A hackathon is a weekend long burst of creative energy. It can be a mix of software development, design, product validation, making prototypes, building apps and solving problems. Any activity that brings something useful or cool into the world. This can take the form of a product, service, charity, or even an artwork, there are lot’s of different flavours of hackathons.
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately co-working from Google Campus, Central Working and Innovation Warehouse engaging with entrepreneurs and startups via FuelStory and Converge+UK.
Hackathons are an exciting new trend in the entrepreneurial scene in London. The clusters around Tech City, Silicon Roundabout are running more and more weekend hackathons. There are now several hackathons each month and new ones are being created all the time. I realised recently that for people who work at the intersection of tech and entrepreneurship hackathons are well-known and common-place, for many people it’s a foreign concept.
A hackathon, also known as a startup weekend, sprint or makeathon (emphasis on a physical creation) is a weekend where people come together to build something.
Everyone must participate and contribute, no spectators.
Some are run as competitions with prizes, some are focused on charity, doing good or using government data, there are a whole host of different angles or themes for each one.
What happens at a hackathon?
Typically on the Friday night or early Saturday morning people arrive, the more diverse the skills set in the room the better. The weekend proceeds at pace:
- Anyone has the opportunity to stand up and pitch their idea of what they want to create.
- People vote on the best ideas
- Teams are formed, you move to the idea that you both like AND believe you are best placed to contribute to making a success
- Teams go ahead and build out that idea, this involves:
- Idea validation, get out on the street, on the phone, on the web, talk to real people, ask questions. Is this useful? does this solve a real problem or create joy? Is there a market for this?
- Design the customer journey, map out prototypes of the design and workflows on paper
- Build, this can be web or app development, graphics design or even physically building something at a makeathon event
- Next is to show people what you have built and attempt to get to “product-market fit”, i.e. do people want this thing and does it fit the market.
- Spread the message – social media, marketing, advertising, creating meetups
- At the end of the weekend there is a panel of judges and teams present back and a winner is chosen
- There are often prizes in the form of cash, software or mentorship programs that could take this beginnings of a product and accelerate it into a real business. A Startup Accelerator or Startup Incubator program is often a typical next step, these programs run for 6-12 weeks, you are supported by mature teams and mentors to accelerate your creation into a fully fledged business.
- It doesn’t matter whether your team won the hackathon, if your team loves what you created this is often enough for many people to go forth, band together and develop the product into a business.
What’s the point?
The point is you get to use your skills for something different. Create something that is useful, solves a problem, create something people want and has impact. It’s fast paced, a lot of fun and a brilliant way to play full out in a team giving their all.
Who should attend?
There is a perception that hackathons are only for developers and designers and people who can build stuff. While that is a big part of it, there is a way for everyone to contribute. So, how can you contribute at a hackathon?
- Beyond building things, there is the architecture, designing systems, processes and models
- Understanding customers, finding them, building community, creating buzz, inspiring action, taking care of business
- Get into the mind of the user, behavioural design, graphics design, industrial design and creating the experience
Sounds awesome! How do I get involved?
Here are the upcoming options for participating in a Hackathon in London:
London Startup Weekend
15 November – applications in by
Data-driven hackathon, government, personal data (http://www.meetup.com/LondonQS/messages/boards/thread/28204052/)
TheGivingLAB Hackdays – Dev4Good
Let’s create meaningful things. Get involved,
How I work:
At FuelStory – we work with startups and established businesses to get your story tight, that means workshops, consultation and implementation in branding, naming, storytelling, communications, web and graphics design/development. Once your foundation is set, we help build community around your product or service and spread your story via social media, meetups, marketing and advertising.
Converge+UK is a non-profit creativity collective bringing together people who work in design, business and technology. The purpose is to prompt creative abrasion, connect people, educate and inspire and encourage people to build something cool, that is useful and has impact, this can be either an entirely new creation in the form of a product/startup or showing up differently back in one’s job.