It's hackathon time in Ramallah!
I received an email from AngelHack announcing that there will be an event in my city, Ramallaaaaah! I got excited and filled in the required application form, and couldn't wait! I first learnt about hackathons from Sabeen Ali, the founder & CEO of the San Francisco-based AngelHack, the world’s largest and most diverse hacker community. I informed my friends Shaher Husein and Ahmad Abu Omar, the co-founders of BareedEE startup, about this event which was part of AngelHack’s 9th global Hackathon Series #AH9, but not surprisingly they knew that it’s coming to our town, and had already applied! So, what was the plan now? Shaher had prepared a detailed agenda for this event and Ahmad had picked the team members, so on the event day there were five of us.
I hadn't ridden my bike in a long time. But on that special day, I decided to do it to the delight of my wife, who has been encouraging me for a while. That morning, I woke up early, put on my cycling clothes, kissed my wife goodbye, and there I was, riding my bike through quiet Friday Ramallah as fast as I could. I reached the event location in no time, it’s less than 3km away from my home. Now that is the global in the local!
Hello hackers! I found myself to be the first one to arrive there. I didn't expect that, but you know, it's Palestine, the mysterious effect of which leads people to be perpetually late! The event was sponsored by Yamsafer, which is a great startup company and an amazing workplace.
Wow, I told myself, where am I! This place is so wonderful and looks like those photos I've seen about Google and Facebook workplaces. I met Nausheen Ali from AngelHack, who is a lovely person and who kick started the day for me by providing the wireless password. Thanks Nausheen!
After almost one hour, the team members started to arrive. Ahmad introduced me as the Operations Manager to the rest of the team, the talented Abdelrahman Abu Hani, Ihab Haji and Zainab Mansour. At 9am,we had our first Palestinian team breakfast ever! Such a delicious one! At 12pm the coding began! We chose a nice spot near the espresso machine (I had plenty of caffeine during the event) and started work on our project.
BareedEE is looking to provide small businesses with a delivery platform leveraging the crowds. I was drawing the results of our short brainstorming session on a white board. We quickly realized that in front of us there was a small problem - Palestine is not on Google Maps yet properly, yet we are working on a very geographical project that is absolutely dependable on mapping. Ahmad suggested that we use Amman maps, and we continued work. I helped Zainab with some suggestions and point views on different sentences and pictures since she was working on our front-page interface. Ihab sat in his own corner and started to code as well as Abdelrahman and Ahmad, while Shaher who cannot enter Palestine was encouraging us from Amman through Trello and Facebook!
Mentors Mohammad Abdeljalil and Ahmad Bamieh were helping us every now and then. We had a great time. The first day of AngelHack had to come to an end, and I rode my bike back heading to Palestine International Book Fair 2016 to represent my current employer there for a couple of hours.
It was a bit of a Groundhog Day-type situation as I biked to the event and was again the first to arrive. But I soon realized that others had slept in the offices! There were two talented and energetic students from An-Najah National University in Nablus who came to Ramallah specially for the event, even missing some tests to be here! I liked the guys. We also had a chance to chat a bit more to other participants - we were four teams in total.
We wished each other luck and started the second day. At 1pm, the hackathon ended! Now it was time to focus more as team members on pitching our idea. We discussed many thoughts and after a few stressful moments and some frustration (hey, we are all strong headed and passionate startupers!), we agreed on our plan and how we intended to deliver the presentation. I asked many questions and was eager to learn more and more. I was thinking about this project like I owned it, like it was mine.
"These are the kind of feelings I love to get during working; feeling full of creative emotions and thoughts, feeling full of fear, full of wanting more, wanting the best."
Judges and mentors such as Abeer Abu Ghaith, Haneen AbuFarhas and Salah Amleh were stopping over at our tables, chatted to us giving some guidance about our project. At 3pm the teams started to pitch their projects: Shagelni, BareedEE, Tag Me and Dara Bot. The winners were going to be announced at 4pm! The third place prize went, the second place prize went as well! Then the winners of the first were announced… It was not us. We had lost badly, or at least that was what I thought. I messaged Shaher on Facebook delivering the bad news and Ahmad was calling for me and other team members to leave.
After the applause stopped, I heard Nausheen calling for BareedEE team. We didn’t understand what was going on anymore, because of the exhaustion and excitement, but I returned and started to hear that we won the grand prize! Ahmad, Abdelrahman, Ihab, Zainab! We won! Come on guys! During this slow motion moments, I asked one of the judges, Ambar (Renova) Amleh, if we really won or not. She replied with a smile saying yes, and now I was sure we did it!
Congratulation guys! We took some selfies! Judges and other teams congratulated us! I rode back to Ramallah and met my wonderful wife, and Ahmad brought his wife and his two wonderful boys to celebrate with the rest of team BareedEE. We had ice cream and a 7UP! ;-)