Livit’s Guide to Hackathons

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Late last year Livit made its first foray into the exciting world of hackathons. So far we’ve brought together diverse groups of software engineers, computer science students, product managers, web developers and other professionals to make a positive impact through the power of AI.

These events were powered by the Livit team’s 10+ years of experience in end-to-end events production, such as sourcing talent, mentors and facilitators, logistics management, marketing, and providing venues and catering. As we’ll continue exploring various types of AI through hackathons in 2024, and will also tackle circular economies and sustainability in this unique super-charged format, it’s an ideal time for a deep dive into what hackathons are and how they benefit everyone involved — companies, sponsors, organizations, mentors and trainers, and individual participants.

So what is a hackathon?

A hackathon is an event that unites people with a range of professional and personal backgrounds to use technology to accomplish a goal over a short period of time. Usually, participants are supported by mentors or coaches who provide guidance, expertise and encouragement during certain hours or throughout the event. 

The term hackathon (“hack” as in innovative problem-solving, not unauthorized access to computer systems) is said to have emerged in the late 1990s. And here’s a fun fact: similar concepts in the preceding decade were called “software jams” (isn’t that cute 😀). 

Today, hackathons have expanded far beyond software; they are also now used for areas including:

AreaExample
Hardware prototype developmentRobotics, Internet of Things devices
Digital designUser interfaces, UX improvement, visual concepts for apps, websites, and other digital products
Tech-based solutions for social and environmental impactImproving education, healthcare, or environmental sustainability
Data-analysis and visualization for data-driven solutionsA green energy management system for commercial buildings, or a personalized recommendation system for an e-commerce platform or streaming service (what many people now refer to as “my algorithm”)
Video game development (commonly known as “game jams”)The popular and critically acclaimed 2018 game Celeste was born during a 2016 game jam
EntrepreneurshipStartup Weekend, in which participants come together to pitch ideas, form teams, and launch startup ventures over the course of a weekend. Since it was founded in the US in 2007, Startup Weekend has hosted more than 7,000 programs in over 150 countries
Intrapreneurship (encouraging entrepreneurship among employees of an existing company or organization to drive innovation and growth)Employees collaborate to develop new products, features, or solutions that can benefit the company/organization in various ways

What are the goals of a hackathon?

No matter what area a hackathon is focused on, they generally all share similar goals:

  • Problem solving and developing solutions
  • Innovation and creativity
  • Cross-sector collaboration and teamwork among people from a diverse range of professional and personal backgrounds
  • Education and raising awareness of particular issues
  • Skills development and learning
  • Networking and community building
  • Promotion of emerging technology
  • Showcasing, pitching and receiving feedback
  • Creating sustainable and meaningful impact
  • Inspiration and motivation

Here’s an example of how a 24-hour hackathon at Livit could play out:

Day 1

TimeActivityDetails
9:00 amRegistration and kick-offParticipants arrive at the Livit Hub and register

Livit and other organizers welcome attendees, introduce the theme/challenges, and outline the rules, schedule and resources

Participants and mentors introduce themselves
10:00 am Team formation, planning and strategyBefore the event, participants with similar interests or complementary skills are divided into teams

Teams brainstorm, refine their ideas, outline their project plan, and assign roles and responsibilities

They set goals, milestones, and prioritize the day’s tasks
12:00 pm Lunch breakEveryone refuels with Livit Hub’s delicious in-house catering and gets some fresh air on the rooftop while networking
1:00 pmPrototyping and developmentDepending on their project, teams start developing their prototypes, coding, designing, or researching

They collaborate, troubleshoot challenges, and make progress towards their goals.

