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The First Ever Company-Wide "Hack Day" Improves the Wireless Heart Monitor

May 22, 2017

Have you ever thought of an idea and never had a chance to see it through? At WHOOP, we just celebrated our first Hack Day–where everyone had the freedom to express their thoughts and make it happen.

If you’re not familiar with the term “Hack Day” (or what other companies call “hackathons”), the concept is fairly simple. In the spirit of innovation, employees take a break from what they normally do and focus on whatever they like. They’re given the opportunity to try and answer a simple question, “What’s something you wish WHOOP had?” Or more specifically, “What’s a new feature we could add that WHOOP users might thoroughly enjoy?” Now let’s take a day and see if it’s feasible.

Before the first WHOOP Hack Day, we had a Pitch Evening where those with visions could present their ideas in order to recruit others to help on their projects. We capped each pitch to three minutes.

After the pitches concluded, something special happened. There was buzz in the air. People immediately started bouncing concepts back and forth and refining ideas. Pitchers were able to solidify their ideas, and with help from the rest of the company, Hack Day was officially underway.

The Hack Day consisted of one official business day to work on what was pitched. Although there were a few solo projects, most people formed teams to make their ideas come true. It was extremely important that the hackers did the necessary preparation work–such as setting up GitHub (a developmental platform to build projects in) or finding the resources to really hit the ground running.

As soon as the teams came into the office that morning, they all found areas where they could work together heads down. They huddled in the kitchen with laptops, covered desks with hardware, and plastered meeting-room walls with drawings.

As late afternoon came, it was clear that we were going to deliver amazing demos. Teams were advised to follow the “80/20” rule here–work to get something 80% there visually and 20% scripted or “hard-coded.” It’s much more important that the idea is communicated in a tangible way, rather than having a full-fledged, bug-free product.

Demo Day was a chance to show folks what was explored, whether successful or not. Even if an idea didn’t come to fruition, it was very much encouraged to present the lessons learned and how we can become stronger from it. Each demo consisted of a five-minute explanation of what was accomplished in just a single day dedicated to the project. The highlights included:

  • WHOOP Strap Wallet – Is there a way to include a monetary payment system within the Strap to allow you to leave your phone and wallet behind when you’re on a long run, bike ride, etc?
  • GPS App Integration – Can the WHOOP app run in conjunction with other GPS apps users already have to import data and allow for better route tracking?
  • Improved Coach’s Dashboard – For teams using the system, can we allow coaches to more easily track “at risk” athletes with low Recoveries and build a watch list of specific players to track?
  • Band Tightness Meter – Is there away to let users know if they are wearing their Strap with the proper tightness? Can we put a sensor in the band? Or a test feature in the app to communicate to the user that it’s being worn properly?
  • WHOOP Selfie – Can we enable users to overlay their Strain or Recovery onto their photos to share achievements on social media?
  • Wireless Battery Pack Charging – Can we design a battery pack that charges without plugging it in?
  • Reaction Time Test – Is it possible to test your reaction time within the app and then use changes in reaction time to further personalize elements of the platform?

After the demos we held a secret-ballot vote, with each person in the company asked to choose which hack they thought was the most inspirational. When the votes were counted, the winner was the GPS App Integration team, given their amazing ability to paint a picture of how athletes can learn so much more with an abundance of GPS data. Each member of the team received an engraved award commemorating the inaugural WHOOP Hack Day champions.

I’m so happy to have experienced this event with such talented and driven colleagues. Some of these projects are now being added to our development roadmap. Others are influencing the designs of items currently in the works. Turning dreams into reality is what made the first WHOOP Hack Day so magical.


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