Participant Resources

User Story: How Winning One Hackathon Led Betsy And Her Team to Quit Their Corporate Jobs

Here’s a look at how Betsy Berger’s approach to hackathons has led her to win every hackathon she’s entered.

Can you provide a brief introduction about yourself and your background in fintech?

I’m newer to fintech. I’ve spent most of my life as a buyer for consumer brands while moonlighting and dabbling in side projects and coding. My hackathon partner worked at a major payment processing company for a long time. We’ve always had ideas and hacks for customer issues that come up on his side as a developer and paired them with my consumer experience. We currently run a start-up together called Payable Apps, which creates add-ons for programs and software that don’t traditionally accept payments.

(Check out Betsy’s Devpost profile to see her portfolio of winning projects.)

What initially motivated you to participate in hackathons, and how did you become interested in fintech-focused competitions?

The first hackathon we entered was both fintech and Formula 1 themed, which are two of our favorite things. We had been working on our app, and we thought it would be cool to get to an MVP and enter the hackathon to test the desirability of the idea. It worked well, so now we often use hackathons to build and test ideas that we are still figuring out.

Now we often use hackathons to build and test ideas that we are still figuring out.

Can you walk us through your pre-hackathon preparation process?

Our journey begins with the rich pool of insights we've gathered from our customers. Each piece of feedback—whether a compliment, complaint, or suggestion—guides our ideation process.  It's a dynamic dialogue where customer experiences illuminate the path to new ideas and builds. That being said, we also leave room for creativity. Sometimes it’s a hackathon theme or idea that gives us moments of unexpected clarity and creativity that often lead to new ideas for our projects. 

After we’ve taken the time to sort out what our project/product looks like, we treat it as a sprint between partners. The goal is to forge a team that's as passionate about solving real-world problems as they are about technology and innovation—and oftentimes how that relates to payments. We are a bit spoilt for choice when building our team as we can draw on our colleagues to form the team.

A lot of what we build is for everyday people and our main goal is always to build something both helpful enough and easy enough to be used by anyone. When setting goals, we try to work back to that guiding principle to ensure we’re creating products that help everyone get paid. 

How do you approach brainstorming, prototyping, and developing your hackathon projects within the allotted time frame?

We try to always start with a clear objective, leveraging customer insights to ensure the project addresses real needs and has potential market viability. We allow everyone involved to freely propose ideas. Then, we converge on the most feasible, innovative, and impactful ones. We look for impact, feasibility, and a touch of novelty to build the idea of our project. 

In prototyping, after defining the main features, we divide and conquer. Within the team, we all work well together so it’s easy for us to understand who will do what best, and we can get way more done when we split up the work based on our strengths. There’s always some time spent on learning the tools and APIs needed to complete the project. But we work with a lot of payment processors already, so we often have a solid foundation for understanding the frameworks we’re presented with.

I would love to say I’ve mastered time management, but in all reality, we always think we aren’t going to finish and there’s always a last-day frenzy of activity. We check in and plan out sprints and timeframes, but hackathons are always a side project, so they’re the first thing to be moved aside when other things come up. Realistically, the pressure helps and we always do our best work in the last few days before a hackathon deadline. 

Connect and collaborate with your peers in the Devpost community.
Join our Discord Server

Can you share any key challenges you've faced during the building phase and how you've overcome them?

Aside from the ever-looming time constraints in hackathons, we always face technical issues, such as integrating new APIs, working with unfamiliar technologies, or debugging complex code. Because we are often building hacks into software that wasn’t built to do what we’re asking of it, there are always hurdles in making it work. We spend a lot of time scouring for fixes and workarounds. 

The other thing we are always guilty of is feature creep. As much as we try to keep the focus on the MVP, we always think, “What about this? Should we add that?” 

Continuously ask yourself if a feature is essential for the hackathon's goal or if it can be added later. Being disciplined about scope helps ensure you have a working product to present and something to submit by the deadline.

How have your hackathon victories impacted your personal and professional growth, and have there been any unexpected benefits or opportunities?

Winning the Rapyd Hackathon changed our lives completely. The prize was huge, and we used it to fully launch our solution as a live add-on in the Google Workspace Marketplace. Gaining exposure in the hackathon also got us our first SAFE, as well as lasting mentorships and relationships with Rapyd and other winners of the hackathon.

Winning the Rapyd Hackathon eventually allowed us to quit our corporate jobs and focus on Payable Apps full-time.

If we hadn’t entered and won the Rapyd hackathon, our lives would be nothing like they are now. 

What advice do you have for aspiring hackathon participants, especially those aiming for their first win?

Just try it! We’re all so afraid of putting ourselves out there. It’s so easy to say this isn’t good enough, or my idea is stupid or someone else is doing it better. But if you don’t try you’ll never know and you’ll never learn. Hackathons are invaluable for testing market validation for just the cost of your time and effort. 

I also find that using Devpost and being able to do hackathons with more time and fully remote, really makes you a bit more anonymous when feeling stupid about your idea. Worst case, you’re just another circle with a face in it on the site. Best case? You land a game-changing meeting, or better yet, your project becomes the solution to something greater. It’s cool and so low-risk you might as well give it a go. 

How important are perseverance, creativity, and collaboration in achieving success in hackathons?

Perseverance, creativity, and collaboration are not just important; they are the cornerstone qualities that define everything we’re doing. Hackathons are intense, time-consuming events designed to push us to our limits. Sometimes, the best work happens under this pressure, and persevering, trusting your creative vision, and leaning on the problem-solving that stems from collaboration will get you to the finish line.

What is your vision for the future of fintech innovation, and how do hackathons contribute to driving industry advancements?

The future of fintech innovation holds immense promise, with the potential to revolutionize how people and businesses interact with financial services and also streamline how people get paid. My vision for fintech is one where payment technology seamlessly integrates into your life, however you want it to—making it more accessible, efficient, and secure for everyone. 

Hackathons are integral to the fintech ecosystem, serving as engines for innovation, collaboration, and talent discovery. They propel the industry forward. The ideas and solutions born out of hackathons will help shape the next generation of financial technology, driving the industry toward a brighter, more inclusive future.

Feeling inspired to build something amazing? Check out our hackathons happening now!