Why organising a hackathon is awesome and every student should try it.
So I have finally had enough sleep to sober down and write about my experience of organising Clash Hacks. It was three months ago when I told myself that 2017 is going to be a different year. Call it a resolution or as Guy sensei would say, a self rule or whatever you feel like but I told myself that I am going to start doing stuff rather than just talking about it this year.
I had won 11 hackathons and participated in about 20 of them at this point of my life and I realised that I had been talking about organising one since forever. So I decided that it is going to be the first thing I do this year. I had no experience of organising any sorts of large events, let alone a hackathon but I absolutely loved the culture and wanted to promote it here in India and thus decided to give it a shot.
The first thing I did was find a reliable team and it was easy. I asked my college squad whether they were interested in organising a hackathon and they immediately got on board. Luckily, I have an amazing friend circle and we had the right mix of tech enthusiasts, managerial people, designers and people who are just good with people. We had an amazing time in the last three months and I can’t think of a single person in the team who has not learnt something of value during this period. From getting better at development and designing to learning how to talk to people in the real world, we made sure each one of us steps out of our comfort zones to try and learn something new while contributing to the event. We even organised a few sessions for students before the event on how they can get started with hackathons and development in general which was also a new experience for most of our team members and helped not only the attendees but also the team expand their skill set.
Next, we decided a date and venue and to my surprise that was pretty easy as well. There are a lot of amazing community enablers who promote such events and 91springboard is one of them, they not only provided us with their venue but also a lot of logistic and miscellaneous support in organising the event. I am pretty sure that if you want to organise one yourself, you’ll find some really cool people who would like to help you. The point being, “How will I find a venue for the event ?” should not be a valid excuse if you’re ready to look around.
We went on a sponsor hunt soon after and we managed to get 25+ sponsors on board for the very first edition of our hackathon. A lot of students don’t realise that there are some amazing companies out there who would love to collaborate with you which becomes a huge barrier for them in organising any event. One need to realise that if offered something of value, almost any company would get on bard. We tried to provide each sponsor something that has a positive ROI for them and it served us really well. The point being, “I won’t get enough sponsors to organise it properly” should never be a valid excuse since companies are always on the look out for branding, improving developer relations and even good hiring opportunities and hackathons are the ideal event for these things.
When we started the registration process, we were honestly expecting about 300 applications. We ended up receiving 1000+ applications and it was the most amazing feeling ever. It was at this point that we realised that developers absolutely love hackathons and hackathon swag. We spent absolutely no money or even a lot of time on marketing or promoting the event. Techies are always on the lookout for such events and we were a part of the right channels, groups and communities to spread it. One of our posts caught some attention on Hackathon Hackers and that gave us a huge boost. The point being, “How would I get people to attend my event ?” should never be an excuse since your target audience is not only actively looking for events like yours but can also be found in some major groups which would let you reach the right people instantly.
The event was widely appreciated. We had a balanced mix of hardcore hackers and hackathon virgins which played a crucial role in maintaining the right learning environment during the event. We also had several informative sessions for the attendees about various topics.
We, as a team, met some amazing people not only from our sponsor companies but also in the form of our mentors, judges and participants. Our network almost doubled after the event and a little birdie told me your network is equal to your net worth. I got a chance of mentoring some people at the event myself an it was the most humbling experience ever. I went from pitching my project in front of judges at different events to helping people improve their projects to make them better. I realised that building a good project at a hackathon is really cool but helping 100+ people build great projects is cooler.
I have barely slept and have missed a lot of college classes in the last three months but boy, was it worth it ? Hell yeah. I would recommend each and every university student to organise a hackathon in their college life as it teaches you so much and the amount of exposure I got is unparalleled to anything I have done so far as a university student. Drop me a mail at email@example.com if you would like any sort of assistance in organising one yourself and I would be happy to help you or reach out to hackSociety, who are a bunch of seasoned hackers including me trying to help organise better hackathons.
Check out this video to get a feel of what a hackathon is like.