What is a hackathon? When you first hear the term ‘hackathon’ and how it’s used in a discussion along with ‘fun’, ‘opportunity’, ‘great networking experience’, one’s mind does start to wonder.
The word HACK as in ‘hack into’ or ‘hacking’, invokes visions of breaking into a computer system and accessing private data, the theft of funds or to wreak havoc on the innocent by shutting down power grids as seen in one or two or all of the Die Hard movies. Then add ‘A’ and ‘thon’ to the word and it just sounds like an event where one can wreak havoc on the world with a large group of people in a short period of time and have a great time doing it.
According to Wikipedia — A hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest) is a design sprint-like event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers, project managers, and others, often including subject-matter-experts, collaborate intensively on software projects.
The goal of a hackathon is to create usable software or hardware with the goal of creating a functioning product by the end of the event. Hackathons tend to have a specific focus, which can include the programming language used, the operating system, an application, an API, or the subject and the demographic group of the programmers. In other cases, there is no restriction on the type of software being created.
Hackathons are a constructive way to learn in a positive environment, meet new friends and business contacts while building new products/developments. They can last a few hours or a few days; collaboration at its best in a fun environment.
Hackathons originally started as events for programmers but have expanded to include hackathons for causes, for a specific product, a specific demographic, a unique industry, etc. Participants and mentors can include entrepreneurs, programmers, business analysts, marketing professionals, lawyers, graphic designers, etc. The goal — to build a working prototype to solve specific world/industry problems.
— Try out new startup ideas
— Opportunity to pitch your business idea to the public and judges
— Opportunity to find a development team for your project
— Get to work on new ideas in a collaborative environment
— Stimulate creativity
— Learn and or improve problem-solving skills
— Make positive career connections
— Participate in project collaboration
— Find a mentor or become a mentor
— Make new friends — develop relationships
— Learn about the latest news/technologies
One demographic specific organization, in particular, is CryptoChicks, a non-profit blockchain technology educational hub with a mission to grow the professional and leadership potential of women in blockchain technology through education, collaboration and mentorship.
CryptoChicks have run a variety of successful hackathons featuring a medley of incredible projects including one from Lisa Meecham, Gungeet Kaur, Njeri Rionge from the team EnviroChix with the Refuse as Resource Project — the Potential of Plastic in a Circular Economy Based Blockchain. The goal of the project is to apply the system principles of blockchain and monetization potential of cryptocurrency to onboard and incentivize citizens in the developing world, who would participate in a value-chain model of refuse as resource to be recovered, re-used, and re-integrated to achieve a circular economy.
Since being popularized by Bitcoin, encrypted accountancy ledgers or “blockchains” have taken the finance world by storm. Demand for developers is high; blockchains simplify transactions and reduce costs. Unfortunately, there is a marked shortage of skilled workers, a situation worsened by a diminishing presence of females in the computing sector which is down from 30% in the 1980’s to18% today. ‘We believe that this hackathon will provide needed exposure to female talent; connecting hackers with potential employers,” says CryptoChick’s co-founder Natalia Ameline. Adds fellow co-founder Elena Sinelnikova, “Considering that blockchain developers are in huge demand these days and the fact that this industry lacks female participation, with this hackathon and conference, potentially, we kill two birds with one stone.”
CryptoChicks is currently collaborating with Women 4 Blockchain (W4B), a group dedicated to building and empowering pioneers in the world of blockchain technology, on a hackathon & conference including a Shark Tank session set to take place in New York City, October 5-8, 2018
Hackathons are a great marketing opportunity to build a community and to create buzz around the latest technology. Industry insiders talk about this time in blockchain technology’s history compared to the 80’s and the early years of the internet. Imagine back in the 80’s when acid wash jeans and huge, back-combed hair was all the rage; telling someone they were going to need a website. They would stare at you in disbelief and then click play on their Sony Walkman and walk away.
Working in a technology that can completely disrupt how transactions are stored, processed and how digital histories are recorded and tracked is incredibly exciting and that creates a lot of buzz. Several blockchain projects are focussed on user activation and engagement which in turn results in a lot of online traction from attendees.
Companies gain a tremendous marketing advantage by organizing their own or sponsoring well-organized hackathons. They are an opportunity to create a self-sustaining, positive community, inspire employees, meet potential future employees, come up with new product development and increase brand awareness. Companies don’t grow by standing still – so get hacking!