Edmunds.com Hackomotive 2013

globalEarlier this year I had the pleasure of co-presenting the keynote for Edmunds.com annual Hackomotive event.    Myself and Ben Blank did our best to get the 150+ participants excited about changing the face of the automotive industry by creating new products and services that customers LOVE.   Today, the only steps in the car buying process that most customers love is driving their new car home.
This post is not intended to give a complete view into the event, but you can go visit the Hackomotive site for more details.

Event Preview
One of the things I found most fascinating about this event was that all of the teams were made up of external participants.   This meant that Edmunds was required to have a solid API in place that would allow teams to move quickly.   Another point to note is that this was the first hackathon I have participated in that was focused on a specific vertical.   This meant that not only did the participants primarily come from this industry, but all of the judges as well.
The team at Edmunds did a great job getting participants to focus on key areas of pain in the car shopping, buying and ownership process.   After spending some time focused on problems, the key areas of focus were aggregated and teams were formed around the key problem areas.  At this point, the teams went off on their own to try to create something amazing in a little less than 2 days.
This is where the fun really began for Ben and I.   We got the opportunity to jump in an coach the teams and help them dive deep into understanding their customers and determining the best way to run rapid experiments with their customers to learn as much as possible.    As the teams were able to gather behavioral data from their customers they had greater chances of being able to influence the judges with data instead of conjecture.

Day 1
Near the end of day 1 teams had the opportunity to pitch their progress to the judges and get early feedback.  This was extremely valuable to the teams and most of them did a great job of incorporating feedback from the judges.   I also took notes and went back to coaching the teams and helping them come up with rapid experiments they could use to prove or disprove that the feedback from the judges was accurate for their business.
After this late push, many of the teams worked well into the night on and their passion for the problem space was very apparent.

Day 2
The biggest surprise of the event came after all of the teams were done pitching and the judges were deliberating.  They ended up in a situation where they had a tie between two of the teams and couldn’t get out of the deadlock.   The judges applied some outside the box thinking and called in the Edmunds CEO, gave him a little context and asked if he would be willing to double the prize money.  Without hesitation he agreed.
I thoroughly enjoyed helping out at this event and I’m looking forward to helping out with Hackomotive again next year.   Be ready because we will definitely push the teams even further next time!