Are Hackathons Good, Unhealthy Or Overrated?

From Pope Francis to the president’s workplace, hackathons appear to be the flavour of the day. More than 80% of Fortune 100 and 60% of Fortune 500 corporations have hosted or sponsored a hackathon. With the rise in reputation comes criticism and misconceptions. Having intently witnessed greater than 300 hackathons and a number of codecs (public, corporate-sponsored, college, inner, and non-profit hackathons) over a two-year interval, one factor is totally clear.

Hackathon is a really highly effective device for innovation, IF DONE WELL.

However, there are some misconceptions and unrealistic expectations.

Companies Exploit Builders

The most typical criticism is that the large corporations outsource their work – the participant is unpaid labor and hackathons are exploitative in nature.

Hackathons are purely pushed by passionate builders/individuals. The spirit wherein individuals take part in hackathons isn’t any totally different from voluntary contributions to open supply. It stems from the will to study, experiment, resolve complicated issues, contribute and construct cool stuff.

For such builders, hackathons present the very best platform to showcase their abilities, join with their friends, search mentorship from business specialists, and achieve recognition.

Example: The latest Tesla Hackathon, which goals to resolve the 2 primary problematic bottlenecks within the robots. Tesla’s purpose right here is to not outsource work to unpaid labour. It is to crowdsource modern options to its urgent issues.

What Concerning The Builders? Are They Exploited?

If you get the prospect to work on cutting-edge expertise for one of many world’s main corporations reworking the face of the automotive business and try to resolve essentially the most urgent drawback inside 48 hours, it is extra of a bonus than an obstacle for you. A participant has so much to achieve for the effort and time she or he invests.

Aside from the financial rewards that solely go to a small proportion of individuals, the actual profit for these builders is usually elusive. As one of many individuals of the previous International Women’s Hackathon 2018 places it:

We’ve been making an attempt to develop an app that helps reply Google kinds by the “Hear me Out” voice. While we could not construct an internet app as we initially thought, only a desktop app prototype, however the strategy of sitting collectively, developing with an thought and coding it was enjoyable. In between the enjoyable, we discovered by errors and by serving to one another and getting assist from seniors and friends. Coding together with chips, maggi, espresso and associates in my room evening to nighttime and evening to morning for the entry was enlightening and pleasurable.

– Disha Agarwal, Participant, International Women’s Hackathon

Stack Overflow surveyed greater than 25,000 builders worldwide to seek out out why they participated in hackathons.


Who Owns The Hackathon IPs?

In greater than 95% of hackathons, the IPs belong to the individuals. While a majority of corporations nonetheless don’t declare IP rights for the merchandise created throughout a hackathon, there are nonetheless just a few corporations that do.

**However, we suggest that individuals learn the T&C rigorously earlier than making use of. Companies ought to be certain that they convey something more likely to deviate from the same old phrases and circumstances for such occasions.

Here is the phrases and circumstances of a latest hackathon organized by Intel.

Who owns the hackathon IPs?

However, individuals proudly owning the concepts/IPs created through the hackathons and corporations selecting to purchase the very best is a mutually helpful and welcome observe.

Here is one other variant of the phrases and circumstances for a hackathon organized by Proctor & Gamble.

Who owns the hackathon IPs?

Employees Are Required To Take Part In Inner Hackathons

Companies attempt to squeeze innovation out of staff by holding hackathons and staff are sometimes required to take part.

Companies usually wrestle to provide you with methods to interact with their staff in a extra significant approach. Ask any HR supervisor or People Director; it’s unattainable to provide you with an exercise that each worker enjoys.

A hackathon is a particular engagement that hits the candy spot and lots of use inner hackathons as a device to spice up worker engagement and foster a tradition of innovation.

Hackathon - a perfect employee engagement tool

Hackathon is among the few actions that mixes the 4 important parts of worker engagement. An worker engagement initiative ought to empower staff to faucet into their ardour, empower them to contribute meaningfully to the corporate, present recognition, and have interaction.

There could also be cases the place staff take part out of peer strain and obligation. But this isn’t a hackathon particular drawback. Peer strain within the office is frequent in companies. It is essential for corporations to make sure that collaborating in a hackathon is voluntary. Constraints might help with innovation, however not with peer strain and feeling obligated.

Innovations Hardly Ever Come From Hackathons

The improvements barely maintain up after the hackathon. GroupMe and Skype are uncommon occurrences and exceptions.

The purpose of the hackathon is to not create a blockbuster product, conjure groundbreaking improvements or construct a multi-million greenback firm inside 48 hours. If that’s the expectation, then it’s clearly improper.

The objective of a hackathon is to offer an avenue for experimenting with concepts, exploring alternatives, and making an attempt to resolve issues. If an organization can uncover attention-grabbing ideas, promising concepts and inventive options, it’ll undergo an in depth and rigorous strategy of analysis, testing and growth earlier than it may be rolled out.

A hackathon is a device to sow the tradition of innovation and meritocracy. It adheres to the precept that good concepts can come from anyplace. It is just the start of the lengthy and drawn-out strategy of innovation fraught with uncertainty. This infographic provides you an thought concerning the position of hackathons within the innovation course of.

Role of hackathon in the innovation process

Not An Efficient Recruitment Device

Unlike recruitment challenges, a hackathon is just not a recruitment device and shouldn’t be used as such. Yes, typically corporations uncover extraordinary expertise and find yourself absorbing it. But it is just a by-product and doesn’t happen repeatedly.

Neither Possible Nor Creative

Hackathon initiatives are neither possible nor creative.

This is a typical drawback that hackathon hosts face. The high quality of the output doesn’t at all times meet expectations. Over time, nevertheless, we discovered that various frequent components affect the success of the hackathons.

  1. Define drawback/purpose
  2. Providing the best contextual information
  3. Marketing for the best goal group
  4. Guidance and mentorship
  5. Set expectations proper


There isn’t any excellent device for innovation. Each course of, exercise and framework has its personal benefits and drawbacks. It is essential to handle the drawbacks. Without individuals, a hackathon is meaningless. That is why you will need to be certain that the individuals get pleasure from and get worth from hackathons.

All in all, a hackathon is a really highly effective device for innovation, IF DONE WELL.


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