Frequently Asked Questions
What constitutes a good hackathon idea?
- Be specific
- Be very specific about the problem you would like to address, understand it thoroughly, and describe it very precisely and clearly.
- Be very specific about the target population. Who will benefit from your solution? How many are they? Where are they? What is the value of this benefit?
- Be pragmatic
- Design for the environment we have today, not for what we wish we had.
- Design solutions that do not require public sector intervention.
- Design solutions that you can implement with a small team, a reasonable amount of time and capital!
- Focus on execution
- This hackathon is focused on impact (as opposed to being an educational event), so creative solutions presented at the end of the hackathon are just the beginning!
- We are choosing participants with implementation in mind!
- We have put together an interdisciplinary team to “incubate” all teams who want to continue working on their ideas after the event.
- We are working tirelessly with partners to get you the resources to help you implement your solutions.
Can we apply as a group?
- Applications are open to individuals only. You are encouraged to form groups during the event (see FAQ on team formation). A lot of the innovative solutions that are conceived through virtual hackathons come from bringing together diverse perspectives from different backgrounds and geographies. If you still want to work with a group of people you already know, you should all apply to the same track and use the team formation process to join the same team.
How does team formation work?
- We have spent a lot of time and energy in designing this to make sure team formation remains organic. We want you to define the specific problem areas that your sub-track will work on. We also want each of you to pick the specific problem you want to work on for the entire weekend. This will take place during the kick off event. Here is how it will work:
- Based on your application, you will be placed in a sub-track
- After the kickoff, you will break out into your sub-track of ~100 participants. Here, we will introduce you to the general problem areas specific to your sub-track (we are working with local partners to define these). These are meant to guide your thinking as you come up with a specific problem you want to work on.
- Next, the pitching phase. Anyone in the sub-track who has a relevant problem they want to work on (see guidelines for what makes a good problem) will be given 60 seconds to pitch their idea to their sub-track mates. These people will be our founders. Everyone else in the sub-track will be keeping track of which founders/ideas they like. (note that founders are pitching problems here, solutions should be developed during the event and pitches for those come at the end of the weekend!)
- Next, group speed-dating. Each founder will be given a virtual room to discuss and promote their idea/problem. During the speed dating phase, everyone in the sub-track will roam around the different rooms and speak with the founders of the ideas/problems they liked and want to work on over the weekend. During this phase, participants will discuss the idea, skill sets, and vision for implementation. Ideas will evolve, participants will click, and teams will form. By the end of this phase, there will be ~20 teams of 4-7 people per sub-track ready to get hacking.
Are there any prizes? What are they?
- First, bragging rights. Our outstanding judges will be awarding first, second, and third place prizes for every sub-track. Who of your friends can say they won first place at an MIT hackathon?
- Second, resources. This is the most valuable prize and we are offering to every participant that wants to continue working on their idea after the event. We are putting together a team of volunteers that are dedicated to seeing your projects come to fruition. We are also working with partners including VCs, corporates, NGOs, accelerators, and international organizations that are dedicated to helping you succeed. We will guide you throughout the process and help you find talent, mentors, funding, partners, customers, and suppliers. More on this coming soon.
- Third, publicity. Together with our partners, which include many prestigious media companies, we are creating a platform to showcase your ideas to the world.
What should we present at the end of the weekend?
- An overview of the problem you are solving, who you are solving it for, and why is it important to them.
- Your proposed solution, how it works, and what it looks like. Any progress you can make towards a prototype of your solution is a plus! A functional prototype is not required by the end of the weekend.
- An overview of the economics around your idea. What does it cost to set it up? What is the expected operating cost and revenue? (where applicable)
- How will you go to market? What will you do over the next 30, 90, and 180 days?
Who is behind this hackathon?
- This event started with a group of Lebanese MIT students who have come together and decided to do what we can to contribute towards a better Lebanon. We were quickly joined by an outstanding team of volunteers from around the world, more information can be found on our team’s page (coming soon).
Are you politically affiliated?
- We are apolitical and nonsectarian. We are looking to create linkages between civil society and actors who want to drive change for the better. We are an independent group of volunteers that are working towards a better Lebanon and believe in the power of our greatest asset, the Lebanese people.
What is your mission?
We are simply working towards a better Lebanon for everyone. Given the current environment in Lebanon, we believe that bottom-up decentralized implementation is the way to go. We are done waiting for help. We are here to empower you, so you can be a part of the solution.
What is expected of me during the weekend?
- The hackathon will run over the entire weekend, and you are expected to be online most of that time. More specifically, everyone participating needs to be online throughout all of the kickoff and closing events on Friday from 12 pm to 3 pm ET (7 to 10 pm Beirut time) and on Sunday from 11 to 2 pm ET (6 to 9 pm Beirut time). In between, teams will work around the clock, typically putting in 8-14 hours each every day.
How will we work across time zones?
- In many ways, this is a plus for your team, giving you the ability to work around the clock. Teams are strongly encouraged to find times during the day where all members are online to discuss and collaborate, then break out to execute at your own time.
What tech do I need to participate?
- A computer and access to the internet are all you need to participate. A microphone and speakers are required to be able to communicate with your team effectively, an integrated camera is a big plus. Note: if your computer does not have a camera, microphone, and speaker connected, a smartphone with internet access can be used to dial into calls.
Do I need a business or engineering background?
- No. All backgrounds are accepted and encouraged to apply! Diversity of thought and psychological safety are critical components of the creative process.
I have never done this before, Will there be help during the hackathon?
- Yes. We are preparing resources to guide you throughout the process as well as putting together an outstanding group of mentors who are generously offering their time just to support you.
Who can be a mentor?
- We aim to have a diverse team of mentors. We welcome anyone with relevant experience in the different tracks and general tech and entrepreneurship skills to apply. Mentors that specify the extent of their experience in one or more tracks and who show extensive industry knowledge and motivation are prioritized. Please apply here, and our team will get back to you within 10 days.
What language will the hackathon be held in?
- The official language of the hackathon will be English. This means the tools, resources, and keynote speakers will mostly be in English. Teams can choose to pitch in English or in Arabic at the closing event.
Is this a for-profit event?
- No. This is a zero-budget event, all organizers and partners are volunteering their time and resources free of charge.
What is the expected outcome of the hackathon?
- Impact. Some hackathons focus on the educational experience during the event, others are focused on recruiting talent. The MIT Lebanon Challenge has one objective, and that is impact. For that reason, good creative ideas presented at the end of the event are critical, but they are just the beginning. These ideas will be incubated to evolve into startups, NGOs, and initiatives that can be implemented by local partners. We are prioritizing participants who have a strong interest in implementation and we will be providing ample support throughout that phase. We are working tirelessly to design the post-hack experience and partnering with the right organizations to get you all the support you need. More information on that coming soon.
- A note on initiatives
- Not every idea needs to live as a standalone entity, some projects can be initiatives that can be adopted by existing organizations.
- For initiatives, clearly specify which entity(s) would be a good host(s)
- Show a strong alignment with the mission/vision of the proposed host.
- Initiatives need to be financially justified (better than the existing alternative), and preferably self-sustaining (cover their own costs)