Kabbage Hack Day

Robert Dean
Oct 18, 2019 · 4 min read

This past July we held our 9th Hack day event at Kabbage. It’s a fun 24 hours where we encourage the entire company to come up with ideas, form teams, and build a working prototype. The event is a great time for people to try new technologies and solve interesting problems that may not necessarily be Kabbage or FinTech related.

Each hack day we tweak the contest to ensure we’re improving the experience for contestants and the value provided to Kabbage. This year we added a workshop with executive leadership where teams could pitch their ideas. This was a huge success as it allowed teams to receive valuable feedback before attempting to build a prototype and ultimately deliver a better product.

Scheduling a company-wide event can be challenging when you consider all of the milestones each department is working towards. However, we’ve managed to work out some fun dates the past few times, and we always enjoy seeing what designs our creative department comes up with. For example, we held one on May 4th 2019 which is Star Wars day.

Here’s a checklist we’ve put together over the years that helps us plan Hack day:

  • Determine budget, figure out which departments cover things. T-shirts, posters, prizes, food/drink.
  • Look at the calendar to see when the optimal time will be. For us we make sure there aren’t any major releases, end of month or other quotas in effect, etc.
  • Figure out a theme, this can affect the previous point.
  • Begin talking about it early and get people thinking about what they’d like to do. Get everyone hyped up about it.
  • Figure out some basic rules and get feedback. For example, originally we had a 4 person team size limit. There were complaints that it was too restrictive so we changed it 6–8 people. Some of our other rules are: Must present a working prototype and you must attend the presentations to vote on your favorite.
  • Decide how winners will be chosen. People’s choice has proven popular for us, but we also have a panel that can select winners or be a tie-breaker.
  • If you go with a panel/judges then you need to determine who they will be. We like to bring in external judges to help spread the Kabbage brand and get fresh outside perspectives. Make sure to get on their schedule and get a confirmation from them. Be prepared to have backups for the inevitable cancellation.
  • Determine if you want it to be anything goes or focused on a specific goal or company initiative. We’ve discussed having two a year at Kabbage, one freestyle and the other business-driven.
  • For a business-driven hack day you can have multiple winning categories: Most innovative, Most functional, People’s choice, Most practical
  • Figure out a presentation time limit and stick to it.
  • Make sure to coordinate with various departments, especially with regards to IT and getting a place ready and setup for the presentations. Creative is another department you’ll need to give enough lead time so they can create t-shirts and posters (the vendors will also have lead time). You can’t expect them to drop their daily job to work on hack day designs. Make sure to place an order large enough that all participants will get a t-shirt and have plenty extra for those that just want one.
  • Set a deadline for teams to sign up and try to get people to sign up early. This helps get a head count which is useful for food, t-shirts, and time required to present.
  • If you have food/drink, make sure to order in advance. This is extremely important with large orders. Usually a week is enough time.
  • Make sure you have prizes ready (the trophies can come later once winners are determined)
  • Once everyone has presented and you’ve collected votes, have an impartial person count and/or verify the votes. If a tie happens then utilize the panel judges to be the tie breaker.
  • Present the winners with prizes/trophies.
  • And of course make sure everyone has fun!

Past Winners

  • Kabbage disbursement and repayment via Bitcoin.
  • Integrate Amazon Echo with the Kabbage platform.
  • Measure the brain waves of users during the sign up process. Shows areas that are stressful for our customers.
  • Dashboard and voting system for our beer kegs in the common area. Also tracks pour amount so we know when a keg is empty.
  • An internal social network for Kabbage employees.
  • A customer journey visualization tool.

Kabbage is always looking for talented people to join our ranks, so apply at https://www.kabbage.com/company/careers/ and you can join our next Hack day!


Kabbage Engineering