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Tuesday
Jul172012

A Prototype vs A Hack

In50hrs is an Idea-to-Prototype Event. its been designed that way. Some ask us how its different from a hackathon. We think there are some differences to it, and rather crucial ones.

We've been talking to quite a few folks who run Hackathons - primarily are run by companies to get a developer community build deeper engagement with their platform - and the tune we hear seems common; not enough companies emerge out of it.

In the last one year, over four editions of In50hrs, we've had 100+ prototypes built and roughly 20 odd startups emerge. Are they billion dollar companies? Time will tell, but the evolution of an idea - prototype - product - startup route seems to be emerging.

Hacks don't necessarily become products. Prototypes do. Developers and technologists hack. Product Managers prototype their ideas. 

Hacks are solutions to fix a problem - in some cases as a temporary measure. Prototypes are the first step towards creating a long term solution towards a bigger problem.

Most hacks - and hackathons - are a great way to build expertise in a domain, on a platform or in using a tool. Prototypes are slightly wider, constantly keeping the problem that is being solved in mind.

While there are plenty of hackathons around, why are we building a platform for idea-to-prototypes? Because anything that is not managed deteriorates and anything that comes out of a system without the adequate processes is an accident. Rarely do startups, product prototypes and ideas emerge out of sheer chaos. It has to be engineered that way.

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    A high-fidelity prototype provides the rest of the organization – marketing, sales, customer service, business development, company execs – with a useful understanding of the product to come early enough in the process that they have time to do their jobs properly.
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Reader Comments (4)

Good post Vijay.
After reading the Post title i stopped reading further and asked myself what might be the difference? And my very own answer has little contradiction over yours.
I put this way:
1. Ideas
2. Hack
3.Customer Discovery for the Hack.
4.Prototype (Only if the hack has got potential)
I am confused with the below ones.
1. can better quality web apps/ Mobile apps (so called prototypes) can be build in a day or in some X hours when companies spends hours and months to create one?
2. If the prototype fails to succeed then is that just a Hack?
3. Are the prototypes build after Customer Discovery?
Correct me if i'm wrong.

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterS.M.Karthick

Karthick,
You are looking at a hack synonymously with a prototype, and thats where the issue is. Javascripts were once a hack - libraries people built to detect browsers and accordingly render the site. Can you build a product out of a Javascript Library? The answer remained no for a really long time - but with the emergence of Node.js and the tons of libraries - which are no longer called that, but frameworks, it is possible.

From a commercialization point of view there is a fundamental change in perspective from a hack to a prototype. A Minimum viable product is the core essence of a product, the lowest common denominator. To validate that concept, no matter what you will have to end up building that much - any less, or more and its time to sit down again and go over your feature release again. If a prototype fails, its not a hack :) - just means that somewhere you made an assumption about a market that doesnt quite align with what your product is offering. And to that note, Yes you would have to know who your customer would be, so that you can identify clearly what that one core feature you are going to build is going to be.
Hope you went through our checklist that we did in the previous post.

We've done four events, and over 100 prototypes in a weekend to show that prototypes can be built over a weekend.
Hope that answers your doubt.

July 17, 2012 | Registered CommenterTeam In50hrs

Let me clarify

We strongly believe that something comes out of every effort. The reason to say that you need to keep going on, was to say that fundamentally a prototype is a prototype because you are trying to validate some assumptions and it doesnt always move the favorable way. Its good to know that if the metrics are against you, its time to move on.

October 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVijay

Well discussed. I really did get the point over Prototype and hack. They're really have their own expertise and use.

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarie Kris

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