Hackfit San Francisco: Starting 2014 off with a Bang

By the time Hackfit San Francisco rolled around, it had been nearly 6 months since Hackfit’s first event in Boston.  The time in between was spent choosing cities for the next events, building a community base to take the events across the country, planning and organizing the logistics of the first four events of 2014, and generally figuring out just how the hell Hackfit would pull off running 10 events in 2014.

By the time Hackfit San Francisco rolled around, Justin and I were beyond ready to put all of the planning into motion, and kick off our first event of what has so far been a wild event season.

Yet, all of the planning and organizing of the event wasn’t squarely on our shoulders. San Francisco local Rob Ing had been working hard to bring Hackfit to San Francisco after catching wind of the event from his Boston-based sister. Rob, a former Googler and current American Ninja Warrior, was a perfect fit for the role of Hackfit San Francisco Ambassador. With his knowledge of the local tech/ startup/ entrepreneurial landscape (and his help guiding Justin and I when we were lost in the literal landscape), Rob helped us forge connections across the city, attract fit-techies, and tighten the screws on Making HackfitSF as epic as possible.

Hackfit founder, Justin, with HackfitSF Ambassador Rob Ing

Hackfit founder, Justin, with HackfitSF Ambassador Rob Ing

Eager to get the hell out of the brutal Boston winter, Hackfit Headquarters arrived on the West Coast a few days early to begin the final preparation for the event. Renting bikes for the week, we schlepped back and forth across miles of hilly terrain in order to gather supplies, met with partners and sponsors, and soaked up a few sights. We even attended a November Project SF session where we were photographed by the SF Gate for an article about Hackfit.

After months of planning and envisioning, Friday March 25th finally arrived. After a day of frantic set-up and final touches, Hackfitters finally arrived at the Palace of the Fine Arts for the kick-off event of Hackfit San Francisco.

Palace of Fine Arts. Finest Palace I've ever been to.

Palace of Fine Arts. Finest Palace I’ve ever been to.

The Palace of Fine Arts is f***ing cool. The space outside is jaw-dropping and seemingly ancient. Inside, the motif is complemented by a dimly-lit mix of Gladiator-style adornment and jungle-like flora. The space as a whole is truly awesome and grandiose (flirting with “over-the-top” but only coming close) – it served as the perfect space for a massive kick-off.

Upon arrival, Hackfitters were treated to their first meal in a weekend’s worth of the delicious and nourishing food provided by Rebecca Jean Catering. While we waited for the last of the 160 registrants, Hackfitters mixed, mingled, networked, and buzzed about what was in store for them. Little did they know that it would be an outrageous, ass-kicking group workout session led by the insane folks at Fitmob. With over 120 people joining in on the madness, the awestruck Hackfitters were thrust into a fast-paced cardio workout involving plenty of partner work to shred all scraps of self-consciousness and get everyone on one big sweaty, heavy-breathing, zero-comfort-zone level.

Madness.

Madness.

Riding the high of the group workout, participants were given a moment to cool down while absorbing Francis Pedraza’s keynote address before jumping into the pitch round. With nearly 70 people each delivering a 60 second pitch, there was plenty of bonus activity to be racked up each time our 10-pushup-penalty went into effect for time overages. Surviving the pitch round, the resilient group of Hackfitters began the final portion of the night – “survival of the fittest” team formation. A frantic and spirited process, pitchers (dubbed “team leaders”) campaigned to wrangle in teammates and supporters. When all teams had met the minimum quota of members, and some of the larger groups fought to stay under the 10 person limit, they were released to register for Saturday’s fitness classes, and get some good ol’ fashioned sleep.

But not too much sleep! We made sure that Hackfitters were up and after it Saturday morning, most arriving shortly after the doors of our new weekend headquarters (offices of social media company, Tagged) opened at 7:30am to begin a full day of hacking complemented by a couple hours of activity per attendee. To the chagrin of the first wave of hackers, we had assumed that tea would make an acceptable substitute for coffee that morning. As the shit-storm of backlash fell quickly upon us, we realized that it is never acceptable to deprive a hardworking and creative bunch of the fuel necessary to work hard and create at 7:30 in the morning. Lesson learned.

Coffee crisis aside, the morning started off as fast-paced as Friday had ended. Just as teams were hashing out their world-shaking plans and preparing for the onslaught of rapid prototyping and business plan writing, I gathered up the first group of exercisers to depart for some rock climbing at Planet Granite. As fitness classes began at our other partner locations, so began a day of alternating activity and work. Just the way we like it.

