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HackOTR is Coming

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It’s that time of year again. The air smells fresh, the sound of Reds’ home runs can be heard from Great American Ball Park, and the sight of a bunch of brainiacs heading into 1411 Vine Street to compete in an all-out mental brawl fills the streets. Yes, it’s that time of year again: time for the one and only HackOTR to make its way back to The Brandery. We’re bringing back the basics of the event—awesome sponsors, shiny prizes, experienced mentors—while offering new hacks and hosting a brilliant group of hackers ready to work and binge-drink Redbull for twenty-four straight hours (just kidding about that Redbull part… we also have Mountain Dew and coffee).

For the tech-savvy, one new hack offers a hardware-based objective to those who believe they can handle the challenge. Not familiar with coding or working much with programming? No problem, we’ve got another type of challenge tailored for the business-oriented minds. Our marketing and design challenge will allow product marketers and designers to get just as involved as everyone else without even having to write one line of code.

Last time’s hackers were able to walk out of The Brandery office with more than just a smile on their face. Strap from The Brandery’s Class of 2014 led a side-hack last year and awarded one winning team with Pebble smartwatches for their ingenuity. Other hackers from last year won Frameri sunglasses, Dell computers, and even three months of office space in Cintrifuse (check out the full article on everyone’s success). This time around, similar prizes will be offered by both sponsors and teams from The Class of 2015; and although goodies like these might be enough to entice some to take part in the event, the real reward comes from providing and receiving valuable input from a rare hacking holiday that only comes around once in a blue moon.

Hackers who survive the twenty-four hour gauntlet of grinding may continue their work with The Brandery or one of the companies from the Class of ’15. Aman Tsegai—coding expert and now Technology Intern for The Brandery—participated in the last hackathon and created some work that was so impressive The Brandery just had to have him. The start-ups from the Class of 2015 are always looking for new faces to join their team (internships, part-time, or full-time), which is one of the best prizes the event can offer.



If you’re interested in attending or even participating in the event, here’s some quick info to get you started:

What: HackOTR offers the opportunity of creating small projects that can make a big difference within a friendly yet competitive atmosphere that fosters intellectual growth. Teams from The Brandery’s Class of 2015 Brandery itself, and others will be challenging hackers to complete core hacks and side hacks, or objective-based competitions where hackers will create what they can imagine in the time they are given. These objectives can range from being marketing/design based or purely technological, but it’s up to the hackers themselves to decide exactly what type of project they want to work on and what they wish to create.

Who: Anyone. Well, almost anyone. We’re looking for people who are genuinely interested in grinding out work for a full twenty-four hour day but having a blast while doing so. You don’t need to be a programmer, start-up aficionado, or even a graduate from college. All you need is some enthusiasm, creativity for making something great, and a focused mind (a few cups of coffee might help too). Tickets are sold and divided into three categories: Product Marketer, Visual/UX Designer, and Developer. Whether you’re someone looking for a team to join or bringing a full squad of your own, we’ll welcome your interest and input.

When: The event check-in officially begins Friday, August 7th at 4:00 PM and continues onward until Saturday, August 8th at 5:00 PM.

Where: HackOTR takes place in The Brandery office on 1411 Vine Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.

Why: Well, why not? We’ve had immense success in the past and truly believe this kind of opportunity offers an experience that local Cincinnatians have come to love and learn from.

We hope to see you hacking soon! If you’re interested in getting even more information about HackOTR, check out its website and FAQ’s here or email Jess for any questions not already answered on the site.

Guest Post: Stop Building Features

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[Editor’s Note: This post was written by 2014 graduate Connor Bowlan. Connor and his co-founder, Rhett, originally were accepted to The Brandery with their fashion and beauty advice app, Lookit. Throughout the course of the program, their startup evolved to what is now: Cintric, a joint venture between Connor’s company and another startup in the program. You can read more about their journey through The Brandery in this recent Soapbox article.]

Features are one of the worst things a startup can build into an early-stage product.

