matchNhack was an event at KTH that created new contacts for business and employment, good seminars and a great hackathon.
Here follows an interview with Siavash Ghorbani from the winning team of the hackathon, their web service and how to go viral in just a few hours. Enjoy!
Congratulations Team Tictail to the first prize! How does it feel?
Thank you! We were super excited about the immediate response we received for the service, and were absolutely thrilled to be able to share the experience live on stage. It should be common sense by now that the internet is quite immediate, but it’s a different feeling when it becomes so obvious as you go from idea to live product to a traffic surge in two hours.
Tell us a bit about your personal background and the Tictail team.
(The Tictail team at matchNhack consisted of, Martin Melin, Birk Nilson, William Tisäter and interviewee Siavash Ghorbani)
is probably quite similar to most techies born in the middle of the 80′s. I loved Lego and NES, replaced that with computers and found myself in piles of code. I started programming at 12, initially with an interest for game development that eventually evolved to the web. I co-founded a consultancy firm while I studied at KTH. We started out by doing very basic web stuff but as we developed so did our projects. We did several data analysis projects for Stockholms International Peace Research Institute so I like to claim that I’ve worked for world peace.
After KTH I ended up at Blocket, where I met William Tisäter who was the first employee
of Tictail and an amazing person. William worked as a system administrator and later DBA at Blocket, but did a lot of programming on his spare time. You could say he has the perfect skill set for a tech startup looking for someone diverse who can do anything from managing servers, coding your API to fixing your CSS.
How I met Birk is a story
on it’s own. The first time I came in contact with Tictail was with Birk. We spent at least an hour on the phone discussing web technologies and entrepreneurship before we decided we should meet up the next day.
Birk is an absolutely brilliant developer and person. He too got in to programming early on, initially with frontend web development, but quickly extended this to anything within backend development as well. Before co-founding Tictail, Birk worked as a technical team lead at Stardoll for their social games team.
The first time I met Martin
was during his summer internship at Blocket. Martin quickly became famous as the guy who fastest understood the Blocket template language. When I called him two months ago he was back at Linköping University finishing his studies in Innovative Programming and was planning to come back to Stockholm during the summer. Two minutes in on the phone call and we both understood that this would be a perfect match. A couple of days later Martin spent a full week working with us at Tictail to ensure our launch for the strict deadline at Nordic E-commerce summit. By the end of the week there was no question about it, Martin had to be a permanent part of our team. He is not only an amazing developer but also very knowledgeable in strategic and organizational topics.
What did you develop during the hackathon and how viral did it go?
We started out by joking about how ridiculous those Hot or Not services are where you compare two people and decide which one is hottest. We started discussing dumb things to compare but eventually we ended up discussing what we ourselves thought would be really fun to use; A service where you could compare two snippets of code and decide which one is the “hottest”. So in short, we made hot or not for code.
At that moment the service spread quite quickly, we had a couple of thousand uniques within an hour after the presentation. We ended up on the first page of hacker news right before the presentation, which was quite cool.
Why do you think that your team won the hackathon?
Either we touched a sweet spot with an audience of hackers, or that the other attendants thought it was as inspiring as we did, to see that it is possible to create a service in such a short time frame and immediately reach an audience.
The theme for the hackathon was virality and why is this topic so important?
The way I see it, from a startup perspective, you have one priority and that is growth and virality is the current way of competing in growth with more established competitors that are pouring money and time into traditional channels. I think it’s difficult to take a mature product and attach virality as a tool to it. There simply is no virality angel dust and this leaves room for new services to investigate and develop these mechanisms in their product from the get go and compete on different terms. If you are building a consumer service today and have no viral mechanisms you should take a good look at your service, because chances are that you’ll competing with competitors with bigger pockets than yours today and competitors with a far higher virality tomorrow.
What tips can you give anyone who is trying to make projects go viral?
The end goal of virality to attract growth at a low cost. Five years ago, that mechanisms was called search engine optimization and before that I don’t know, hype maybe?
My point is that in the end all these relate to one thing, and that is your product. If your product is great and provides great value for your customers they will willingly spread it, you should however ensure that this functionality is a core part of your product, and that doesn’t mean share buttons on everything. If your product is great people will write about it, link to it and push your search rank, you should however make sure you provide accurate content for these searches. The same goes with hype, people love to tell their friends how awesome something they enjoy using is, you should however help them with a couple of catchy phrases.
In short, your tool to compete is first of all a great product and this product should have the said mechanisms built into it’s backbones.
Thanks to the creators of matchNhack and to Siavash along with the Tictail team!