Capital One’s Gift the Code Hackathon 2018 was a gift to so many — including me

Photo courtesy of Betakit

On November 18th, as the elevator doors opened and I walked into the Capital One Gift the Code Hackathon, I couldn’t help but smile at all the happy, tired faces still toiling away as the deadline to submit their projects loomed. Since 2016, the annual Gift the Code Hackathon has had a simple purpose at its core: to help our community by leveraging our collective skills and use digital for good to help bridge the tech gap faced by local charities. This year, they invited me to partner with them on the event by serving as a judge — though, as I reflect on my Gift the Code experience, it really feels like I, too, was given a gift that weekend.

At this year’s iteration of Gift the Code, over 200 people split themselves into 34 different teams, each selecting a brief contributed by one of the partner charities: Kids Help Phone, the Movember Foundation, Camp Quality, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada, the Centre for Mindfulness Studies, and Toronto Cat Rescue. Folks from Capital One actually worked with each of the charities for months leading up to the event, clarifying the problems Gift the Code participants would be tasked participants to solve and ensuring data, style guides and APIs were available to the teams right from the beginning of the event. Not many hackathons go to those lengths to ensure an amazing experience; it’s one of the many gifts the Capital One team offers its participants.

It’s been a while since I participated in a hackathon, and the chance to drop in for the final hours of this one was such a treat. I loved watching teams present their solutions — they were all so good! I also loved speaking with the charity partners, such as Ted Kaiser, Vice President, Innovation & Technology of Kids Help Phone. Kids Help Phone was a charity partner for last year’s Gift the Code as well, and they’re about to launch a product that was first proposed at last year’s event. This hackathon matters to organizations like Kids Help Phone — they use it to solicit ideas and MVPs, and then they work with the teams to get the best products and innovations across the finish line and into market. Gift the Code bridges the tech gap for charities, and that is such a gift.

And it’s going to happen again. To end the weekend, Capital One announced $100,000 in funding to ensure the winning teams would have the resources needed to fully develop and implement their solutions for each charity.

So while Gift the Code is a hackathon, it’s also a gift-athon. Participants receive the gifts of great, well thought-out problems to solve (not to mention delicious food, unlimited coffee and cool swag). Charities receive the gift of talented minds working on their toughest technology problems, plus the funds to turn the best ideas into real, live solutions. And I was given a gift, too — I was incredibly inspired by what I saw in front of me and happening all around me. We all have the potential to use digital for good, and Gift the Code showed me just how many people are willing to take the time to harness that potential to have a real impact on our communities and, by extension, the world.

Thanks for having me, Gift the Code. And congratulations on a truly remarkable, welcomed and needed event. Looking forward to next year!

This post is sponsored by Capital One