Hackathon, benefits all round for your company

In a Hackathon, an open field of participants works on implementable solutions following a fixed briefing. Such competitions strengthen a company’s innovative strength through many new concepts. Following Traveldoo’s progress to the final of a recent Expedia Group wide hackathon we look here at the benefits of a hackathon.

Wikipedia describes the term Hackathon as a “collaborative software and hardware development event”. The word creation from “Hacken” and “Marathon” has been known since 1999. In the USA, the software industry and investors have been using the method since the mid-2000s to develop new programs or to have prototypes of existing concepts realized.

Now more and more organizations and companies are organizing hackathons. Expedia Group has a long lasting tradition of hosting internal hackathons, where we encourage engineers, designers and product managers from our offices around the world to take time away from their day-to-day activities and spend it innovating. This year’s hackathon”. There were over 1550 participants who competed in over 200 teams hosted in 12 cities. Our internal hackathons are globally coordinated so they can be ran simultaneously around the world in every participating region. All teams had 24 hours to come up with a working demo and a 3-minute video presentation to impress their regional judge in hopes to advance to the finals. Out of the entrants, 22, including Traveldoo, were shortlisted for the finals where their ideas compete for a cash prize and the kudos of recognition by the judges, many of whom are senior executives from across the group.

But, back to the benefits:

Hackathons are an innovative place to test out for new ideas.

They stimulate the creative thinking of participants and foster problem-solving and risk-taking in a casual environment. The diversity of participants guarantees a multitude of perspectives and the time limit on hackathons creates a uniquely productive atmosphere that forces participants to distil their visionary concepts down to actionable solutions. All this increases the chance of finding innovative fixes to persistent problems.

Company internal hackathons can achieve some of the same benefits as external competitions. Internal hacks can unshackle some of the corporate bureaucracy that hinders creative thought and help overcome the struggle of accepting innovation within the company. Internal hackathons are a great way to reinvigorate a company’s innovation culture and capabilities.

Community Creation
the industrial landscape is now prone to unpredictable disruption by technology startups. To stay current and connected to the makers and entrepreneurs that may be leading these overnight sensations, it has become increasingly important for all businesses to engage with and create an innovation community of their own. Developers, the experts in the universal language of change – code – provide the fuel to generate these innovations and are the center of gravity of such invention-focused communities.

Corporate Culture
including hackathons in your year plan can change the perception of your internal brand and help acquire developer mindshare. Hosting a hackathon or getting involved as a sponsor is an efficient way to deliver more awareness about your company and it’s values internally and externally.

IP Development
Hackathons are great, not necessarily because the silver bullet will be found, but because participants may find something you never knew you were looking for. This may be using your software solutions to break into new markets or developing extensions that open up entire new customer bases. In addition, participants often not only develop a prototype of an app but frequently its infrastructure as well. A hackathon can build a genuine business case for the submission that justifies and facilitates further development and investment in the team that provided the solution.

With software developers and data scientists in high demand, it’s challenging for companies to gain exposure, garner interest and determine the best talent. Hackathons address both challenges. Companies gain awareness in the developer community and are perceived as “hacker-friendly”. This helps attract top talent and once the candidates apply, they have at least one project under their belt and have proven to be passionate enough about their work to spend a weekend with little to no sleep.

In 2018 it was Traveldoo’s first participation on Expedia group hackathon … and we reached the final. We are setting our sights higher for the next one!

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