What is a hackathon and why your business needs it

What is a hackathon and why your business needs it

A hackathon is a team competition for developers, where participants gather in teams of 3-5 people to create an app or a hardwired project without sleep over the weekend, and event sponsors provide them with coffee, food, and a place to work and relax.

Hackathons occasionally give birth to highly successful projects: the GroupMe app, created during one TechCrunch hackathon in 2010, was sold to Skype for $85 million.

Hackathon participants gather for new knowledge, valuable prizes and inimitable fun. Some important components for the participants are communication with experienced mentors and technical experts from the companies, new knowledge about the technology and first-hand information about the employers of his company. Hackathon is a gathering place for talented developers who communicate directly with technical experts about the work tasks.

When hackathons opened up to a wider audience, including ordinary consumers, experts, startups, managers, and other stakeholders, they began to be held even for months, put online or arrange O2O (Online to Offline) hackathons.

On the other hand, hackathon is a flexible format. If a company sets the right goals for its launch and invites the right audience, it achieves effective crowdsourcing.

Generally speaking, launching a hackathon has four main goals:

1. Expand the funnel of innovative projects

  • Develop new products, services and features of the project
  • Become a source of new technologies
  • To start a pilot project with innovative startups

2. Innovative recruiting

  • Test the technical and soft skills of hundreds of candidates on real tasks
  • Interact and even work together with potential peers
  • Interest participants with an entrepreneurial mindset, the future executive
  • Develop an employer brand that focuses on innovation

3.Accelerate their digital transformation

  • Pump up your team's creativity
  • Adapt to modern digital solutions on the principle of learning by doing
  • Become an active co-creator of a technological eco-system

4. Launching a charming marketing campaign

  • Moving from direct advertising of the company to participants, to collaborative, where participants tell other participants about the company
  • Influencing local digital opinion leaders
  • Gather original ideas from participants and work with them to create marketing and communications campaigns

Your company should have one of the following goals clearly defined: R&D, HR, Digital Transformation, Marketing.

Each of the 4 goals should be divided by the level of complexity:

  • High - you need working solutions, ready to implement in the company, Proof of Concept.
  • Medium - a prototype, interfaces and examples are enough.
  • Normal - you have a request to generate ideas and concepts for business, to get inspiration

What are the hackathons?

1. External Hackathon (Classic)

Classic hackathons or external hackathons for companies have tangible benefits. They are external because the company invites external experts to solve the company case. Preparing for such an event takes a long time, mostly you need to gather a relevant audience, which we talked about above and tell them about the pain of the company, those business processes that exist in your company.

For a company, an external hackathon helps with talent acquisition and increases the strength of the employer brand, because hackathons are cool and developers are interested in participating in them. In general, developers like to try new technologies, so the release of a new functionality or API can be combined with the launch of a hackathon. Agree that an announcement in the media "Company X has released an application update" sounds more boring than "Company X launches a competition for developers with prizes Y".

2. Internal hackathon (corporate)

Your employees can also take part in a hackathon. In this case the hackathon can be held completely inside the company. This strengthens the team spirit of the team, allows the employees to try themselves in a new role and test new technologies with minimal risk.

Internal hackathon gives the company:
- Development of corporate culture.
- Development of innovations
- Increase of loyalty
- Testing of new technologies

3. Other hackathon variations

A hackathon is an element of crowdsourcing ideas and a gathering point for talent. The intensive format can be used as a mini-accelerator. For example, Tech Stars does this with its Startup Weekend or FRII with its Harvest, pumping up startup teams.

Hackathons are a way to bring startups together around you and learn how they work in just one weekend.

The main reasons for companies to participate in hackathons

The first and most important reason is R&D. From each hackathon, development teams create dozens of prototypes and products. The founder of Angel Hack (the largest online gas pedal specializing in hackathons), Ali Sabeen in his interview talks about a simple case study with Hasbro, which organized a hackathon for 150 developers.

The hackathon yielded 45 working products, the equivalent of billions of dollars if traditional R&D had been conducted. The creation of innovative products, a sense of pioneering - this is what bribes both companies and hackers to unite on one platform to create interesting projects.

The second reason is to increase the attractiveness of the employer brand. Companies with a strong employer brand reduce the cost of hiring an employee by 43%.

Employer branding makes it much easier to find new employees. A company with a strong employer brand is more likely to hire new employees. This is motivated by the fact that the developer and the company have already had a conversation at the hackathon. The developer already knows what tasks he will have to solve if he goes to work for this company. Such a "test-weekend" creates a pleasant hiring environment for both the employee and the future employee.

For developers, a hackathon is a holiday, and an employer who maintains this holiday in the eyes of coders becomes an interesting employer.