Why Conduct a ‘Hackathon’?

In attending the events surrounding Portland Startup Week over the past few days – one subject has been buzzed about over and over – the ‘Hackathon’ or ‘Hack Fest’.

Defining a Hackathon
The name is often misinterpreted, and is regularly abused by the media referencing a menacing connotation referring to a criminal activity – however, a ‘hackathon’ is far from the well known and maligned ‘hacker’ description.

Hackathons aim to offer a creative venue for breakthrough innovation through technology, specific to programming or development, while striving to be inclusive of all team segments to provide the best outcome. A group comes together, forming teams around one idea, goal, or problem to solve. The outcome is generally a website or app.

Traditionally, as the name implies, ‘hackathons’ have been a marathon event involving a 24-48 hour sprint to complete the project – fueled by team spirit, adrenaline and sometimes – beer. Recently, however, companies have adopted the structure uses the hackathon model, but bringing milestones, scaling the project for sustainability and actual roll out.

While they have been around for some time, the prevalence of these ‘hack-marathons’ are really gaining ground with both start-up and seasoned software companies and creative agencies, extending as far as well established companies such as Facebook and Google.

To Hack or Not to Hack
These events are truly an ingenious way to get teams, both internal and external – to collaborate and can foster a truly innovative culture.

Hackathons, no matter the structure, provide a team opportunities to problem solve while building camaraderie. This allows out of the box thinking that can be transformative to a project that may be at a stuck point.

Many times, the outcome of a hackathon is a prototype, but can often lead to the development of a bigger idea, a better way to analyze data, or a problem solved.

Vanessa Petersen

As Executive Director of Brand Strategy based in ArtVersion’s Portland office, Vanessa manages both national and West Coast accounts. She brings with her a passion for strategy with extensive experience in creative marketing, brand growth and development. She is a true advocate of storytelling and brand building from the inside out, and her keen knowledge of the marketplace, trend patterns and usability lead her to identify opportunities that can inspire powerful design strategies.

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