Can You Live off Hackathons?

This week this TechCrunch article on the rise of the pro-hacker ended up in my inbox and I wondered how, if you so desired to make your living off of hackathons, would you get started.

The TechCrunch article lists some of the highest cash payout hackathons, but many of those require your presence at locations that are rather far away. Funding the travel part of that could be prohibitive for many.

So I considered how a hacker from Syracuse could get started bootstrapping a living off hackathons. I considered that, to begin with, you would start from zero, unable to travel very far (only by car or bus) and you would not want to pay an entry fee.

Even with those parameters, it wasn’t hard to find a number of hackathons within the region with decent cash payouts that could allow you to make a profit after considering travel cost. This gets significantly easier if you are a college student.

It also wasn’t hard to find a list of events that are in need of attendees and willing to reimburse for travel expenses. Unfortunately, most of those events offer physical prizes rather than cash. The need for attendees, however, means the chances of winning are higher.

The other side of this coin is that some of the well-established and well funded hackathons are now requesting that attendees apply to participate. Even RIT’s BrickHack is requesting RIT students apply.

I also noticed that hackathons really really love parallax scrolling sites right now. And you can pretty much immediately tell if it is a collegiate event because the header image is a building.

So I am interested in hearing your thoughts. Those who have won prizes at Hack Upstate or other hackathons: is the time invested worth the payout if you need to live on it? Would this be a great way to make new connections and travel, at least regionally, while creating interesting projects? How long do you think you could go before burning out? Will we start to see pro-hackers conquering these events and increasing the divide between those who are learning and participating for fun and those who are there only to win?

Let me know what you think by tweeting @HackUpstate or leaving your thoughts in the comments.