Couple of badasses sizing up the rock wall

Couple of badasses sizing up the rock wall

Admittedly, fitness partners and classes were located a good distance from our headquarters. But, we saw this as an opportunity to give teams a little more time outdoors (on an exceptionally beautiful weekend) and enjoy some extra biking or walking. I personally had a blast biking from Tagged to Planet Granite (about 4 miles) with groups of rock climbers – this held especially true for the second group, whose local knowledge of the city was evidenced by the speed at which they cruised through traffic, nearly leaving my sight-seeing ass in the dust.

The day rolled forward with smoothness. Fitness offerings at Studiomix gave teams a break from the glow of their computer screens, and more amazing food kept teams energized to keep working. As groups plugged away, the day slowly transitioned from the buzz and chatter of morning time, to “less talking, more doing” time of the afternoon and evening hours. By the time everyone had gotten back to work after dinner, the eerie quiet of head-down work mode had swept through the building. As nighttime settled in, most began to feel the wear and tear of a long day working and moving. As Hackfitters filed out of the Tagged HQ around 10 and 11pm, we knew that many pillows would be abused that night by the velocity with which they were hit by Hackfitter heads.

Hackin' Hard Saturday Afternoon

Hackin’ Hard Saturday Afternoon

Morning snafu #2: locked out of Tagged, surprise fitness classes.

At 7:15 am Sunday morning, awaiting the opening of doors, a group of especially hardcore Hackfitters gathered outside our home base at Tagged Headquarters ready to embark on what we believed would be a morning yoga class. Apparently our friends at Basic Training had a slightly different plan. Morning yoga turned out to be a rather taxing combination of cardio and bodyweight workout (sorry!!) and, to add excitement to the mix, no one from Tagged was there to let us into the building. After arriving at 6:30 that morning (post coffee-run) a lucky few of us awaited the door opening which finally happened around 8:00 am – just before the large wave of hungry hackers arrived, and our well-worked morning exercisers had returned from their surprise workout.. Never a dull moment!

Surprise! It's not yoga.

Surprise! It’s not yoga.

The day moved forward in a swimming style of controlled chaos from there. Teams got right into the swing of things: projects neared completion, delicious food was eaten, coffee and mate was drunken, the space was readied for demos, and the judges all arrived on time. With 17 teams putting the final touches on their apps and business plans, suddenly demo time was just moments from kick off.

Dictating the order of presentations by reverse activity score (a score which, despite our best efforts, is always met with contention and skepticism amongst Hackfitters), we readied the podium and sat back to watch the demos.

We then had our socks knocked off.

I cannot emphasize how floored I was by so many of the demos. Not only was I witnessing functional applications with complementary websites, but those technical elements were complemented by well thought out, realistic business plans which matched proof of need, concept, and design with realistic and calculated plans for monetization and sustainability. As evidenced by many of the technical demos, it became clear that this San Francisco group really live up to the hype of being characterized by top-notch technical capability. The prototypes developed worked, and were beautiful. The business models made sense, and left few questions unanswered. Indeed, I was WOWed.

DEMO DAAYYY!!

DEMO DAAYYY!!

After two hours spent watching the 17 presentations, the judges stepped aside to deliberate. In the meantime, HackfitHQ took the opportunity to present a chosen few with awards like “most epic selfie,” “trooper” and “hit the pillow hard.” Giving away a few prizes, we felt proud in being able to honor just a couple of many Hackfitters who really went all out that weekend, and truly embodied the Hackfit spirit.

When the judges had handed in their conclusions, the top five winners were announced. Prizes were awarded to the second place team – Team Pulse and their illuminating heart-rate monitor – the first place team – Team Endorfriends and their gym-buddy matching app – as well as to the team who best used the Constant Contact API.

When all the dust had settled, and a few grown-up sodas were had at our Pretzel Crisp sponsored afterparty hosted by Fitmob, I was left pretty damn inspired by the work that had been done, and the group of people who had accomplished it all. The San Franciscans in attendance sure lived up their name. They certainly demonstrated their technical prowess at full force, and, through four mile bike-rides across the city and some wildly high activity scores racked up, demonstrated their ability to roll with the punches, and their embodiment of the Hackfit ultimate healthy-living-work-hard-play-hard-stay-active lifestyle.

HackfitSF successfully in the books, we set our sights on Hackfit Philly.

"It's like leaving your friends at summer camp."          -   Hackfitter

“It’s like leaving your friends at summer camp.” – Hackfitter

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