Who said that work has to be dull?
Working can also be a source of fun, especially if you work in a nice environment, you’re working on an interesting project and you have a chance to self-develop. It’s double-fun if you can prove yourself right and win a sweet prize!
Wait a minute, you might ask. Prize? What prize?
Well, sometimes companies host events that allow its participants to work on innovative projects, present them to jury and even win laurels. These events are called hackathons.
Hackathons are sprint-like marathons that allow developers, graphic designers or project managers collaborate on software projects to create a usable application, a feature or an integration. In most cases, participants have only 10-12 hours to build their working prototype.
Some people may think that it’s controversial to take part in a hackathon and spend your free time on coding. However, hackathons are fantastic for people with competitive nature, who like problem-solving and who like to bring ideas into life.
But the thing is that a hackathon is beneficial not only for its participants but also for companies that host it (we know something about it!).
See the 5 ways company can benefit from hosting a hackathon.
1. Finding inspiration
Although it’s not the most important hackathon benefit, I think finding the inspiration is the most important reason why would a company host it.
People who work together on a daily basis, often tend to share the same point of view, get inspired with the same things and tend to choose solutions that worked for them in the past.
Let me be clear, there’s nothing wrong with it, however - if you don’t get familiar with new ideas and solutions for a long time, at some point you’ll get stuck. Your mind will always follow the same old paths and you won’t be able to think out of box.
Meeting new people, confronting new ideas, being challenged by new solutions is a requirement for every business to thrive and prosper - especially in IT sector.
2. New hire opportunities
Let’s say this straight: hackathons are a great way to find new people to your team. It’s definitely a huge benefit because recruitment of every member of your team is very costly (the cost of hiring a new employee can be as high as 50%-60% of an employee’s annual salary).
Most companies look for creative, competent and self-motivated employees and do their best to dig them out of the digital abyss, even if it takes months. Hackathon works like a magic spell that gathers all these people in one place, all you have to do is not to waste your chance to network with them and find out whether they fit your team or now.
However, the reason I don’t like to stress it too much is that many companies tend to treat hackathons as a recruitment tool only. As a result, hackathons turn into awkward job interviews; don’t let that happen to your event!
3. Chance of a new product development
Another reason why a hackathon can be a great idea for your company is because during a one-day hackathon, people can create an amazing extension of your product.
Many companies ask hackathon participants to use their open API and share their documentation with them to see what a fresh mind can do with it. And sometimes it might be a bullseye!
Believe me or not, but our ChatBot’s prototype was built during our first hackathon. Initially, the project used artificial intelligence to suggest pre-made answers to customer service agents. Now, it turned over time into a standalone product (a bot factory) that complements our main product.
Remember though that the aim of hackathons is not to make people build new prototypes for free. While it’s OK to use your company’s infrastructure to have new projects built, you should also give people the creative freedom to build something else.
4. Corporate branding
Every event hosted by your company gives you word of mouth and visibility. Successful hackathons help you to establish your company as experts in given area.
How to make sure your hackathon stands out?
There are plenty of ideas. You can provide food and drinks, you can plan additional lectures to teach participants, invite special guests or found big prizes.
People like to talk about interesting things they experienced, so if you make sure that your hackathon is well thought and full of surprises, you might be sure news about it will reach many ears.
5. Community building
If you want to grow and develop, you need to surround yourself with talented and creative people and this rule is not only limited to the tech community. That’s why your goal should be not only to host a memorable event but also make sure that you stay in touch with people who showed up.
The topic of community building is pretty big, however, there are few rules you should apply.
Bring people together and learn everything you can about them. Give to people something unique: an experience or knowledge, something they would want to talk about with their friends.
Don’t let them forget about you, a good way is to post event pictures and videos or create a social media group where they could get to know each other better.
Also, you should quite quickly set up a date for a new event so you keep the fire burning!
Ready, steady, go!
Ready to host a hackathon just now?
Not so fast!
Sure, there are plenty of benefits of hack fests, however, it’s important to plan it carefully.
You definitely need to think about your budget (you might want to get sponsors). The venue, snacks, drinks, special guests, and prizes will cost. You need to come up with the idea, define the rules and plan your promotion. You should also have a plan for how you want to use your fame when the event has ended.
Not scared yet? Great to hear that. Hosting a hackathon might be a lot of fuss, but it’s definitely worth it.