Features distract the company. Startups find success in innovative solutions to big problems. These solutions form the core of products, and are where the customer finds value they’re willing to pay for. At an early stage, startups should be focusing all their efforts on finding the best version of their solution by iterating on their core product. Feature development distracts from this task.




In one of the earliest versions of our application “Lookit,” we had a little robot character that guided the user through the signup process. The robot even had animations that would progress with each letter the user typed for their name and password. Was it neat? Definitely. Is animating the registration fields spending time improving the core product? Definitely not.

Features distract the product.

When creating a product that’s new, one of the biggest challenges is crystallizing exactly what it is. This applies in both the minds of the team and the end users. The simpler the product, the easier it is to understand what it’s purpose is and how to best achieve it. Features add complexity, and complexity distracts from the core purpose of a product.




In a later build of “Lookit,” we experimented with gamifying the platform. We built a series of “trinkets” that users could win by contributing to the community and gambling in a slot-machine feature. Session time skyrocketed to an average of 14 minutes, but we weren’t solving the problem we had set out to. It drew users away from the core of the product, and away from where we were able to give the most value.

Features distract the user.

When you’re building something new, the end user will have to learn how to use your product. Adding features means the user has more learning to do before being able to draw value from the product and use it effectively.

In the second build of our application “Quack,” we tried to solve one of our user-experience problems by adding another feature. This feature did away with one of the core rules of our product in order to get around a relatively small issue. In doing so we completely confused the user by introducing a competing ruleset, and made them go through another permissions process, all to implement a feature that ended up not being enjoyable for them to use.

Features are often wasted.

Startups frequently change their core products in significant ways as development progresses. When the product changes, features that have been developed often don’t have a place anymore and must be scrapped.




There is a fully complete card-based version of “Lookit” sitting on a bitbucket server somewhere that will probably never see the light of day. It has voting, a gorgeous UI, face-detection, and quite a few more features. Ultimately though, none of those matter. They’re great bits of design and coding that had to be thrown out because the core product they were built on wasn’t strong enough.

Once a product has matured enough to where it’s solving a user’s problem in the most efficient way possible, then features can be introduced to make that process enjoyable for the user to engage with. This must be done slowly though, so as not to confuse or overwhelm the user.

This is where the CPO role really shines, as their job is not just to guide what the product is, but also to guide what the product isn’t.

Building a product without features can be difficult. In the early phase of a startup, it can be challenging to avoid getting carried away in an environment where the product roadmap is set in something more akin to clay than concrete. This is where the CPO role really shines, as their job is not just to guide what the product is, but also to guide what the product isn’t. A good CPO will aggressively maintain development focus on the core of the product, even when features might be exciting or easy to complete.

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At Cintric, we help developers build efficient mobile location services into their apps, from early stage startups that want to use location as a basis for their core experience, to large enterprises that wish to add location features to their existing and established apps. Cintric can be used to integrate rich location components that add a tremendous amount of value to the core of a product. Even including customizing experiences via demographic information and precise analytics of where users engage with different parts of the app.

If you’d like to chat about how Cintric can improve your mobile app with efficient and easy to setup location services, or you’d like to simply tell me why I’m wrong about features, contact me at connor@cintric.com.

Upcoming Classes and Events

Join us for one of our upcoming events and classes!

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Wednesday, March 20, 4:00 to 6:00 PM at LPK:  "Agency Pitch Event" hosted by the Brandery!  Cincinnati’s world-class startup accelerator, The Brandery, has organized a special Agency Edition of their Demo Day. You’ll hear 7-minute presentations from 6 start-ups, and have an opportunity to speak with them in more detail. Each offers a digital solution that will help give you the edge to knock your next client presentation out of the park!  Agencies, startups, and marketers are welcome to join us.

Register Now!

Wednesday, March 20, 5:30 to 7:00 PM:  “Startup Financials, Part 1: Business Models” presented by Keith Johnson, CEO and Founder, Petbrosia.  All are welcome, even those who are “allergic” to Excel!

Register Now!

Thursday, March 21, 7:00 to 8:00 PM:  “Brandery Yoga” hosted by Moksha Yoga.  Learn how to handle and diffuse all of the stress caused by the startup world.

Register Now!

