I love hack-a-thons. In my opinion, they’re one of the most exciting ways to get involved in today’s startup ecosystem. To be honest, I’ve never actually participated in one. As a technology enthusiast, I don’t think I would be able to sit down for 48 hours and work on one project while there are 200 brilliant minds around me doing the same thing – my excitement would force me to step away from my project and start discussing everyone else’s ideas. That’s why I stick to mentoring and planning, and as I mentioned above, I LOVE IT!
From my first hack at Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) – where I first became involved with CAMTech and met my future colleagues at Lattice Innovations – to others in Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderabad, I’ve helped lead numerous healthcare hack-a-thons (more popularly known as ‘Jugaadathon’) across India. This open innovation model has changed the way that I look at the scale-up process and led to my current job at Lattice, developing medical technologies for those living in poor-resource settings. It’s exciting to help shape the future of the Indian medtech ecosystem, and I feel so fortunate to have a direct role in bringing affordable healthcare to the larger, underserved parts of our country.
While I love organizing these events, we cannot work in silos. In order to have a widespread impact, we must increase the reach of the Jugaadathon and take the model around the country.
That’s why in March 2017, CAMTech and Lattice are holding a multi-city hack-a-thon in India- the first of its kind. The CAMTech X: Jugaadathon will tackle one of India’s most pressing challenges: expanding access to healthcare for the urban poor. CAMTech-X will consist of five simultaneous hack-a-thons in major urban centers across India, with centralized pre-event training and provide consistent tools and resources across the events. Part of the pre-event training involves selecting CAMTech-X Ambassadors and training them to host these individual hack-a-thons in their respective cities.
Applications for the Ambassador program close December 14th 2016; in the meantime, I’ve put together a 10-step guide for those interested in planning a successful Jugaad-a-thon:
1. Choose a Focus Area: This is the first, and most important step of the process. Identifying the healthcare challenge, issue or general theme of the event allows you to start looking for the right sponsors, partners and location.
2. Pick a date: This is also one of the foundational elements of the planning process. Determining a date shapes the events entire marketing strategy and kicks off the sponsorship and participant outreach cycle. Tip: make sure the dates don’t interfere with college exams, national holidays, etc.
3. Raise money: Secure your main sponsor(s) and make sure all contracts are signed and in place. This will get the event rolling. You need cash early because everything costs money, including your time.
4. Choose an appropriate venue: The success and failure of a hack-a-thon can be solely determined by the venue selection. Here are some of the things that can help you lock down on the right venue.
- High speed wifi for the entire audience
- Catering services (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks)
- Clean toilets with round the clock janitorial staff
- 24 hour security
- 24 hour access for participants
- Easy access to public transport
- Water coolers
- Electricity with backup
5. Build your online presence: Launching an event website, social media campaign and sending out marketing collateral allows people to start following your event. Be sure to include links to the application forms, a summary of the event, map of the venue location, sample agenda prize information and a way for people to contact you with questions. Tip: set up a fresh event email address so that you can keep those inquiries separate from the rest of your work and personal life.
6. Participant outreach: Identify your target audience (i.e. students, young professionals, veteran hackers, etc.) and start sending them information about the event. Depending on your audience demographic, research universities, medtech organizations and professional groups and innovation hubs and accelerators and share your marketing collateral with them. A good rule of them is to begin this process 4-6 months in advance. Don’t forget about advertising, especially online and on different social media platforms – those dollars spent on targeted posts will go a long way in building awareness about the event.
7. Find and train your mentors: Mentors are the backbone of the Jugaadathon. You need the right mix of experts there who have the right mentality and understand the co-creation model and process. They should be able to offer participants a healthy mix of positive reinforcement and constructive criticism as they help guide them through the weekend. Prepare a Mentor Guidelines document and include it all mentor outreach and invitations, and be sure to hold a debrief session before the event kicks off to ensure your mentors have clear picture of their role during the Jugaadathon.
8. Logistics: If you plan to provide travel and accommodation for any of your special guests, mentors or participants, it’s crucial to plan this in advance. Make sure everything you book is refundable. People change their plans all the time and you don’t want to get stuck wasting money on a cancelled ticket or hotel room.
9. Event material: The day of the event, make sure all marketing and communication materials are in place. The Jugaadathon is complex and there are likely to be many first-time participants, so having clear signage and printed information on hand gives the event a sense of structure and organization. Here are some of the print materials you should plan to have ready:
- Signage (rest rooms, food, exits, etc.)
- Lanyards (it helps to have different color stickers for expertise, e.g. Clinician, Engineer, Business, Designer, etc.)
- Stage backdrop
- Stationary (pens/notepads/staplers etc)
- Printer (always a forgotten item and always the most sought-after piece of technology)
- First aid kit (consider having a nurse or doctor on call, either from the venue or someone from your organizing team)
10. Volunteers: Find yourself some enthusiastic college students to volunteer for the event. The more feet you have on the ground the more efficiently your event will run.
The Jugaadathon is an ever-evolving concept – it’s not easy and it rarely goes according to plan. The days are long and the nights can be very late, and you may wonder if you’ll really be able to pull it off. But it’s worth it – it’s worth every bit of stress leading up to the actual day, because when it all comes together, you know you’ve brought hundreds of people together to make a difference in the world. There’s no perfect recipe for success – but that’s really the beauty of it.
Each time, we learn something new, and each time we aim to perfect the process so that the next event is even more successful. We rely on participants and mentors to tell us what they liked, what they didn’t like, what works and what could be improved. CAMTech X: Jugaadathon will be full of new challenges, ideas and opportunities to make a difference in the Indian medtech healthcare space. I can’t wait to get started. If you are interested in joining us on this journey, apply now be an Ambassador and bring the CAMTech X: Jugaadathon to your city.