HackATL Promotes Entrepreneurship at Emory

At the third annual HackATL,  which will take place from Oct. 16 to 18,  students will come together at the Goizueta Business School to spend their weekend creating a startup business. Their ideas will be pitched to real investors at the end of the competition and the winners will receive a variety of prizes, from cash to free consulting and intellectual property services.

HackATL is organized by Emory Entrepreneurship and Venture Management (EEVM) every year, and gives students the opportunity to work with others to create their own startups.

“Our mission is to promote entrepreneurship on campus,”  Goizueta Business School senior and EEVM President Sarah Choi said.

“We are [providing] the resources, the time and the space for people to create,” Goizueta Business School junior and Director of HackATL Kali Allen said.

According to Allen, hackathons are a recent trend that tend to focus on programming and engineering. Emory, however, is not a school focused on the development of technology.

“We wanted to take that [trend] on,” Allen said. “But tech isn’t one of Emory’s strong points.”

In this regard, HackATL is different and focuses on the business aspect of creating a product, as well as the design and developmental aspects. According to its website, HackATL is the biggest business hackathon in the Southeast.

Sahej Singh, College sophomore and a sponsorship associate on HackATL’s executive board, participated in the event last year as a freshman and won second place in the Microsoft division.

“I had no clue what [the hackathon] was. I went in dressed very casually, and there were people in suits, but there were other people like me as well,” Singh said. “It was the most nerve-wracking experience I have ever had. This was my first time out of high school ever seeing [a] networking event, and although I had experience in business, I had no experience [in] networking.”

Singh created a team of six members, including a Georgia Tech student and a high school student from Georgia. Having little experience with technology, Singh took care of the business side of their project.

Our idea was inspired by the desire to increase the revenue stream for independent game designers,” Singh said.

The team produced a Business-to-Consumer (B2C) product called PegBoard. Singh and his team plans to continue the project and evolve it into a legitimate business.

According to Choi, HackATL has also spurred an application that tracks customers in a store in order to come up with better ways to market products based on the data collected, and even an app that reminds parents to take their babies out of their cars.

Singh says that students can gain a great deal from participating in HackATL.

“I’m a 19 year-old college student who is on the track of starting his own business, and I now have a team that I know is amazing for future endeavors,” Singh said.

Singh’s advice for newcomers?

“Work hard. At the end of the day it is a hackathon but if you give it your all, you will do well,” he said. “Don’t take it lightly, and while it may not be graded or count for credit, it’s a great way to prove yourself and gain exposure.”

According to Choi, HackATL has had the founders of Yik-Yak, the CEO of Cinnabon and Emory alumnus Sig Mosley, a managing partner at Mosley Ventures, provide services and sponsor the event in the past.

This year’s sponsors include Kimberly-Clark Professional, Microsoft, Cox Automotive, Monster Energy and Pindrop Security, among others.

According to Singh, the competition is structured differently this year. Teams will have only 36 hours instead of 48, and due to the large turnout last year, students have to go through an application process to participate.

For those who don’t have the entire weekend to dedicate to a hackathon, EEVM holds open workshops on Saturdays that anyone can attend. The workshops teach skills that students would learn during HackATL, according to Choi.

“It is a fantastic experience to go through the process of working on an idea and turning it into a business, whether you win or not,” Choi said.

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