The 10 Types of People You Meet at a Hackathon


They’re an amazing way to try out new tech, work on ideas, and meet interesting people. We’ve been on a fair share of hackathons and organized our own ones. One funny thing we observe is that, after having been on a few hackathons, we recognized certain types of people you meet.

Update: A friend of mine brought his hackathon idea to a shippable product! They are currently on kickstarter, check it out!

1. The Noob

He’s cute: It’s his first hackathon, and he is extremely ambitious. During the idea pitches, he is usually the one proposing ‘Let’s build a 3D MMORPG on iOS/Android!’ The first few hours he is extremely busy drawing UML diagrams and planning the architecture of his project, just like he learned in school. A few hours into the hackathon, he realizes that all other teams are far ahead and he is the only one in his team actually doing stuff, because he got talked into joining a team with only business guys.

2. The Gadget Nerd

You recognize the Gadget Nerd easily because he’s the only one that brings his Desktop computer together with a gigantic display to the hackathon. He also owns a gazillion of (programmable) gadgets: An Oculus Rift, a Quadcopter, and at least two different Smartwatches (“let’s make them all work together!”). Later in the night he is the one gaming on the Xbox. If he’s on your team, try out his new Apple Watch.

3. The Consultant

He has spent 1 or 2 years already at Bain, McKinsey, or BCG, and has a Business Degree at a prestigious school, which he never fails to mention. He comes to the Hackathon in a suit (or at least a fine shirt), which is because “sorry guys, had to rush here from the airport, I was meeting a client”. He seems to know everything about startups, and he also says he “is about to found a startup, something that really scales. Not some trivial eCommerce bullshit!”. At the hackathon, he is extremely good at delegating tasks, but not so much in actually doing stuff. There is one exception: he is really good at drawing Powerpoint slides with a lot of data and “projected” financials based on “expert knowledge”.

4. The Networker

The Networker is not at the hackathon to build anything. He’s just here to hang out, get some free food, and meet new people. He spends most of the hackathon at the buffet, or checking Facebook and Twitter. His major contribution to the hack is adding everyone on LinkedIn and creating a Facebook group for all participants. He is usually the only one who uses the hashtag of the hackathon. Ask him about the projects each team does, you can be sure he has talked to all of them.

5. The Startup Kids

They have no idea of coding and come in larger groups. Their new social media app is going to be the next big thing. The idea is revolutionary and disruptive, usually a mix of Tinder and Snapchat (for X), but with Big Data! If they are on your team, be sure to do some iterations on the idea, since it is probably crap. If you are lucky, they can do sales and are valuable in the future. Some say they just talk too much, others envy them for actually getting investments after the pitch.

6. The Employee

Being new in corporate, his boss sent him to the hackathon, because he heard it’s the new thing but he himself is busy. The employee is overwhelmed with all the spirit and people actually working and building stuff (not something he experiences frequently). He is all in for joining the team that defeats poverty with a browser extension, because impact is what matters. With his MS Office knowledge he creates project and business plans and even writes a press release. If he’s on your team, make sure his excel sheets do not end up in your final presentation.

7. The Enterprise Java Guy

He has been constructing Spring backends for the last 20 years. “It is proven stack, it should really be used for any serious project”. If you’re lucky he finally has Hibernate + Spring configured two hours before the presentation. But Spring security just does not want to enable your application to access the backend. At least almost all tests are passed, so could we not just show the test coverage in the presentation? If he’s in your team, you better mock everything. Some say he’s just too old for the hackathon, others look up to him, because he can actually build stuff that works in the wild.

8. The Coach

He is not actually a participant, but you really have to watch out for him. Even if your product is not his special area, he sure has some disruptive thoughts on it. He knows the “internet’s been happening, so that really changes the ecosystem”. So why don’t you put some sharing feature in your app? And you should really focus on this new feature suggestion of him, because that would make your product stand out in the market and finally give you the product-market fit. If he’s visiting your team, you better get that conversation done quickly or in the end you will just have wasted hours explaining your product over and over again.

9. The Recruiter

Easily confused with the coach, the recruiters standard sentence is ‘Wow, that’s a cool project’, but here is the trick to identify him: When he visits your team, he talks to the tech guys and asks a lot about the stack you are using. Sure it is cool to talk about that, but once you notice his eyes light up when you trigger certain buzzwords, you know he is not really interested in your hack. But he ‘has a lot of clients looking for qualification exactly like yours’.

10. The Serial Hackathon Winner

The Serial Hackathon Winner is not here to build awesome stuff, he is here to win. He spends no time at the inspiring talks/keynotes and even skips the free food. His code is extremely ugly, but everything that he shows in the final Pitch works (even if it’s all fake). He tries to anticipate all Jury questions and has dry-run all answers three times. He is known in the “Hackathon scene”, and it seems he could live off the prize money that he earns. Some admire his attitude, others say he destroys the spirit of hackathons.


We hope that you recognized some of the types ☺.

If you have not been to a hackathon, definitely try it out and see if you can spot ‘em all!

Here are some lists of upcoming hack events

Follow us @korbinianbreu and @thpthoughts.

Pictures: @matylda / flickr. License CC-BY-SA