When Your Hackathon Goes Remote

When Merrill Bajana, one of our product managers and myself volunteered to take over the hosting of GumGum’s 5th annual Hackathon, it was pre-COVID-19. We began planning for an event in our Santa Monica office, but later made the call to go fully remote this year. We put a lot of thought into how to make 2020 the most successful Hackathon yet — here are some considerations and ideas for hosting a remote hackathon!

Michele
Michele
Oct 29 · 7 min read
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Building excitement

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Other posts we did: reminders, key dates, post a photo from past Hackathons, and post pic a pic of you with swag.

Sign up and forming teams

  1. We created a document with everyone who signed up to indicate their skills and team status (looking for team, has a team, has an idea) to encourage people to find and form teams. This made it so anyone with an idea could find people with the skillsets they needed. We had many people reach out to others from this list. You can find a template of this document here.
  2. Since Merrill and I have both been at the company for a while now and know almost everyone, we made it clear that we would personally help match anyone who was looking for specific skillsets — and we did!
  3. Anyone who didn’t have a team by the week before the Hackathon, we matched into teams, so there was no risk in not finding a team.

Brainstorming ideas

We hosted a pre-Hackathon brainstorm call to facilitate ideas. Ahead of the meeting, Merrill and I pre-filled a Trello board with categories, ideas and thought starters. We circulated the board, and then encouraged people to add their own ideas and join cards of ideas they were interested in. During the meeting, we went over each of the ideas and had people ask questions or mention if they were interested in it. This sparked some additional ideas, and some of the ideas here ended up being explored in the Hackathon.

Perks and Swag

Generally perks and swag are a big incentive for participants. In office, we would provide meals and fun surprises throughout the Hackathon. Going remote meant we needed to be creative about what we could offer. We decided to go with:

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The event

Presentations template: We had Sebastien put together a Hackathon themed Google presentation template so participants had one less thing to worry about.

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Judging/Awards

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  1. Giving stock grants to the Hackathon ideas that went into production from last year.
  2. The judges put together their thoughts and feedback on every presentation to later share with the teams.

Final thoughts

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Thoughts from the GumGum tech team

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