Dirk de Kok is grinding. Hunched over a MacBook in a fluorescent-lit basement, he and 31 other software engineers pound away at source code for the 12th straight hour. Thick metal bars—actual bars—obscure the few tiny windows. Outside it’s 82 degrees, a glorious day in San Francisco’s startup-glutted SoMa district. Whenever a set of bare legs strolls by, it’s like a kick to the groin. “It’s too damn sunny today,” de Kok sighs.
Good news: The kitchen is stocked with Red Bull, Popchips, Corona, and Chewy Granola Bars, all gratis. Bad news: 34 hours to go.
We’re participating in BeMyApp. It’s a hackathon—a contest to pitch, program, and present a functioning Android mobile application in 48 hours. Last night we worked past midnight. I say we because I’m leading one of the teams. On Friday I was handed a microphone and given 60 seconds to outline my idea for an app, then 30 minutes to mingle and out-schmooze a dozen other wannabe CEOs. We were vying to be one of six “idea generators.” While engineers and designers are admitted automatically, people with ideas for apps (regardless of experience or qualifications) need to win over the crowd. Only the engineers and designers get to vote. We, in turn, jockeyed to recruit them, channeling the hyperbole of used-car salesmen.