Time and time again people ask us who are the winners of In50hrs and what do they get. I stop and ponder for a while and I realize that there are a lot of hackathons where there are prizes and winners being announced.
We had written a post earlier on how In50hrs is an Idea-to-Prototype event and not a hackathon. The difference is that, a prototype becomes a product and a product becomes a startup. a hack... err, what do they become? Well, We havent quite figured out the answer to that. Most of the times, it doesnt become anything.
We realized after a few editions of In50hrs, that the "winners" we announced were the first to drop off. Teams dispersed and never did anything beyond that. Whereas the ones that built a prototype but didnt win, went off to do something beyond it - sometimes just to prove that they were the better ones.
On analysing this we realized it was a matter of satisfying vs gratifying. One a team has "won", the mindset is that of a milestone crossed, mission accomplished and it is very hard to rally a team to still stick around. Once goals are met, teams dispurse. But with nothing more than a prototype in hand, you still have the onus of customer development, to go into the market (aka, get the hell out of the building) and talk to people and validate what you started off with. If you don't follow up with that step, the prototype building process was a weekend getaway, with nothing to show for.
As per our statistics, one third of the teams that come together at In50hrs stay together post the event and ship the product - at the least an alpha launch page. Its a huge gulf crossed, because once people sign up, wanting to test the product the team gains momentum to wanting to launch it.
We try to delay the gratification and are consciously steering clear to give any signs that you have crossed the well. Until you hit customers, launch, and get real users behind your product you haven't. And when you do that, the market will tell you whether you won or not, or if its time to go back to the drawing board. In any case, none of us - not even the jurors (who are mislabelled at in50hrs) have a say in that.