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Last weekend I took part in a 48-hour event called Garage48. Garage48 is an intensive hackathon where on the final day teams gather to pitch their results. While we’ve written about these and similar kinds of events before, I thought I should take part this time round to see what the atmosphere is “on the ground”. I had to take a day’s rest and think about the whole experience and what it means before writing about it.

In short – the experience is a lot more than you could imagine or come to terms with. While being extremely demanding and exhausting – it’s all worth the effort to go on stage on Sunday evening to pitch your product. The last time I had such an adrenaline rush, I was on field playing my first rugby match.

In Garage48 Helsinki, over 100 people from the region came together in Aalto Venture Garage to work on very different products and services. The whole event begins by everyone getting together to pitch their ideas to the crowd. Most of these ideas were in some way pre-planned, meaning they had been submitted to the Garage48 Helsinki Facebook group or sent by e-mail to the organisers. However, no work whatsoever had been put in place for any of the projects.

After hearing the 31 pitches, I immediately thought to myself – this is going to get interesting. We had ideas from ordering beer with your mobile phone in a restaurant to saving the world by connecting aid agencies in Africa.

What followed after the pitching was something I haven’t seen in this part of the world in such honesty. People were eagerly pitching their ideas to the hackers, designers, front-end developers, marketers and project managers to get enough people in their team to make the idea happen.

I’m not sure if it was the informality of the whole setup, but people completely seemed to forget that they were in a very demanding situation to promote their idea, first to others and then actually make it happen.

If we could get half of the energy individuals had when trying to recruit team members to the everyday business of startups – we would all be much better off. It was something amazing to see and experience.

Friday evening took off with teams beginning to lay down the initial plans for their services and businesses. Most stopped working around 1 in the morning, but few teams and individuals kept going through out the night. Montroller for example had their first prototype of a mobile phone controlled robot ready by 5am.

Saturday is the day when most of the action takes place. More or less everyone started working 9am and continued until midnight. During Saturday, Garage48 and Aalto Venture Garage brought in some motivational speakers as well as mentors to help the teams out.

Sunday could be summed as the “ironing things out” -day. You need to take the most part of Sunday to get your product or service into a state where you can demo it on stage. Equally important is to practice your demo and pitch – this is clearly where some teams cut corners, especially the ones with mobile demos.

Come Sunday evening, Aalto Venture Garage was packed to its limits with eager outsiders to see what the teams had achieved in mere 48 hours. 16 teams presented their results and twitter was just about to promote Garage48 as a trending topic (well maybe not, but there were a lot of comments from inside the venue as from outside).

The winner of the event was LapLab.net – a SaaS based service for race car drivers and teams to analyse their data. The public vote went to Montroller, the team that eventually were able to have 7 different controllers for their robots. You can read more about the other teams on the Garage48 website.

However, as Ragnar Sass, one of the organisers of the event stated after the demos – all the teams who made it to the event are the real winners. In taking part in such events, all the countries in this region benefit over time as well. Why? There isn’t a better and a faster way to get people with different backgrouns to building something so fast with real business potential. Garage48 should be proud of what its currently doing.

Despite still being exhausted from the weekend, it was more than worth it. I’m already looking forwards to participating in the future events.

Thank you Garage48!

Images grabbed from Garage48’s Facebook page

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