Why Hackathons are so Important

It was a chilly Friday morning near old town in Seattle. I had just arrived at a venue that was going to be my part-time home for the weekend as I was part of a team that was putting on a hackathon to celebrate the Superbowl called “Sports Hack Day.” The hackathon’s primary focus was around football, but in general it was about what engineers could build within a weekend centered around sports. The teams were set, the pitches made, and off they went building what they would demo on Sunday morning.

For the next 48 hours I watched as team after team gathered around a table within the venue to begin building their apps. Some were struggling more than others, but you could tell there was real collaboration happening to come up with the best possible application they could build within a short amount of time.

Sunday morning had finally came and we were getting ready for the teams to begin presenting their solutions. The judges had taken their seats at the front of the stage as one-by-one the teams laid out what they built. The judges provided their candid feedback and suggestions trying to outline ways these teams could add value to their solutions and perhaps even find a path to making it an actual company. Some of the applications were really intriguing while others were just a tongue and cheek app built for humor and time wasting mainly with the winning application being in an SMS based drinking game built on Twilio.

While the app that won never got funding or was even built to be a large application, what happened through that weekend was much bigger than that. The teams honed their skills, learned how to work together, and celebrated their community through problem solving. This is the true value of a hackathon and why they are so important. They are a way to build and foster a community and put aside any differences. No one discussed politics or even argued over which team was the better team. It was an opportunity to bring along their skills and build something from the ground up that would continue to build their network and add value to their community in a way that brought together people from different backgrounds and upbringings. What connected them was their pure desire to build something creative.

Aside from being a great place where engineers can collaborate, hone their skills, and meet new people, hackathons offer a great vehicle to find solutions to problems quickly that often lead to disrupting an industry. Some of today’s most influential companies have been built during a weekend hackathons. Some, like Uber, have gone on to build an entire ecosystem around ride sharing.

These events are also often good for businesses to showcase their solutions to help these engineers build faster, add features, or provide special access that would not be made available to the general public. In fact, we at BrightWork have made hackathons a major part of our business strategy since day one because we know our platform can add value to make it much easier for developers and engineers to bring their ideas to life faster. So the next time you see a hackathon happening in your area, go check it out. You may find one of us there to help you bring your next winning hackathon idea to life.

Josh Carter

CEO/Co-Founder @ BrightWork (Techstars Chicago '16), ex-Twilion, Father, US Navy Vet.

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