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Organize a hackathon, does that suit my company?

In June 2017, the first SugarFactory hackathon ever took place. More and more companies are deciding to invest in a hackathon, a concept that has spread from the American IT sector. But what exactly is it? And, are there any opportunities for your company?

What is a hackathon?

A hackathon is an event in which several teams of specialists come up with solutions and valuable ideas for complex issues in a short time – between 8 and 48 hours. The goal is to design multiple workable prototypes that can be tested by the company that organizes the hackathon. At the end of the hackathon a winner is chosen.

Why does a hackathon take between 8 and 48 hours?

When there is little time to find a solution to a complex problem, we switch to a practical and targeted approach. We think in terms of possibilities rather than limitations. These limitations usually result in the delay. A hackathon is about great ideas, which may not always be realistic, but from those creative ideas the useful parts can be selected at a later stage.

There are companies that organise hackathons with their own staff. What is the main reason for this?

A hackathon is a perfect means to stimulate connection at large companies. It is not just a matter for developers. It is precisely by allowing employees from different layers of the company and with different functions to participate in the hackathon that more complete and creative ideas arise. Project managers, strategists and business developers each look at the problem in their own way – but with an eye on the culture and position of your organisation in the market – so that you can now perhaps move on where you were previously stuck.

But you can also invite external participants for a hackathon. What is the advantage of that?

You can also see that many companies invite students to their hackathon. The advantage of this is that as an external party they look at an issue with a fresh look. It is also a great moment for your recruiters to make new contacts.

What else is important?

You have a clear case and a nice guest list of hackers. But organizing a hackathon is more than just arranging a large room with lots of computers. Look for a location that contributes to the special atmosphere of a hackathon, put together a suitable side program and of course arrange the care of your guests. You ask participants to work for you, so make sure they enjoy working on and looking back on this day(s). Start with a joint kick-off with an interesting speaker to set the tone. Then it’s time to get started. When you invite techies, they want their equipment to be protected. Even when they leave their workplace for a while. So make sure you have security and a watertight insurance. And hard work makes you hungry. Choose easy snacks and drinks, because there is of course no time for an extensive dinner. There must also be a place where you can relax for a while or where they can be active – physically – so that they will be over this inevitable energy dip in no time. After all, they will sleep little. Finally, determine the first prize for the winners, who are chosen by a strong jury, and end with a party where participants have time to network a little more. Because intrinsic motivation is just as important.

The follow-up of an event is very important. Even at a hackathon, right?

Yes, it certainly is! How much fun is it to be able to show participants an after movie of the event? Film the pitches and have a video and photo report made of the event. The material can then be shared on social media, so you can keep your community alive and the participants can interact with each other in an interactive way.

Organizing a hackathon at SugarFactory

At SugarFactory we have a lot of experience with organizing various types of events. In June 2017 the first hackathon at SugarFactory ever took place. We know that with a standard connection you won’t get there when you organize a hackathon. That’s why we offer a strong WiFi network. We also offer the possibility to combine different event rooms to meet the different requirements of a hackathon. Are you interested in organizing a hackathon at SugarFactory? Then please contact us.

Image: Hannie Verhoeven Photography

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