Sooo.... what exactly IS a Hackathon?

Let me ask you a few questions:  are you interested in tech, startups, incubators and accelerators? Are you interested in starting a company? Or are you a developer or engineer, but you are missing the business-mind?  Maybe you just want to work on your public speaking skills.  Would you like to experience 3 months of startup experience in 2 1/2 days?

A Hackathon provides you a 54 hour immersive learning environment.

The traditional perception of Hackathons is a bunch of engineers sitting in a room, drinking redbull and coding like mad all weekend.  Those events still exist, but that is not what this article will touch on.  In recent years, the term Hackathon has expanded.  I was blown away and really engaged once I realized what I was missing out on because I kept thinking 'a Hackathon is not for me'.

As a Hackathon participant I found my experience to be exhilarating: smart people, together for a weekend, finding ground-breaking solutions to difficult problems. During 2-3 days, you feel empowered, discuss important topics with experts and it usually ends with a party and some cool prizes for the winners.

What happens at a Hackathon?  People involved fall into four categories: sponsors, mentors, participants, and observers. On Friday sponsors, participants and observers get together to mingle.  Participants each get an opportunity to pitch a business idea that they have.  After hearing the pitches, participants choose who else they want to work with and teams are formed. They then select which one of their pitched ideas the team will focus on for the weekend. 

Then on Saturday, participants, mentors and sponsors come back (no observers admitted on Saturday).  In the morning, teams strategize on what their approach will be.  After lunch, the mentors arrive, introduce themselves and share a bit about their backgrounds .  Mentors are experts in their respective fields and they are there on Saturday afternoon as a resource to give feedback, advice, and sometimes a humbling blow to your poorly vetted plan.  

On Sunday morning the participants come back to continue to work on their product/business plan.  In the afternoon, the mentors return for more advice and feedback while teams finalize their pitches.  Then everyone is invited back (including observers) to see the presentations. There is a judging and awards ceremony, some prizes for the winners, and typically a party at the end for everyone.

Who should come?  EVERYONE!  We can't stress this enough.  It takes individuals in a variety of roles and skill sets to run a company, so the same can be said for participants of a Hackathon.  Not in tech? That's great!  You have just as much value to give and gain from this experience as techies do.  Examples of previous attendees are engineers, developers, sales leaders, marketing experts, entrepreneurs, lawyers, HR professionals, students, etc...


There is only one way to find out if you have a good idea and it is to apply yourself and try. Are you brave enough to be part of the adventure?


Here are five reasons why you should participate in a Hackathon:

1. A vibrant community-  Do you feel like a sheep at work and you seriously believe you can disrupt things around you? Well, people that join Hackathons share the exact same point of view. Come and meet ambitious people impassioned by innovation and technology.

2. Fun, Fun & Fun-  Do you keep spending your weekends out in the same bars, with the same people? Find out about a different way of having fun. Focus on a project for the entire weekend and be pushed by experts.

3. A place to learn-  You have been working on your product, but you don’t really know the theory behind all the successful unicorns of Silicon Valley? Hackathons use models and theories successfully used to validate business models and it’s a methodology that works. You want a crash course in how to become a successful startup?  A Hackathon can provide invaluable experience.

4. Experts everywhere-  Hackathons are an incredible melding pot of professionals coming from a variety of backgrounds. They will confront your ideas and you can have access to in-the-moment feedback from industry experts. Come and vet your ideas with experts from all markets and backgrounds, let’s see if you pass the test!

5. Sponsors can become clients-  Companies sponsor Hackathons for a reason: they likely are having some difficulties in innovating in certain areas of their business, or they want to see what are startups doing.  Hackathons are a privileged place to meet companies looking for a new way of solving their issues. What is a better way of scaling up a startup, than by acquiring a large corporation as a client? Seize the opportunities and apply to the Hackathons.


Ready for this new challenge? Purchase a participant ticket.  Not sold on participating? Come watch with an Observer ticket. We offer discounts for follow-up events to previous attendees. Being an observer is a great way to get exposed to these type of events, and then you can participate in a future Rocket Juice Hackathon at a reduced ticket price.

Rocket Juice is presenting TechCode's AI Hackathon September 8th, 9th and 10th. You can buy tickets here to participate or observe.  Not available for TechCode's AI Hackathon? Check out our  upcoming Hackathon Series on Law and Cryptography. 


Stacy SmithComment