The art of the hackathon Ready or not, hackathon!

Hackathons are increasingly popular, notably for recruiting the sharp young minds in the information technology industry. But how does one organize a hackaton that will yield results?


A portmanteau of the words “hack” and “marathon”, a hackathon is a computer-programming marathon, one that is foreshadowed by a full day of endurance and caffeine overdoses. The concept is simple: a company calls for two or three days of talented developers, coders and programmers to meet in teams and produce a prototype application within a few hours.


A thousand heads are better than one

The benefits for companies are numerous. If you have a small team of in-house developers, a marathon gives you the ability to launch a product in little to no time by providing grist to the mill through the creativity of external programmers. An established organization may also want to see their product improved, and by opening access to its data, can potentially see it leveraged in new ways.

The keywords here are quick results and quick access to a large pool of talent. Marathons can be tools to recruit new developers just as much as they can help to motivate your troops internally by giving them a new lease on creativity.

Last March, the federal government, the content management software company OpenText, and the technology provider IBM all took part and supported the largest national application-programming marathon to date. The objective was to develop applications from sets of data accessible through, a Government of Canada portal. The top team won a prize of $ 25,000 before an audience of fans and investors.


Cleverly attracting top-notch talent

Attracting the best talent requires more than just baiting with money. Here are some tips that will make your small and large hackathons a success story:

1 – Think “recruiter”: Even if your marathon goal is simply to develop a product, you need to think about what would more likely attract top developers. Winning prizes can take many forms, like meetings with influential people inside your organization, whether for a potential future career or to attract investors.

2 – On target: To attract the right people, you must first target the right areas and then promote the event effectively.

3 – One stone, two birds: If you’re going to organize a marathon, organize it strategically so that it is aligned with the objectives of your business.

4 – Be Kent Nagano: In order to produce results, a hackathon must have well-established rules. You must designate a person who will handle the event, determine a clear theme, think about all aspects of intellectual property, and ensure that food and energizing drinks are provided throughout. The devil is in the details and that will make all the difference.

And remember that the end of the marathon should not spell the end of your contacts. Stay connected with the participants after the event in order to have continuous access to a pool of talent.

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