Build & Fund a Startup in 48 Hours with this Simple Hack by Jason Calacanis

Startups really need five things in their first year:

Jason McCabe Calacanis is an American Internet entrepreneur and blogger. His first company was part of the dot-com era in New York

Jason McCabe Calacanis is an American Internet entrepreneur and blogger. His first company was part of the dot-com era in New York

  1. Investment (or revenue!)
  2. Talent
  3. Feedback from investors
  4. An MVP
  5. Attention (press, buzz, users, etc.)

What if I told you that you could spend 48 hours, over a single weekend, and make massive progress on, or even solve, all five of these challenges?

Well, I’ve seen startups form a team, build an MVP, get critical feedback from experts, raise money, get press, and get accepted into elite incubators using this one single hack.

What’s this amazing hack?


In fact, not only did I invest in the last two winners at the LAUNCH Hackathon, and WizzyWig, but they were also BOTH accepted to YCombinator.


The reason hackathons are so powerful is because they force small teams to make something specific that the judges — who are founders, technologists, and investors — can easily understand and appreciate.

Constraints not only make for great art, they make great startups. By only having 48 hours and 3-4 team members, you have to focus on what’s important. You’re not going to build 10 features, you’re going to build the most important one or two that you need to demonstrate your value to the judges — and that you can build quickly.

Angel investors love hackathons because they signal who is a serious founder who deserves funding. If you’re willing to give up a weekend and compete against other founders to impress them, angels will — correctly — believe that you’ve got the grit and tenacity to be funded.


If you’re a gifted designer or developer, but you don’t have a team, go to hackathons and throw your hat into the ring as a mercenary. Most folks have 2-3 team members, and welcome an extra set of hands.

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If you do this you might just stumble into the next big startup, with ground-floor equity, while making new friends and refining your skills.

There is literally nothing better for you to do on the weekend than take a chance on a hackathon — and your own skills.


If your startup is already established, going to a hackathon can help motivate your team to get a moonshot done, while exposing your startup to investors and the media. Heck, you might even recruit someone for that position you’ve been desperate to fill. Best of all, you will have seen new recruits in action.

I’ve seen many established startups go to hackathons and come up with killer ideas that wind up pivoting their startup come Monday morning, when the hackathon is over.

For example, if you were building a sales CRM system like Tout, perhaps you could study what new technologies are hot (like IBM’s Watson, Oculus, Apple Watch, etc.), and come up with an MVP that leveraged machine learning, VR, or wearables, for sales executives.


The LAUNCH Hackathon is taking place on Feb 26-28th and you can apply for the hackathon here. You’ll notice in our application form that you have to prove to us you are a developer or a designer.

Why do we put up a roadblock to folks coming to the Hackathon? Simple, we want this to be a serious event where founders and their teams make meaningful progress and impress the heck out of the investors who attend the event.

If you’re a business, salesperson, or just an “idea person,” you can’t come to the hackathon because we’ve found that these people become a distraction. The LAUNCH Hackathon is not a party, it’s a competition to see who can build the most interesting products, hacks, MVPs and, in some cases, startups. You have to be a builder. If you’re a business person, you can be in a SLACK room with your team remotely, sure.

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Also, if you’re the CEO you know, all too well, that you can hack your way in by becoming an exceptional product designer who can do wireframes and mocks. Easy.


If you make a product or service for developers or designers, or you’re doing a lot of recruiting, perhaps the best use of your marketing and HR budget is putting up a fun prize at the hackathon. People really love winning a set of drones, laptops, or tablets — even good cash works. If you want to help us feed 1,000 developers and designers, email


I wrote this piece on how to win any hackathon back in 2015. Does it stand up?

Finally, the top four startups from this year’s hackathon will be invited into the LAUNCH Incubator, where I will personally work with them for 12 weeks and invest up to/on average $250,000 in each one.

We will also get amazing prizes from our partners, who include Expedia, Radix, Speaktoit, Slack, .CLUB, Localytics, Twitter, and Sinch.

The top seven startups at the hackathon will make it to the main stage of the LAUNCH Festival on Friday, March 4th — giving them the chance to get MASSIVE attention in front of an audience of 2,000 people!

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