Hackathons are becoming a common part of running a business. You can use them to generate ideas, work on app development, attract new talent, or even as team-building opportunities. A startup hackathon is a great way to help get your business off the ground. Keep in mind, hackathons aren't just for tech startups. You can use them for any type of business.

There are many benefits to hosting startup weekend events, and it isn't too difficult to do once you know the steps. You may even choose to extend the hackathon to a three-day event. However, make sure to avoid certain pitfalls of hosting a hackathon, and you will be good to go. Who knows, your hackathon may end up producing a million-dollar idea.

What is a startup hackathon?

A hackathon is when you bring a group of people together to solve a problem, come up with new ideas, or participate in team building. Hackathons can be used by well-established companies and startup companies alike. In addition, they are a great way for entrepreneurs to get their name established.

A startup company may use a hackathon to help them develop ideas to get them launched off the ground. Getting started is often the hardest part, so getting people of diverse backgrounds together to develop ideas can speed up the process.

Having a hackathon with your startup's employees can also be a great way to encourage team building and help your employees get to know each other on a deeper level. You may also discover that some of your employees have skills you didn't even know about.

If you are a tech-based company, you may consider hosting a data science hackathon. This type of hackathon focuses specifically on technical skills, which will give you an opportunity to see what tech skills your attendees have.

Benefits of hosting a hackathon for startups

There are many benefits of hosting a hackathon for startups. You may also hear these hackathons referred to as startup networking events as they give your company a chance to recruit new talent.

Benefit 1: Recruiting new talent

One of the most difficult parts of creating a startup is finding talented individuals to fill your workforce. A hackathon can be a useful way of finding employees. Depending on what your startup is doing, put out an ad for a hackathon to solve a problem related to your business. 

For example, if you are starting a sustainable/environmentally friendly clothing business, host a hackathon where the team members must develop the best way to produce environmentally friendly clothing.

As the hackathon goes on, you will begin to see who has a true passion for your business and who has great ideas to propel you forward. Even though there will only be one winner for your hackathon, you can hire as many people as you want based on what you see.

A hackathon is also a great way to see skills that may not be represented on a resume. Since people must work on teams for the hackathon event, it will show you who works well with other people and who your natural leaders are.

Benefit 2: Making new connections

If you host an internal hackathon, which includes only your employees, it gives you the chance to connect with people you won't get to talk to frequently. As a higher-up, you tend to be focused on running the company, so you don't always get a lot of time to talk with your employees.

During a hackathon, your job is generally to walk around and see what everyone is coming up with. During this time, you can set aside a few moments to talk with your employees to get to know them a little better. This is great for company morale because you are showing your employees that you care about them. Good company morale tends to lead to better business results. It also helps foster a positive ecosystem.

Benefit 3: Give back to the community

A great way to gain good PR and approval from your targeted audience is to give back to the community. It is becoming more and more prevalent nowadays that consumers are looking at businesses to see how ethically they are run and if they are doing anything to make people's lives better. According to HR Dive, around 81% of millennials hope that companies will make public commitments to charitable causes and global citizenship.

There are many ways you can give back to the community. For example, you could donate profits to a local charity, have a special sale where a certain percentage of proceeds go to charity, or donate your product to people in need, amongst many others. Helping out the community will put your business in the spotlight and make people more likely to buy from you.

How to run a startup hackathon: A full five-step guide

Hosting a startup weekend hackathon may sound daunting, but using this guide will teach you how to put a hackathon project under a startup.

Step 1: Determine your problem

Your first step in organizing your hackathon is determining what problem your attendees will be solving. For a startup hackathon, you will want this problem to be related to your business. For example, as mentioned above, a potential problem is how to ethically and sustainably sell clothing if you are creating a clothing business. 

Along with establishing your problem, you will want to create a list of rules for everyone to follow. This could include how many teams there are, how the day is broken up (sprints, longer periods of work, etc.), and any requirements a presentation must have.

Step 2: Location, location, location

Once you know what your problem is, you need to find a location to host your event. Pick a date that works well for you and see what venues are available at that time. Avoid scheduling around holidays because people are more likely to be busy. 

When picking a venue, make sure it is large enough to host the number of people you are inviting. You also need to ensure it can support your internet and electrical needs. Finally, make sure it has plenty of outlets for everyone to plug in their devices, as well.

If you are concerned about space, you can always host a hybrid hackathon where some people are physically there, and some participate via computer through a service like Zoom. You could also do a completely virtual hackathon where no one physically comes in.

