Hackathons 2.0: Hubs Of Innovation

Looking to unearth your potential? Hackathons are some of the most productive and collaborative events around, and responsible for many innovations we see today. So what is special about hackathons? Read more after the jump.

In a nutshell, hackathons:

  • are a medium of exchange for knowledge and inspiration
  • are opportunities to catch up with what other dev’s are doing and working on
  • help devs test and polish their skills under time pressure

Code jams, coder night, hack day, or simply a hackathon is the sort of event that brings some of the most dedicated and talented programmers together for extensive hours of straight-up coding and teamwork. It is an event that fosters collaboration within the hackers’ community and refinement of their skills. Hackathons take ideas off the scratch paper and bring them, well in many cases, to your smartphone or computer.

Quite a few successful startup companies launched after 48 hours of heavy-duty brainstorming and hacking. GroupMe, an East Coast-based startup, makes group text messaging with friends a breeze and recently closed its second round of financing at $10.6 million. They also won last year’s TechCrunch Disrupt: New York Hackathon. Qwiki, an interactive information experience provided via video, was the winner of TC Disrupt competition last September in San Francisco. Founders Doug Imbruce and Louis Monier raised $8 million in funding and their demo convinced Facebook millionaire Eduardo Saverin to invest in the company.

Facebook Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth confirms that several of the most innovative features the social network runs today were pioneered during the company’s regular internal hackathons, specifically the Think Chat, Video, and the Like button.

The key ingredient of a hackathon is the challenge. Tapping into the developers desire to compete with like-minded hackers – developers ingest an ample amount of caffeine and get down to business. Whether the motivation is to escape from daily life or work on a side project they’ve been itching to do

For many developers and web designers, hacking days are a means to break from the norm and work on the side projects they have been putting off forever. It is also a way for some of them to share their ideas with fellow developers and gain additional skills in the process.

“I think everyone can relate to that experience in college. You write the best term papers the night before it’s due,” says Peter Morano, co-founder of Hackatopia, a site that lists and helps with the organization of hackathons.

Hackathons come in different shapes, length and structure but a few components seem to be crucial for such events – energy drinks (or any other caffeinated liquid for that matter), pizza and high-bandwidth Internet connection. Depending on the organizer’s goals, hackathons vary from small, more intimate gatherings between geeks to large, conference-like events. Companies like LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Facebook run their own internal hackathons aiming to encourage fresh ideas and innovation.

The term ‘hacking’ may carry its stigmas, but it’s the driving force behind the myriad of innovations we see springing up. Encouraging developers to venture out of their vessels into a setting with like minded fellows seems trivial enough, but it’s important to note that elements like time crunch, food, liquids and competition are mandatory in letting the energies.

One such upcoming event is the BeMyApp WeekEnd – where people congregate with their best iOS ideas to pitch in front of a squad of developers, designers and others passionate about mobile development. After pitching, developers vote on the best ideas followed by speed dating style mixing that helps pair ideas with designers and developers. Hacking commences as soon as teams are assembled and carries into Saturday. On Sunday the presentation of the apps ensue in front of a panel of jurists that ultimately decide the winner. There is also a web login beta testing platform that lets pre-registered visitors download the apps, test, and vote on another winner, something like a people’s choice award. The two winning teams walk away with a 5,000 ad-sponosred campaign. We encourage you all to check it out. Registration is currently open and free.

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