Why Join a Rainmaking Hackathon?
“An extremely high-powered environment with a lot of room for personal development.” — RM hackathon participant
In the world of startups and entrepreneurship there are continuous fads and trends. For years, companies have wanted to participate in an accelerator program, or even have their own. Then came the in-house innovation labs. For a long time, hackathons have been a big thing, but mostly outside of the Nordics. Finally, they are making their way to our corner of the world.
For a participant, here are many reasons for joining a hackathon. Below we have outlined some of the ones highlighted by our participants. First we explore the general value of attending a hackathon, next we highlight the reasons for each of our participating personas: Developer, Business, Designer, and Industry Specialist.
Expand your network with like minded participants.
People at our events have a lot in common. They are up for creating new solutions, challenging the status quo, and proving their creative skills. Attending a hackathon is a great way to get to know like-minded people.
Develop new skills.
While we might have similar things motivating us, our skills differ immensely. Some are able to write code, or ‘hack’, in the original sense of the word, while others might have a business mindset, and others know how to create the stuff people want trough design and interaction. A good prototype requires all three aspects. We often think of this as the Venn diagram pictured below, and at our hackathons we enable participants to form teams that include all three mindsets.
By surrounding yourself with people who know stuff you don’t, you will most likely learn something from them. Your thinking might get closer to the center of the three aspects above.
Need a team for a startup?
Besides learning new skills, a hackathon is a good place to find a co-founder for your new startup. Not only can you test your idea in a fail-friendly environment, you can also put the people around you to the test. And who knows, maybe your next co-founder is somewhere in the crowd?
In it for the experience.
Some people spend their weekends playing football, while others go to rave parties. Some go to hackathons, and some do it all. The common denominator here is a desire to have a good time. We want our hackathons to mainly be a fun and social activity. That’s why we include breaks like office yoga, a communal dinner or a swim in the harbour. Fun and well-being should not be excluded even though you’re on a 48-hour deadline. Naturally, good food and local drinks are also part of the experience.
Enough with the generalist’s value proposition. Below we have emphasized the value of attending a hackathon targeted each of our participating personas: Developer, Business, Designer, and Industry Specialist.
Public speaking. Pitching a new idea requires explaining it to someone. Sales and persuasion skills become important, and at our hackathons you can practice with our experienced mentors and improve your public speaking skills.
Small talk can be difficult, not only for developers. At hackathons, few people know each other beforehand. Everyone is on equal terms and what a better way to practice turning strangers into acquaintances? And maybe even friends? Often, all it takes is to dare open up and tell us about your interests.
Resources - our hackathons always have plenty. Real-life data, APIs, sandbox environment, you got it.
Where is the revenue stream? Can you dig your way to it? Twist your brain. If there is value for the user, the business should somehow tap into this. Some times the revenue streams seem obvious, but is this set-up really the one maximizing the revenue?
Tired of talk and ready for some doing? Pull out the tools. Business Model Canvas and Value Proposition Canvas are great places to start. Make the connection between ‘what can be done’ and ‘what makes business sense”. Notice how hands-on designers are. Ever heard of design thinking? Programmers are hands-on as well. Get insights into how developers think and work. Time might be short, but you can definitely watch and ask them.
Creating value for the user. This is your chance to get a product (prototype) in the hands of the user in a very short time. How will you convey the MVP? Paper mock-up or digitally? Oh, the look on their faces when they get it, am I right? ;)
Test, fast! Spend some time Saturday to test your idea with your target audience. Hit the streets or online channels. Validation could be what sets you apart from the competing teams. But remember, you only have 48 hours!
Do you know a lot about the financial sector? Or maybe another industry? At each of our hackathons we develop prototypes targeted a specific industry. You might have something none of the above personas have: industry expertise. Whether you are a student or a professional, chances are that your take on the industry will be deeper and hence you are able to guide the team towards valuable solutions.
Broaden your horizon. Having spent much time in an industry comes with a backside as well. There is value in being a novice. Open your mind and really listen to the viewpoints of your teammates. Remember Arthur C. Clarke’s 1. law?
“When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”
Bring ideas back to your professional life. You will most likely get to contribute a lot in directing the team. But all those ideas pitched during the 48 hours can serve as sources of inspiration for your professional life. Furthermore, the three personas above have skills that took them years to acquire. Why not watch and learn?
Finally and for all personas: to convey the idea in a short pitch requires the collaboration of all team-members. Work on that team-work.
The challenges and learning makes a hackathon a great place to develop yourself, which is why winning (maybe even participating) should earn itself a place on your resume.
Marius Cortsen, Hackathon Organizer