Step 3: Sending out invitations

The next step to organizing your hackathon is to send out invitations. If you are hosting an internal hackathon, you can send out invitations via whatever calendar service you use (Google Calendar, Apple Calendar, etc.). This way, once they accept the invitation, it is automatically added to their calendar. If you organize your hackathon through Hackathon.com, our platform includes a service to send out invitations and sync them to the attendees' calendars.

If you are inviting people from outside your organization, use social media to send out the word. Create a page on your website that has everything anyone needs to know about the hackathon, including a place to sign up. Include a link to this page on your social media ad to make it easier for everyone to get signed up.

Step 4: Establishing comfort

You want your attendees to be comfortable so they can come up with the best results possible. One way to do this is by feeding your participants plenty of food. Have a hearty breakfast to get them started, a solid lunch to keep them going, and snacks throughout the day. Consider having some form of entertainment at the end of the day to help the attendees unwind before the next day of the hackathon.

Step 5: Preparing for the day of the event

The day of the hackathon will be busy, so you want to set up the day before. Make sure to:

  • Print out any voting cards you are using.
  • Buy and set up decorations.
  • Order food.
  • Set up your projector.
  • On the day of the hackathon, someone must complete these tasks:
  • Gather teams.
  • Review any rules.
  • Go over the topic.
  • Offer support to anyone who needs it.

At the end of the event, these tasks need to be done:

  • Give people a warning that there is an hour left.
  • Bring everyone together to present.
  • Pass out voting cards (if they are being used).
  • Have everyone present.
  • Announce any winners.

Common mistakes to avoid when hosting startup hackathons

When you are hosting a hackathon, there are a few mistakes you want to avoid. Here are some examples of mistakes to avoid and how to prevent them.

Mistake 1: Lack of focus

If your hackathon does not have a problem to focus on, then you are not likely to see success. The attendees must have something specific to work towards; otherwise, they may have trouble making progress.

How to prevent mistake 1

There is an easy way to prevent mistake number one from occurring. Your first step in organizing your hackathon is to come up with a specific problem for participants to solve. It should be something that can be tackled from many different sides, rather than just one type of person being able to solve it. For example, you don't want it to be just programmers solving the problem. You want people from different areas/with different skill sets to be able to contribute.

Mistake 2: No support

It can be easy to launch your hackathon and then no longer be involved. It is important to have mentors who help your attendees get started and stay on track. A lack of support can mean attendees struggle to get going or may go towards ideas that aren't exactly what you are looking for.

How to prevent mistake 2

Once you have gotten your teams started, you and your mentors should be floating around the event checking in with people. This will allow you to help teams brainstorm to get started and make sure people are staying on track. 

Mistake 3: Lack of creativity

While you may not want your participants going way off base with their solutions, you also don't want them to come up with the same generic ideas everyone else is coming up with.

How to prevent mistake 3

Encourage your attendees to think outside the box. Let them know that they need to explain why their solution is different from what someone else may come up with. The participants need to make their ideas fully their own.

Three inspiring startup hackathon ideas

Startup events
can end up creating an inspiring business. Here are some examples of companies that started with hackathon ideas.

Idea 1: Carousell

In 2012, Lucas Ngoo and Quek Siu Rui participated in their first hackathon coming up with the app Carousell. It is used to make the process of selling unwanted household items easier. The co-creators won first place and ended up creating a successful startup. Their series C-funding ended up around $70-$80 million.

Idea 2: Zaarly

A hackathon hosted in LA in 2011 spawned the app, Zaarly. The mobile app is used to schedule different types of local services. The creators, Bo Fishback, Eric Koester, and Ian Hunter, raised around $15 million from investors.

Idea 3: Appetas

AngelHack was hosted in 2012, and during it, Keller Smith and Curtis Fonger created Appetas. It is a website builder for restaurants. The co-founders were able to raise $120,000 and were acquired by Google in 2014.

Looking for a good hackathon platform to organize your startup event? Try Hackathon.com

If you want to do a hackathon and need a good platform to help you organize, consider Hackathon.com. We can organize several different types of hackathons, including external, internal, and online hackathons. In addition, we have plenty of experience and contacts across the world, so we can make your hackathon whatever you need it to be.

Final points on startup hackathons

Startup hackathons are great for entrepreneurship. They can be a great way to get your business launched and noticed. There are many benefits to hosting a hackathon, including recruiting new talent, making connections, and making a difference in the community.

You can organize and host a hackathon by following five key steps. You also want to avoid making mistakes like lacking focus, not providing support, and not encouraging creativity. If you work hard and organize well, your hackathon could end up producing an idea like Carousell, Zaarly, or Appetas, which were all born out of hackathons.

If you’re ready to get started with organizing your startup hackathon, contact us. Our team is ready to help you!