First conceived in 1999, hackathons - or codefests - have traditionally been 48-hour events themed around a particular programming language or platform; or alternatively tech giants like Yahoo have hosted hackathons to unearth new talent and, just as importantly, new ideas.
For programmers and developers, hackathons have become the social pastime of choice, where they dream of teaming up with like-minded individuals and creating the next Airbnb in just two days.
Now, innovation consultancy Adpreneurs is aiming to put a new spin on hackathons by flipping the focus away from an adrenalin-fuelled 48 hour war of ideas and instead using hackathons to nurture the entrepreneurial talent of the hacker over the long-term.
Adpreneurs, whose tagline is “make shit happen”, has teamed up with San Francisco-based website Product Hunt, which championed video streaming site Meerkat before it became a sensation, in launching this new incarnation of hackathon across the UK.
During the event, media partnered by The Drum, Adpreneurs founder Nicole Bosky explained: “Our ultimate aim is to nudge wannabe founders into actual founders. The winning prizes encourage the winning teams to pursue their ideas past prototype into flourished and established ideas.
"The aim is to encourage participants to make something meaningful – creating founders that will be change they wish to see in their communities."
— James Lethem (@Sycren) November 8, 2015
For example, the latest Product Hunt Hackathon, which kicked off last weekend, included prizes such as Raspberry Pi mini-computers to help the winners learn to code and mentorship from Google and design classes from design agency Rufus Leonard.
Hackers, who were fed, watered and offered Yoga classes over the two day event in London, were given a brief to devise an “explosive solution” to world problems.
— Claude Schneider (@claudeschneider) November 8, 2015
— Adpreneurs (@Adpreneurs) November 8, 2015
Mentors circulated around offering advice and tips over the weekend, which took place in shared workspace specialist WeWork’s east London offices.
The Drum spoke to some of the 160 or so sleep-deprived but enthusiastic participants; a rich mix of geeky tech types wearing slogan-fronted T-shirts; entrepreneurs with a desire to change to the world for better; and those who simply wanted to hang out with other likeminded individuals.
Gail Taplin, a UX designer by day, spent three exhaustive sleepless days at the event, spawning, finessing, and then presenting her energy-saving idea to the judges.
She said: “I came because it’s a challenge, something different. You make friends and see what idea you come up with. In work there is always a client and budget whereas here there seems the potential and possibilities are more exiting rather than just making a client happy.”
Working alongside Taplin was Laura Brum a German head-hunter based in London for the past three years.
“I am really curious about technology,” said Brum. “I want to change something in terms of the environment Coming here helps get me more ideas.”
Unfortunately, the pair didn’t make it onto the winner’s rostrum, but those who did were credited with coming up with some top notch ideas by the judges which included Ricardo Davila- Otoya, community manager at Google Launchpad and Ari Helgason, VC at tech fund Dawn Capital.
Here we take a look at the seven finalists, leading with the overall winner, Sign.
First place: Sign
Sign is an idea conceived to counter the problem of the unscrupulous landlord. Putting a deposit down on a property can be risky with a number of scare stories of unscrupulous landlords running off with the money before contracts are signed. Sign aims to negate this problem by building a platform, where the contract signing and deposit payments are carried out in one simple transaction by being placed in a custodial tenancy deposit scheme.
Not only would Sign negate the tedium of signing papers butaccording to its founders, its simple email transaction model would safeguard against corruption.
— Tg Green Teas (@DrinkTg) November 8, 2015
— Ricardo Davila-Otoya (@davila_otoya) November 8, 2015
— Sam Dickie (@thisdickie) November 8, 2015
Second place: Better
Better is a “simple and fun” app whose aim is to help fight low self-esteem. It takes its lead from exposure therapy, a technique which exposes a patient to a feared object in order to overcome the anxiety. Through the Better app, everything from a fear of smiling to a fear of lying down could be treated. Users log in through their Facebook account and are scored through their efforts to overcome low-esteem. The Better app would hope to monetise its offering by working with expert self-help coaches.
— Tg Green Teas (@DrinkTg) November 8, 2015
Third place: Goodseats
Goodseats aims to solve the conundrum of empty seats in football stadiums. The app would offer subsidised tickets in exchange for volunteering hours. Goodseats research found that people were prepared to donate 2.5 hours of their time in exchange for a reduced ticket price to a top football match. Goodseats have already struck a partnership with Premier League club Southampton which is trialling the venture.
Technical winner: Karma Time
Karma Time’s aim is to remove the friction from donating time by creating an ecosystem of trust. It aims to combat the problem of people not knowing enough about volunteering or committed enough to it. Karma Time would create a global community of volunteers who would connect through their shared passions. The platform would be monetised by being sold to companies, sitting on their CSR platforms, and plugged into their intranet.
Special mention: Chinwag
Chinwag would try and overcome loneliness in old people. The app would target the children of people over 65, who are largely distrustful of social media and imparting personal information about themselves online. The children would sign their parents up to the social platform and then leave their parents to join in social conversation that interested them.
Democratech was built to overcome inertia in politics, in particularly trying to involve more young people in local politics. Democratech is a platform that would streamline the convoluted process for voters to vote on local issues by according them points to vote on different council motions.
Ednet wants to combat friction in the education system between teachers and parents. The platform would offer parents a real-time online reporting mechanism, which would allow parents to check on their progress of their children whenever they want. The judges liked the idea but thought it could be difficult to get buy-in from the schools.
However, the hackathon didn’t just end with the announcement of the winners. According to Adpreneurs, it is “just the start of the journey”with winners invited to go away and work on their ideas, helped by their entrepreneurial-aiding prizes, and return in four weeks’ time to pitch again.
— Product Hunt (@ProductHunt) November 8, 2015
More details on the event can be found by checking The Drum's Live Blog dedicated to the weekend.