Hack Day with UCL

Aerate Inc
5 min readNov 28, 2018

Managed by Connect Mentors (www.connectmentors.com), the first year students of the School of Management at UCL were set a series of themes to ‘hack’ and present to a panel of judges!

Connect Mentors is an online platform that seeks to support people explore new roles or find a role by matching them with Mentors from progressive companies, using “soft”-mentoring as a means of guiding talent to jobs and new roles. This naturally has a great fit with UCL as it gives students the opportunity to not only be given great advice from professional leaders, but also opens a direct dialogue with employers who are looking for engaged, interested and exciting candidates.

Connect Mentors has had a long-standing professional relationship with UCL, specifically with Professor Richard Pettinger the Principal Teaching Fellow in Management Education and Director of Information Management for Business at UCL, having previously run speed-mentoring events and presented at various speaking engagements for Connect Mentors. This however, was the first time Connect Mentors held a Hack Day and we were very excited to get involved!

Richard Pettinger, Principal Teaching Fellow in Management Education and Director of Information Management for Business at UCL, speaking with students.

A ‘Hack Day’ is typically a day when teams with different skills and backgrounds collaborate intensively on a project in a ‘sprint’ format. The aim to is create a solution (in our case, a viable concept to potentially launch to market) by the end of the day.

After presenting and introducing Connect Mentors to the students two weeks prior to the Hack Day, the themes to ‘hack’ were sent to the students the day before the actual Hack Day, as a final step.

The themes presented to students.

The students were asked to create presentations to succinctly convince the judges why their ideas would succeed, if they were launched to market. Students were asked to come up with a business idea / new technology platform / digital concept that would answer one of the themes in a unique and entrepreneurial way, that would also be able to situate in a real-world environment. Their ideas could not just be full of hot air!

So on Tuesday 23rd October 2018, 120 students packed into the Royal National Hotel conference room, and got ready for four hours of theme hacking, idea creation and presentation execution!

All students busy at work.

To ensure enough guidance was given to these students, who had only started their University degrees a few weeks’ earlier, the Aerate team made sure to structure idea development as much as possible. This was done by ensuring that each team:

  • Researched the market well enough,
  • Demonstrated clear understanding of competitors,
  • Provided a SWOT analysis and explanation,
  • Completed a financial summary regarding how they would raise capital as well as a pricing strategy.

This was all to ensure that they cooperated, communicated and convincingly constructed a viable concept. Teamwork was of the utmost importance; understanding the strengths of your team and of yourself ensured the success of completing the day and effectively creating a winning idea!

Deep discussion and thought from all teams.

This was a high-pressured day where timekeeping was imperative in order to successfully reach each milestone throughout the day. An additional curve ball was thrown into the mix at the beginning of the day, meaning that the students had to react to the changes. Due to room disruptions, students had to cram a full day’s worth of business ideation into just a few hours, as well as create presentations and practice what they were going to say amongst themselves, before presenting to the panel of judges in the afternoon!

After lunch, the 24 groups were split in two and one from Connect Mentors and one UCL professor took one half of the teams, and vice versa, and so commenced listening to 12, 5 minute presentations over a couple of hours.

Overall, the students smashed it! We had such amazing energy throughout the day, with some innovative ideas and very professional presentations. The Connect Mentors team were blown away, as were the UCL professors.

The winning teams, per theme, were awarded iTunes vouchers, as provided by UCL. However, a separate prize was awarded to the overall winner from Connect Mentors. We offered the winning team time to work with Connect Mentors’ Director, Elina Hedman, for half a day to examine whether the concept would actually work if launched to market.

This prize was awarded to team ‘Work & Help’; a group of four bright girls who explored the CSR theme of how to improve it in the workplace. They developed a concept that was a platform to connect companies to charities. Each company signs up to the platform and employees of the company are awarded credits for good work that they do within their company (eg: hitting sales targets, completing a project, successful implementation of a new process). Employees can then ‘spend’ their credits on a charity by volunteering and donating their time.

Of the event and challenges set for the students, Richard said:

“Whenever we do something like this, the students are absolutely terrific; they step up to the plate. If you ask them to do something simple, they will do it. If you ask them to do something complicated, they will do it. If you ask them to do something extraordinary, they will do it. It is always a totally impressive day.”

Well done to all the teams — we can’t wait for our next event with you.

Watch a video below that the UCL Media Services created about the day!


The Connect Mentors team

Written by Heli Metsmaa-Petersons, Operations Director.

More about Connect Mentors…

Connect Mentors is managed by Aerate Inc (www.aerateinc.com), which is an incubator of its own concepts through early design, testing and development ready to be marketed and scaled up. Its concepts are interlinked by the mission of connecting people and making technology more accessible.

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Aerate Inc

Aerate is a social enterprise that creates and develops scaleable concepts that connect and support people through online platforms and applications.