Mentors or coaches may provide guidance, feedback and support
6:00 pmDinner breakEveryone enjoys Livit Hub’s tasty selection of Indonesian and international favorites (all dietary requirements can be catered for

Participants share updates on their projects over dinner, and take a break to relax 
7:30 pmContinued developmentTeams continue working on their projects, focusing on implementation, testing, and iteration

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Day 2

TimeActivityDetails
12:00 am Rest or late-night collaborationLivit Hub encourages participants to rest (when it is tasked with securing participant accommodation, it is usually within walking distance of the Hub)

For participants who continue working on their projects the Hub is open 24/7 and refreshments are provided 

Participants are also welcome to nap on a beanbag or in the Hub’s quiet room, and use the showers
7:30 amBreakfastLivit Hub serves up an energizing breakfast, and participants stretch on the rooftop while basking in the morning sun
9:00 amFinal development and refiningTeams finalize their projects, refine their presentations and prepare for the demo session
11:00 am Project submissionTeams submit their prototypes or solutions to Livit and the organizers for judging
12:00 pm LunchParticipants enjoy a final meal together
1:00 pmProject presentations and judgingEach team presents their project to a panel of judges and the rest of the group, highlighting their innovation and results.

Each presentation is followed by a Q&A session and feedback from judges
3:00 pmAwards ceremony, closing remarks, and farewellLivit and the organizers announce the winners and present them with awards, prizes or certificates, and thank everyone for their participation

Participants mingle, network and say their goodbye

What are the benefits of a hackathon?

Now that you’ve got a much better idea of how hackathons work, let’s explore five benefits for five types of participants — sponsors, companies, organizations, mentors and coaches, and individual participants. We’ve also included testimonials so you can hear from the participants themselves! 

Sponsors

  1. Brand exposure: Increase visibility among a diverse audience of tech enthusiasts and industry professionals
  2. Brand alignment: Align your brand with innovative solutions and emerging technology
  3. Talent acquisition: 
  4. Networking: Connect with potential collaborators, partners and emerging talent
  5. Community support: Demonstrate your support for various communities and causes

Companies

  1. Innovation: Contribute to the development of new products, services, or systems
  2. Employee motivation: Foster a culture of innovation, teamwork, entrepreneurship, and professional growth
  3. Market insights: Gain knowledge of emerging trends and technologies
  4. Competitive edge: Position your company as a leader in innovation and positive work culture 
  5. Networking: Connect with industry experts, potential partners, and like-minded companies

Organizations

  1. Impact: Expand your reach and ability to drive positive change 
  2. Speed-up your mission: Achieve organizational goals and objectives over a short period
  3. Raise awareness: Showcase initiatives, attract volunteers, and boost community engagement
  4. Networking: Collaborate with diverse stakeholders and build meaningful relationships
  5. Leadership: Demonstrate leadership in your organization’s field

Mentors and coaches

  1. Skills development: Sharpen your teaching, mentoring and industry-specific skills
  2. Networking: Connect with and learn from other industry professionals
  3. Personal fulfillment: Contribute to a collective goal and support professional and personal growth among participants 
  4. Career opportunities: Be on the lookout for new collaborations, partnerships and career opportunities
  5. Knowledge building: Gain insights into industry trends, emerging technologies and best practices in mentoring and coaching

Individual participants

  1. Skills development: Improve a vast range of interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, from problem-solving, communication and teamwork to negotiation and even empathy  
  2. Networking: Connect with industry experts, potential employers and like-minded individuals, not to mention the possibility of making new friends!
  3. Enhance your resume: We believe that participating in a hackathon looks great on your CV, as it demonstrates your skills and determination to achieve a goal through collaborative innovation
  4. Career opportunities: Explore potential job opportunities, partnerships and other collaborations
  5. Personal growth: We’re sure you can imagine the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction each participant feels at the end of a hackathon! 

“I had the opportunity to meet many senior engineers from various fields, based both locally and abroad. It was a great opportunity to expand my connections.”

–Muhammad Alif Ramadhan, an electrical engineering student whose team won first place in Livit’s Artificial General Intelligence hackathon.

“It was my first time participating in a hackathon and I absolutely loved it. It was a great boost for creativity. The problem of empathetic AI is quite sensitive and I enjoyed working with my team on it. Also, the organizers and participants created a safe space for sharing ideas and an open dialogue that I really appreciated.”

–Sasha Balzhieva, iOS Developer

So that’s a wrap for our Guide to Hackathons. If you’re interested in working with us to deliver any type of hackathon event, either at the Livit Hub or elsewhere, please get in touch!

Agnes Kay

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