VU Hackathon Battle: D2 Debrief

If you’ve missed our D1 debrief, you can read it here. 

The second day of IT4Anxiety’s first hackathon started smoothly at 9 am, gathering only the startup teams, to drill their pitches. David Beckett, from best3minutes, began with compliments regarding the average level of pitches made the evening before, saying it was already quite high. Eventually, he even had to adapt his workshop for the day. A lot of great pieces of advice were given in order to help the startups better understand and answer to the jury’s criteria in their final presentation. After a tiny break, experts came along at 11:30 am, launching rounds of coaching sessions adapted to each startups’ specific challenges. As time flies by, numerous great exchanges of knowledge and points of view were arisen. 

As the experts and teams were in sessions, we took an interest in all the work behind the hackathon. “We are sort of your guinea pig here” said Dr Helen Riper, eMental-Health Professor at the Department of Clinical Psychology at the VU Amsterdam, laughing. Indeed, the VU Hackathon was not supposed to be the first one of the IT4Anxiety project, but coronavirus decided otherwise. Moreover, the event had to go fully online. Khadicha Amarti, PhD Candidate at the VU Amsterdam, said “it’s nice to send the startups, experts and jury members a goodie bag so they get the feeling of participating in a hackathon. For example, we sent t-shirts and drinks.” On a broader organisational perspective, Marketa Ciharova, PhD Candidate at the VU Amsterdam, explained “it is always good to have an experienced member on board. In our case, we involved Jesse van Doren and his company Brize, which helped us realise what we need to organise a successful hackathon and what works”. “One can never start too early” emphasizes Francesca Railneanu, Research Assistant at the VU Amsterdam, adding “it was helpful to have multiple brainstorming sessions, where people could share their ideas and helpful contacts they have.” Also, it wouldn’t have been possible for the whole event to run that smoothly without the support of the VUA’s sub-partners, namely Marc Meddens from BrainScan, and Ward van Breda from Sentimentics. 

After the lunch break, all participants once more gathered on zoom to enjoy a one-on-one session with our pitch expert. Meanwhile, we talked with the not-yet-in-session participants and learnt more about who they are, what they do, and which are their expectations. First, we chatted with Psyflix. They confessed “we are starting up and there is a lot we don’t know. We are psychologists, not businessmen. […] We started out of a need and passion.” That being said, we discovered that, for MindReality, “it came from a wild idea based on personal experience. There is the motivation to help.” As the conversation keeps going, AAA Research added: “we are trying to build an audience out of the academic and research field. […] We want to hear from people on the field and to adapt to customers.” On the opposite, Fokko van den Woude from Tolooba develops that “it all started because my grandma was losing memory. Then I noticed that if I worked on a few key data points with images, then I could help her remember, and she was very happy and had more energy.” In the following, they all agree, “being able to reconnect is amazing.” Indeed, Psylaris’ team explains that “on a daily basis we see numbers coming back to us. […] It doesn’t mean anything to us. But every once in a while, we have a user calling us, wanting to thank us for changing his life.” In conclusion they added: “we are already in the market, we are producing results, and we are having an impact on the people. Then we hope a lot of interesting parties will reach out to us to collaborate. […] We always need more help!” 

While the startups were finishing to write their pitches, the jury first met at 2:30 pm. When the jury was briefed and ready, about 50 individuals were welcome in the zoom meeting to listen to, first, the introduction speeches of each jury members, then the final pitches of our five competing teams. 

And in a heartbeat, brilliant pitches had been given and questions had been addressed. The members of the jury then went into their breakroom to deliberate. From there, to keep us waiting in the most interesting way, David Ebert, from HelloBetter, based in Berlin, exposed his experience with his company. 

Finally, what we were all waiting for (and what has kept you reading so far) happened. The jury came back to deliver the winners’ names. Even though it was difficult to decide between all these wonderful teams of brilliant entrepreneurs, Psylaris won the hackathon, and Psyflix joined them in the second position. Psylaris will receive the first prize: 1500€ to spend on the VUA campus in conferences, hackathons and events that will support the growth of their business. Psyflix will enjoy the second prize of 1000€ to participate in the same sort of activities. From the whole team of IT4Anxiety, we want to congratulate the winning teams as well as every competing team for their hard work during this hackathon. We invite you to follow their journey now. 

This wraps up this amazing event. For those already nostalgic, and for those who missed it, be sure to register to our newsletter and to follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to have all the information in time to join us for the next hackathon. We already know that it will be on the 29-30th of October 2021 in Germany. Stay tuned! 

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