Mobile Learning Lab: From Hack to Launch – Building Products in 24 Hours

 In Mobile Learning Lab

Mark Byrne | Digital Marketing Specialist | Ward Technology Talent | Twitter | LinkedIn

Last night at the Mobile Learning Lab we had Jean-Luc David come out to speak about his experience at hackathons, his approach to them and how he has succeeded in them.

Jean-Luc has over 20 years experience as a technology thought leader and builder – with the rare combination of business management and marketing experience with a deep technical expertise of APIs, web & cloud technologies, agile methodologies, and mobile platforms (such as iOS and Android).

He has won hackathons at Foursquare, Facebook, Y Combinator and NASA, here’s a recap of what he shared with us last night. Read on below for a round up of what we learned last night. 



Jean-Luc approaches hackathons in three distinct phases,

1. Ideation

2. Creation

3. Deployment


1. Ideation

In a nutshell, if you want to be successful at a hackathon you should be addressing a pain that people have. Find a real need that you can solve. Jean-Luc suggests applying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to your hackathon to eek out a problem that you can solve. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is an overview of human needs starting with the most fundamental at the bottom of the pyramid (food, shelter, sex), all the way up to the need for self-actualisation at the top.  


Using this pyramid you can find real needs that your hack can solve – a tactic that Jean-Luc uses when he takes part in a hackathon.

One example that Jean-Luc used here was his app, Flushfinder. The idea here is that you can find a public bathroom near you… fast.

Jean-Luc’s morals of Ideation are:

  • Use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

  • Create a Strong Vision For Your Product

  • Focus on Real Problems


2. Creation

‘Don’t plan, just build’, was how Jean-Luc started this section of his talk. He mentioned how, as a mentor to startups, he comes across teams who are spending too much time focused on the wrong areas – copyrighting names for example. What they really should be doing, as developers, is just dive in and get building.

This allows your product to develop and evolve, which will only serve to better the end result. You can test your assumptions in the development phase and see what works and what doesn’t.

The Winning Triad when it comes to being successful is – a backend developer, a frontend developer and a designer. This mix allows for each team member to apply their own unique skills and no ones toes get stepped on.  

During the creation phase you are going to need to use the right tools to build your mobile apps. Jean-Luc suggests Appcelerator and Bootstrap.

Approach development as if you were a chef, get skilled in a wide repertoire of areas and be ready to apply your knowledge to a host of problems.

Now onto the name of your product. Jean-Luc shared his experience with his product Cardign, as in your favourite wooly jumper – card-i-gan. Jean-Luc was approached by a CNN reporter who called him, asking to do a report on ‘Cardine’. In summary, if a CNN reporter gets your name wrong, you’ve made a mistake.    

 Jean-Luc’s morals of Creation are:

  • Build Something

  • Find Your Triad

  • Get The Right Tools

  • Pick Your Name Carefully


3. Deployment

Be aware of what you’re going to need to be accepted by Apple into the App Store. It can be a long process to get approved so make sure all bases are covered before you take the leap. Study up on what you need to know. It took Jean-Luc two weeks to prepare for an Apple submission for one of his apps. 

Crowdfunding is a route suggested by Jean-Luc. He used Indiegogo when deploying his product Alertly, a disruptive home security device that alerts homeowners to movement in the house.   


Growthhacks are also a viable avenue to go down. One example Jean-Luc gave us was that of a company who purchased 1700 of their own product to make it appear like a ‘hot product’ – a tactic that worked! It gave the company the (apparent) social proof it needed to get people interested in their product enough to try it out for themselves. 

Jean-Luc’s morals of Deployment are:

  • Do Your Homework

  • Create Growth Hacks

  • Be Persistent

Following the presentation, Jean-Luc stayed around to let people try on his Google Glasses and to answer questions.


Thanks to everyone who came out last night, it was great to see a lot of new faces. You can follow the Mobile Learning Lab on social media here:



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