In 2013 I participated on the Launch Hackathon in San Francisco with Yago Rodriguez (developer) and Mar Perez (educator). We had 72 hours to build and present an idea of a company to participate on the opportunity to win $1m in investment.



How many times you are looking for a parking spot and you don;t find any? How many time you wish you could park in front of a garage if you know you’ll not bother anyone?  Parking is a need in big cities such as San Francisco and New York. Currently, the big amount of initiatives proposing innovative ways to solve these problems highlight the real and increasing demands of parking in the city.

Parkalot, is an app to help people find “non-tow away” parking spots. A “non-tow away” parking spot are the spaces blocking people garages or the driveways, which remain unused when people is not at home. Anyone can upload these spaces to the Parkalot market place, so that users can find them using the Parkalot App.



Being in a hackathon is all about being fast. We didn't had much time to conduct deeper user research to validate our idea, so we decided to send a survey to our friends and family to learn a little bit more about parking behavior. We quickly received the first answers and after some hours we had validated our concept with great insights. The results showed that over the 53 participants (from San Francisco, Barcelona, Paris, Melbourne and Madrid), 52 said that they would use the app. Even more, when participants are asked about how much would they pay for a “non tow away place” on a Friday night the answer is that, in average 10$ per hour. 



It was very challenging to have so little time to design a web platform and a mobile app. My goal was to have an MVP version of both after 24h. There was no time to wireframe, I went from quick sketching to finale and polish mockups of the screens. I also took charge of the front-end development, building a framework with ruby and rails.


Sunday afternoon we were exhausted, after almost 72h of working hard it was time to stop and think about the storytelling. We needed to present our idea in 1 minute presentation. Telling a good story is essential to being heard and getting your message out, so we wanted to dedicate our last efforts on preparing a keynote with our proposal. We started the presentation with a small anecdote and example that we used to effectively bring a personal touch to a story. It was a great exercise,  we took it as a chance to practice our presentation skills. During this time, I actually get some helpful feedback on my idea and on how to make the app better.


For me, it's never about winning, it's always about participating. Participating in a hackathon it's a great opportunity to learn and enjoy working together with people that you like.  It's always fun when you spend time doing what you love, even if you don't have time to sleep or eat. And of course, it's even better if you end up winning something.  We won the ESRI and CARVVOYANT prizes for using their APIs.  Our project was very well received and we got some very interesting conversations with some investors.