Business Impact

6 Reasons to Host a Hackathon

Hackathons inspire innovative, creative solutions—here’s why you should host one.

Are you looking to inspire others to build software? Are you interested in new technology like AI and wondering what kind of software or processes can be built with it? 

A creative space like a hackathon can ignite innovation and problem-solving. Public hackathons bring together developers, designers, and engineers from all over the world to find solutions to problems. For a business, there are a lot of benefits to hosting a hackathon that vary depending on your goals.

Whether you’re a director of developer relations or a member of a college club, hosting a hackathon could help you achieve your business goals. In this post, you’ll find six key reasons for hosting a hackathon and some tips for a successful event. Let's dive in!

#1 Crowdsource Use Cases

Hosting a hackathon is a ramped-up version of an open call to build a project. A hackathon’s high-energy, competitive nature pushes participants to their limits—sparking creativity and unique problem-solving. With a fresh perspective, unrestricted by corporate processes and structures, participants can explore and deliver novel solutions. Hosting one creates an environment where new use cases can flourish.

To make sure your hackathon is fuelling the fire, give participants resources and room to breathe. This is especially important in AI hackathons or hackathons around new technologies. 

Tip: Keep your requirements simple and provide resources that give participants a boost. Hackathon participants have said that the most helpful resources are example project code, starter project ideas, and discussion channels to get technical help. 

#2 Grow Your Developer Community

Make your marketing efforts go beyond impressions. With an incentive and timeline to build, the developers you reach with a hackathon will be motivated to do more than just sign up for your product. They’ll go a step further and create a project. A hackathon is a natural developer activation initiative that takes a developer from zero to hero over the course of a few days or weeks.

Tip: To get the most growth from your hackathon, get your marketing team and others from your organization involved with the planning. Influencers, sponsors, and the excellent network effect of your team can help boost registrations so that your hackathon can inspire more devs to build.

#3 Strengthen Your Developer Community

Are developers hanging out around your API, tool, or technology? It’s great that you’ve found developers interested in your offering, and your goal should be to keep them interested! 

Hosting a hackathon can keep your organization top of mind with your existing developer community. Hackathons are unique in that they give developers an opportunity to experiment with your tools and show off their knowledge of them. Hackathons can also help your community of developers by providing them with direction and a potential prize to put on their LinkedIn profiles.

Tip: Focus on your community by first gauging their interests and availability. For example, if your community is full of university students, be mindful of their exam periods. Or, if your community tends to engage or disengage with specific topics (sustainability, AI, or politics), take that into consideration when coming up with a hackathon theme. 

#4 Upskill Devs on New Technologies

Be part of a developer’s resume and accomplishments. Submitting a project to a hackathon is a great way for a developer to learn new skills and technology while completing a project for their portfolio. In a hackathon setting, they’ll be motivated to test your product and sharpen their skills with it—which could have a lasting impact on them throughout the course of their careers. Organizing a hackathon and providing guidance and resources with this in mind will help you and your participants.

Tip: Make your hackathon inclusive of all developer expertise levels by accommodating beginners. Starter code, example projects, and beginner-friendly tutorials will result in more skilled participants at the end. 

#5 Generate an Ecosystem of Projects

Want to fill your users’ toolbox with new features like AI or automations? You can host a hackathon to call developers to build apps and add-ons for your users. If your product allows for integrations, has a feature marketplace, or an app store, you’ll want it filled with a variety of options for your users. Hackathons are a great way to scale getting projects built and launched within a few months.

Tip: In a public hackathon setting, make sure participants have the resources they need to build something for your product and that they have a smooth process to get approval into your marketplace/store. It is likely that most, if not all, of the projects will come in last-minute, so scale and automate the process as much as possible.

#6 Recruitment 

Hiring a skilled developer can take months. Between screening candidates and scheduling interviews, it’s difficult to make interviews and technical tests a fulfilling experience for potential candidates. Skip some of these steps and get to know your candidates in a new light during a hackathon.

Launch a hackathon and ask participants if they would be interested in a career opportunity at your company. If they end up submitting an amazing project, you have a clear contender for your open positions and a direct path to reach out.

Tip: Internal hackathons are a great way to tap into your existing team’s talents and give team members a new outlet to flex their skills.

Why Host a Hackathon?

Hosting a hackathon goes beyond networking and having fun; it's an investment in developers. The benefits extend to the long-term impact on product, community, marketing, and recruitment. By fostering an open and inclusive developer experience you can bring excitement and positive changes across your network. So, are you ready to embrace hackathons and unlock the untapped potential of developers?

Find out how to host a hackathon with Devpost here.