They were very helpful in getting the idea to a more practical state.

We set up a landing page, a newsletter, a FaceBook page, and contacted various corporations and artists to ask what they thought of the project and to get micro-validation of the project.

Once our bases were ready, we proceeded to draft a market survey in order to validate the project with potential users. We walked around the Hackathon grounds asking random people to fill it out, as well as publishing it online. The results were quite positive, and we knew we had something in which people would gladly participate.

Feel free to take the survey yourself to help us further develop the project.

Next step, getting the project out there...
Day Three
The third day was all about the pitch. Expert curators and judges would be present to form a panel jury that would receive each team's idea, and choose which one they thought was the best, and most viable.

We prepared a slide show outlining the problem (discarded toys contribute enormously to plastic waste, unwanted toys clutter up the house), the statistics (the number of families with kids, profit figures from the toy industry), the solution (FreshStarter, of course), and a basic value proposition.

Our pitch was at 16:00, and went quite well, with the jury panel asking insightful questions, and our CEO Karlis knocking them out of the park.

In the end though, none of the Circular Economy projects were chosen for the grand finale. But that is far from the end of the road. Each and every team is encouraged to see their project through.

We were treated to presentations from the five finalists, which were very interesting, and it was great to see the diversity of ideas coming out of one single event.

You can view our presentation right here!

Hack Belgium 2018 was an informative learning experience for both newbies to the Startup world and seasoned veterans alike. We at Botwiser would encourage everyone to participate in these types of events, not for the grand prize or the recognition, but for the experience itself and for the inspiring people you meet.

If you're interested, we're always looking for volunteers to help FreshStarter come to fruition, so don't hesitate to send us a message on FaceBook, an e-mail to freshstarter.be@gmail.com, or sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on all developments regarding the project!

For more on us and the event, visit Botwiser, FreshStarter, and Hack Belgium.