How to hack a Hackathon: A Primer

Agrim Singh is a serial-hackathon attendee who has operated in various capacities, those of a competitor, mentor and organiser. With nearly 4 years of experience, over 30 contests under his belt and 18 wins, this series of posts remains a humble attempt at sharing his findings and offering an introduction to this mysterious world where developers disappear for 24–48 hours and emerge at the other end with a fully-developed neckbeard, caffeinated breath and (possibly/most definitely) body odour.

This was an overdue post, partly because I never intended to write this and partly because I almost always had other commitments. So overdue that the first words on this post were written just over a year back and since then little to no progress has been made. That said, it was inevitable that I would, at some point, put my thoughts down — whether here or on my private blog — and thus, in true hackathon style — I’ve finally written all of this out as a Primer in a night. Please excuse any errors/typos!

Medium is a great place because, according to a friend, I’ve skipped all steps in the Hackathon world hierarchy of needs and should write posts here but more importantly, Medium allows for comments, networks and shares — because all good things need to be scrutinised, abused and then shared on Facebook.

None of this is prescriptive in any way; these are my personal thoughts on the scene based on my experiences and I don’t expect readers to follow this blindly. What I do encourage, however, is a discussion which can be tethered to topics discussed here and more.


I aim to explore the world of hackathons in three separate posts with focus on the bullet-points listed below. The specific posts are linked below.

Hackathon 101: the low-down

  • What is a hackathon? — The myths and truths.
  • What’s in it for you?
  • What do you need to get started?

Pitch Perfect: how to win?

  • What do I build?
  • How do I use my hackathon time wisely?
  • Nailing success every time — a counter-intuitive approach

Hackathons for organisers and sponsors

  • Creating value for participants
  • Creating sustainability for sponsors
  • Ensuring ideas last longer than 24–48 hours
  • Repurposing “hackathons” for the social sector/public service.
  • Organising the “perfect” hackathon.

I hope you will find all of this useful, and more. Brickbats and bouquets are most welcome on Twitter and Facebook.

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