Friday, March 22, 4:00 to 6:00 PM:  “Brandery Office Hours!”  Come talk to Brandery staff, graduates and mentors about the application process and how you can get more involved.  You bring your ideas, we’ll bring the beer!

Register Now!

Monday, March 25, 5:30 to 7:00 PM:  “Compelling Content Marketing” with Melyssa St. Michael, VP of Search and Emerging Media at Rockfish Interactive.  Learn how to build content that that your consumers care about from the ground up.

Register Now!

Wednesday, March 27, 5:30 to 7:00 PM:  “Startup Financials, Part 2: Analogs & Research” presented by Keith Johnson, CEO and Founder, Petbrosia.  All are welcome, even those who are “allergic” to Excel!

Register Now!

Thursday, March 28, 5:30 to 7:00 PM:  “Communicating for a Change” with Dave Dorr from Epipheo Studios.  Learn how to tell a story that compels people to take action!

Register Now!

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn something new!

February Classes at The Brandery

We have a bunch of great classes happening in February. Join us to learn new things, build businesses and grow Cincinnati. Below are all of the Brandery sponsored classes, but if you want to see EVERYTHING going on at The Brandery, check out our complete schedule!

Thursday, February 7th, 6-9pm: Startup Grind Cincinnati featuring Tony Alexander, Founder TravelersJoy and SimpleRegistry

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Register now! 


 

Monday, February 18th, 5:30pm-7:00pm: A PR Primer: How public relations can help your startup sell (and how it can’t) with Carolyn Pione Micheli

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Register now! 


Wednesday, February 20th, 5:30pm-7:00pm: How to Teach Yourself to Code (General Assembly Screening), followed by a Q&A with Erin Kidwell, Girl Develop It

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Register now! 


Monday, February 25th, 5:30pm-6:30pm: Getting Started with Facebook Advertising (General Assembly Screening)


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Register now! 


Thursday, February 28th, 5:30pm-7:00pm: Intro to Web Design (General Assembly Screening), followed by Q&A with panel of AIGA Designers


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Register now!


Don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn something NEW! 

General Assembly in Cincinnati!

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We are pleased to announce that we have been selected as General Assembly’s exclusive Viewing Partner in Cincinnati. As part of the program, we will be offering the community a certain number of online videos every month! We will congregate in The Brandery to watch the screenings of the classes, discuss the materials, and brainstorm ways in which we can all use the information in our day-to-day lives.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with General Assembly, General Assembly is a network of campuses that empower individuals through education in technology, business, and design. We are very excited to offer you their educational content and hope that the videos introduce you to things you wish you knew and help you hone things you need to brush up on.

Some of the topics we plan to cover include:

1. How to Teach Yourself to Code


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“If you have a great idea but lack the technical know-how to bring it to fruition, this is the class for you. Demand for freelance developers is skyrocketing and you can get in on the action by learning how to code prototypes in just a few weeks. In this class, Mattan will show you how he built his first fully-functional app with less than one month of coding experience. You’ll learn what key resources you need to know, the best methods for learning coding quickly, and emphasize how to make the entire process fun and enjoyable.”

2. Introduction to Web Design


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“In this class we’ll tackle some development principles to get you on the right path. Learn how to craft professional looking web layouts and designs with HTML + CSS. Get your first site up and running in no time and start your journey to becoming a web development pro. Download these code samples to follow along.”

3. Getting Started with Facebook Advertising


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“Facebook has nearly one billion users. With an audience that large, there is an amazing opportunity to scale your business using the Facebook platform. This class is designed for everyone from startups to big brands that want to achieve better results from their Facebook marketing efforts.”


4.  Monetizing Your App


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“So you’ve got an idea for an app? Awesome! But how are you going to turn this puppy into a real business? There are options galore: charging for it, selling virtual goods, or everyone’s guilty pleasure, running ads


What will be your strategy? Learn the tricks and trades of various mobile monetization strategies and put yourself in a position to grab your share of this rapidly growing $2B dollar market.”

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The dates/times for our classes will be coming out in the next week or so. Check back on our blog and facebook page for more information.

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