Tools for Startup Weekend ( Or Hackathon )

Click here If you don’t know what a Startup Weekend is.

We are sponsoring Startup Weekend Chicago this weekend, and I’m super excited because I get to go!

I’ve been to a few in the past year, and I complied a list of helpful tips so you can get the most out of your fun-filled weekend. 54 hours is not a lot of time to launch a startup. Work Efficiently.


Remember, there’s an API/Platform for almost everything. Here’s a list of some of the popular ones so you don’t have to go out searching.

Design/Front End:

Twitter Bootstrap: Include this in your website, and you are half finished. Add a class name to buttons, forms, quotes, etc. and they will instantly look pretty. No need to write your own CSS for everything, you simply do not have time. You can also easily create tooltips, Modals, dropdown menus, check out the Javascript Section it’s so sexy!

Subtle Patterns: Need background images? Subtle patterns give you a gallery of very subtle patterns. High Quality, and open sourced!

Cheat Sheets: Equip youself with HTML/CSS cheatsheets! Scan all the tags at once and see which one fits your needs!

Free Icons: Because Icons make your site beautiful.

LiveRoad: A Great IDE for design is very helpful. It’s helpful to find an developer tool that allows you to write html/css and renders the view in real time, so you don’t have to change -> save -> go to browser -> refresh.

Social Buttons: Want to add Twitter, Facebook, Google, buttons? Get them here.

Masonry: Create a pinterest like layout!

Cubism: Create TimeLine visualization of data.

Web Tools:

Here’s the exciting part! Let’s talk about tools and libraries that help you implement your Ideas faster:

Tokbox: That’s us! Use us to power any video chat applications (talkshow, education apps, collaboration, etc). We have an iOS SDK as well, for web-web, mobile-mobile, web-mobile video chat and video messaging.

Twilio: Need to call/txt get a phone number from your web/mobile application? Check them out.

Firebase: Are all your developers front-end engineers? No worry, just use Firebase to store all your data. No need for back end! Plus, their javascript Library is real time so you get notifications on any database update. Very responsive. If you don’t get beta access, just use the guest account and WIN.

Pusher / Need real time stuff? Chat apps, real time drawing, etc etc. Pusher and will handle all of it for you.

Stripe / Dwolla: Super Easy payment for your app. Use their api to handle payment related stuff. No need to worry about security and such.

Leaflet: Need Maps? Try Leaflet. Most devs go with google maps, but I personally like leaflet and I feel like it’s easier to use/develop with.

Rovi: Need Metadata for music/movie/actors, etc.? Rovi API has everything you need for information. Generate album/movie information on the fly!

Rdio: Want to add a music player on your website to play music? Rdio provides the music and the player via an API

Box: Need file storage (for physical files like mp3, flv, etc). Box API lets you store files dynamically!

Singly: Provides your app with your personal Data from foursquare, instagram, etc etc.

Sendgrid: Need to send email out to users? Use Sendgrid! They make sure that your emails never to go spam folders.

Mobile Tools:

If you are a web developer, you don’t have time to learn iOS or Java during the weekend. It’s better to use what you know already.

Phonegap / Appcelerator (Titanium) : Write mobile apps with HTML/CSS/Javascript. The are plugins available for almost everything. (Camera, video, and most of the APIs described above for web Tools)

Parse: Need real time push notification? Need a database/back end solution? Just use Parse! Did I also mention they also have a Javascript Library for your web application to interact with?


Launchrock: Website is not ready? Put up a LaunchRock Page and get your marketing working right away. When your website is ready, you will have users already!

VoiceBunny: Need a sexy voice-over for your videos? Send it to VoiceBunny!

Compare Ninja: Own your competitors by creating a Comparison Table quickly!

Something you need to do but not on the list? Tweet at me bro!


Sinatra: Super easy to use, the only drawback is that you have to learn ruby setup your database. I hate configuring stuff, so I usually use this as an option if I don’t need persistant information.

Meteor: If you don’t know any back end solution, learn Meteror. It’s the new way to code, and quite easy to learn. You can write back end code in javascript, one language conquers all!

Railscasts: If you’re not comfortable with rails, I wouldn’t recommend using it for the hackathon. It has a high learning curve. But if you insist, check out railscasts. Ryan Bates create screencast for just about everything you might want to do with a rails app.

Heroku: Deploy your app to heroku. It’s free, supports ruby, nodejs, static files, and a few other languages. Did I mention it’s free? You have nothing to loose.

Express: Express is built on NodeJS framework. If you’re using javascript backend, I’d rather take the time to learn Meteror. But that’s just me, you’re welcome to watch the getting started screencast for Express to see how you like it.

Presentation Tips

PRACTICE! Unlike hackathons, Startup Weekend presentations should be polished. It’s perfectly okay to send one charming guy/girl to lead the whole presentation. Include a url at the end for everyone to play with, or put it in the beginning to walk people through during your presentation. Give yourself 1 hour before the presentation to practice!

I’m comming to Startup Weekend Chicago on June 1st, 2012? Come FIND ME!

Can’t make it to Chicago? Come Join me at HollyWood Hack Day on June 9th, 2012!

Not a hacker? I’m down for drinks too. Find me on Twitter.