I knew when I applied, this event would be special. Initially appearing to be small, it exponentially grew, attracting local heavyweights like Thalmic and Velocity, as well as Y Combinator and Apple—with 1,000 hackers, 36 hours, and all the tools to make something great.
I arrived late Friday evening and could feel excitement in the air. The engineering building was filled with entrepreneurs and students. A large banner read “Hack The North.” The halls were filled with advanced technology and brilliant minds; one couldn’t help but be inspired.
The opening ceremonies were introduced by entrepreneurs Chamath Palihapitiya and Jason Calacanis. Chamath is an electrical engineering alumni from Waterloo, former VP at Facebook, and founder of Social+Capital Partnerships. Jason is the founder of Inside.com, an angel investor, and founder of This Week In Startups.
The pair brought down the house by being open, honest, and edgy. The audience was captivated from start to finish. The takeaway was quite simple: pursue something great. There are great problems for entrepreneurs to solve, and it is our duty to find and solve them.
Chamath and Jason received a standing ovation and were whisked off the stage. I was determined to meet them. (If you want to know what I mean, please watch Chamath’s “A Path to A billion Users” and almost any of Jason’s “This Week in Startups.” I highly recommend the episodes with either DHH or Chamath.)
Just as I caught up, they were placed in a restricted back room. In the commotion, I noticed another hacker standing a few feet away. Without saying a word, I knew both of us intended to get into that room. We bolted to the doors and entered a room filled with speakers, sponsors, and other technology community members. Knowing that we could be thrown out of the room and perhaps the competition, we immediately began to mingle to blend in. Act like you belong, and others will believe it.
Jason approached. With a huge grin and a hand extended, he said, “that was a really good question.” I had forgotten about the question I had asked earlier in evening and was even more surprised that he remembered both the question and me. As we chatted about various topics on technology, entrepreneurship and Waterloo, Chamath joined the conversation. Just hearing the passion in his voice, you knew he cares about the ventures he backs.
Later I pitched myself to Chamath, as an Ontario entrepreneur actively studying data science, and that my weekend hack would be based around a health condition experienced in my family. Before I could finish, he interrupted “Are you serious?” I told him I was. “Thats awesome. Those are the best ones.” I gave him my card, he asked me to email him immediately and then he was off. I was speechless.
On the first night of Hack The North, I had done a hack of my own. I did what I wasn’t supposed to do because I knew it was right. I met people who have indirectly shaped my entrepreneurial pursuits and knowledge, challenging me to execute ideas that could change lives.
With the ceremony over and the hackathon in motion, there was only one thing to do. Let the hacking begin.