Eventornado blogExcitement and Challenges: Our First 4 Months with Eventornado

Our First 4 Months with Eventornado

Written by

Edgar Aronov

Co-Founder & CEO at Eventornado

We’re a team that finds comfort in building useful technical solutions. While I’ve been at it for eight years, Martin has been building technical solutions for well over 15 years. The most notable of them is Pipedrive, a CRM tool that is used by over 90 000 organizations. 

Now in 2020, we joined forces to create Eventornado — a tool that helps you to organize online and offline hackathons. What is there to build for organizing hackathons, you might be thinking? Well, as it turns out… a lot:

  • Creating a landing page for your event
  • Processing registrations and ideas
  • Team formation
  • Evaluation
  • Communication

All in one place. 

It’s a tough business, since hackathons are being organized 24/7, and due to its nature of being a stressful endeavor, you need to be there for your customers all day, every day. 

So why are we doing it? First, did I mention we love to build useful solutions? Second, there are a lot of exciting things that keep coming our way. 

A lot has already happened during these four months. It felt like a good time to reflect on the different facets of this experience.

The exciting 

Needless to say, building Eventornado has been extremely fun for us. Mostly because there’s a pressing need for such a solution and we’re blessed with having customers that use the tool every day, giving us a ton of feedback that we can execute on.

However, there are some specific parts we are especially excited about: 

1. Fantastic teamwork

It’s worth noting that we’re a fully remote team. We’re based in Estonia, Portugal, Ukraine, and Italy. We intend to stay remote even after the current healthcare crisis resolves.

We managed to build our team such that everyone is independent. There’s no small talk, no procrastinating, and no vast amounts of table tennis, game consoles or other modern office distractions. 

We try to be as efficient as possible. Everyone has a Trello board where tasks get crunched every day, without any mercy. We as the founders have a catch-up call once a week, and that’s more than enough for us to keep on building.

So far it has turned out exceptionally well for us. Although there is no ping pong playing, we’re having the time of our lives working efficiently as a team. 

2. We’re proud of what we built

You can’t build a long-lasting software if you’re not genuinely excited about what you’re building. We have a lot of features, from processing participants to team formation, all the way to evaluation. However, our integrated chat system is probably something we’re the proudest of. 

If you were running a hackathon before Eventornado, you’d have to set up a separate Slack workspace for your participants. Slack is a fantastic tool, but for hackathons, it creates a lot of friction for the organizers and participants:

  • The organizers have to set up and configure their Slack workspace manually with each hackathon. 
  • After your participants have signed up for your event, they also have to sign up to your Slack workspace by creating an account and filling out their profile. 
  • You have to write 1–2 page guidelines for your participants on which channels to join and how to create a private group for your teams. 

For us, this was hands down one of the most fascinating challenges to solve so far.

Our solution — an integrated channel-based chat system which works similarly as Slack does, is built with the following improvements:

  • Automatic chat setup - it’s all taken care of for the organizer.
  • The chat is fully integrated into the hackathon website - no separate signup is necessary for the participants. 
  • User profiles automatically filled from the registration data.
  • Users auto-assigned to relevant channels (including their team channels)
  • Video calls
  • A function to post your idea 
  • and much more

We put a ton of development effort into this and luckily after we launched this, it quickly became one of the most used functionalities of Eventornado. 

3. The geographical distribution of our customers

Within just four months, we’ve been able to work with many wonderful customers from all over the world. 

It’s such a joy to serve hackathon organizers from the UK, Estonia, Sweden, Latvia, the African continent, the US, Oman, India, New Zealand, and more.

Building a product is always exciting. But the excitement is only fully realized when you have people actually using it. Our customers are the ones who give us the energy and inspiration to keep on building.

The challenging

Of course, there have been a ton of mistakes along the way. The prevailing startup advice is to focus on a super narrow segment and solve that extremely well. It’s great advice, but we also knew that when it comes to hackathons, a lot of issues arise from trying to combine too many tools to get the job done.

We decided to come out with the full suite of tools that cover the entire event from registration all the way to awarding winners in the end. We accomplished this goal, but of course many parts were far from polished enough by the time we launched.

We also initially designed the tool to be way too rigid. We didn’t consider the fluid nature of these events where things are in constant development.

These initial decisions and mistakes meant the first few events we ran were a bit of a painful experience both for us and the customers.

The silver lining is we learned a lot from these issues. We’ve rebuilt and polished big parts of the platform over the past two months. We’re sorry for the early hiccups but no amount of research could have given us the clarity that these early users did.

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The unknowns

Fortunately, we don’t have a lot of time to ponder too much about the unknowns. However, these are some of the questions that cross our minds from time to time:

  • How are we able to keep our team small and agile, even if we grow 50x from here?
  • What can we do to bring hackathons to every company, and grow this market 100 times? 
  • Should we take on other verticals as well in the medium term or keep our focus 100% on hackathons?

So, what’s next?

  • Make the platform easier to use for the organizers 
  • Make some of our core functionalities stronger 
  • Explore a specific idea that would potentially help us grow the hackathon market drastically by increasing the quality of hackathon outcomes

If you’re one of the brave ones who reached the end of this blog post, thank you! We’re happy to see people interested in our journey and we’ll do our best to continue sharing our experience. 

It’s hard to say for sure if we’ll reach the moon, but I sure am certain we’ll have a ton of fun trying.

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