Written by Josh O'Riordan
Jul 12, 2016

The Take Off Hackathon

65 developers, designers and entrepreneurs gathered to The White Loft in Southwark for a travel-focused Hackathon.

A stereotypical hack?

The stereotypical hackathon (portrayed in movies such as The Social Network) tends to involve late nights, excessive consumption of alcohol and boisterous crowds/groupies.

Now, maybe we’re just doing it wrong, but the ‘hacks’ we’ve been involved with have been somewhat more subdued affairs. Nonetheless, it was a privilege to be invited so we prepared and sent a crack team of Brightecees (more on them later).

Real-world challenges

This hackathon was organised by Low-Cost Travel Group and sponsored by Microsoft Azure, Rackspace and DataArt.

They posed a number of real-world challenges that currently exist in their marketplace. And the different teams set to work on two days of hacking to come up with some viable solutions.

The personal touch

We choose the ‘Personal Touch’ challenge. The aim of this was to make the process of booking a holiday more personal - maximising the user experience.

Day 1

We only had 36 hours to complete the hack. Now, bear in mind, even small-scale development projects can sometimes take weeks to complete.

It could have been tempting, considering the shrunken time-scale, to adopt a blitz (panic) approach. 

However, we’re pretty confident in our working practices so we decided to follow our regular development process. Of course, that meant the first task was - coffee.

Buried in a corner of a coffee shop we brainstormed ideas until we came up with our killer plan.

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Of course, some elements of our usual process we had to ditch. For instance, although we highly value user research, we simply didn’t have time.

Nevertheless, we made sure that we kept the user at the centre of our decision making.

The big idea: A TV app - it’s main component being a filterable map allowing simple, sofa-based collaborative browsing.

How it works: The app (working title: GoMap) would be built around a map. This map gives the user a world map of locations that meet the filters that they have selected and then allows the user to select them directly on the map.

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Each dot is separately plotted based on a geo-location and an API call, so the data is real-time and the user can see their results updating in front of them.

Our priority was to build an app that was; fun, interactive and set in the perfect environment to be personal and collaborative. Where could be a better place to do that than in your own living room with your loved ones?

Closed laptops

Having returned from the coffee shop we employed a closed laptop policy until lunchtime and instead focused on wireframe designs, logo / branding ideas and set up a Kanban task board to manage the project.

Our team looked like this:

  • Josh - Product Development and Design
  • Dan - Backend and API Research & Development
  • Steve - Development of the app structure
  • Lionel - Development of the map and animations

In true hackathon style, we worked at the office till 8pm but then continued back at our AirBnB accommodation until sometime around midnight - though rumour has it Lionel was still going long past that point!

Day 2


A little bleary eyed, we started at the hackathon at 9am the following morning. Fortunately, we’d made so much progress on day one that we were able to down tools two hours early ready for Josh to present our project to all the hackers and the judges.

Josh's presentation concluded with a little glimpse into the future for TV apps: 

Apple have projected sales of 26 million Apple TV boxes in 2016. Yet at the moment, there are only 3000 TV apps compared to 2 million on iOS. A good time to get in!

This obviously struck a chord with the judges (read more about TV apps), as did the rest of the presentation. 

The result: Brightec were awarded “The Iron Man Prize for Best use of technology” and “The Albert Einstein Prize for Best innovative idea”

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In Conclusion

Thanks to the sponsors and Low-Cost Travel Group for inviting us and hosting such an excellent and fun few days.

We didn't approach the event as a learning experience but we certainly did in the end. Running our established processes through such a tight time-frame was a great experience and served to bond our team ever closer together.

We look forward to the next one!