The following article is a reprint of an earlier published post from Laughing Mind:
Hackathons are a rapid discovery and prototyping event to help people with initiative move from Idea to Action + early Traction. It's a short event format that sees them pitch an idea, form a team, build a concept or working prototype within a weekend or less, whilst getting exposure and access to new technologies, teams and problem owners.
We've been delivering and competing in Hackathons and Venture Catalyst events, testing techniques, support tools, event formats and Challenge topics that stimulate new ideas for stubborn problems. We've seen what excites people, how they form teams and select technologies to address challenge topics and working concepts delivered within surprisingly short time-frames. Through this journey, we've delivered a range of regionally based innovation events and seen exciting new initiatives emerge, whilst validating where hackathons sit in the Innovation + Entrepreneurship Value Chain.
We've supported, partnered and worked with established incubators, accelerators, Government Agencies and Universities. We know there's a need for Australia to boost its innovation game in a hotly contested marketplace of ideas, fast paced tech change and smart investment. We need to stimulate the startup ecosystem to help foster bigger appetites for people to experiment with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Maths) skills, new technologies and take a shot at solving old problems in new ways. It will help prepare us to move from technology consumption to technology creation patterns, creating new value else we risk being left behind faster moving countries and economies. On this front, Australia is lagging and needing large scale acceleration.
Hackathons are a useful event pattern for accelerating innovation within and between companies and teams, helping them to create new products or solve persistent challenges with short, sharp bursts of focused effort. It's why internal innovation initiatives like Shipit at Atlassian become part of the DNA of product development and anticipation, preparation for disruption. By ensuring focus on Challenge topics that matter and inspire action - HealthCare, SmartCities, City Accessibility, RenewableEnergy, AgedCare, Regional Transport, Social Impact, we deliver impactful change, quicken the digital pulse of our communities and results for contemporary problems.
We've confirmed what they're not.
A Hackathon is not a formal, highly structured Incubation or Acceleration experience - but it's a taste of it. There are a range of great companies who Incubate+Accelerate, many of which you'll see in maps like StartRail. However, a Hackathon can be a great start to the incubation journey by helping you pitch and develop an idea, form a team to help build, test it, validate its usefulness with audiences in a short timeframe. Formal incubation of teams with useful ideas or solutions is a logical next step, with groups like Slingshot, BlueChilli and others. Teams that get strong traction and start seeing growth progress into bigger things, like funding, investment, access to new, larger clients and revenue. That's when they start to move into Scale challenges and Acceleration support to help them grow.
They're not deep, complex Intellectual Property generators - but you can build a team with potential.Complex scientific endeavour takes long lead times to train, specialise, hypothesise and waves of investment-test cycles. Let's not kid ourselves - there's only so much you can achieve in a weekend with strangers. However, they're the sort of event where you'll find pioneering spirits and a diverse mix of talents, that you can opt to team up with or collaborate with beyond the event experience. The connection between event participants is taking place in a crucible experience, quickly establishing trust and the chance to showcase or build your skills, get exposure to new possibilities. You might find though, that those productive encounters can see you team with more diverse skills that DO lead to follow on IP generation. We've seen teams form in the course of an event that have seen viable, valuable IP of merged technology platforms.
They're not a Funding event - but they can start you on the path to one. We've seen increased appetite to explore edge innovation through hackathons- it helps identify an array of potential solutions to challenge topics. Winners are typically getting an incentive prize that covers cost, follow on incorporation support or in-kind services that can progress a concept into something that is more fully developed and fundable. The novelty cheques are a fun reward and for some, can pay the bills, but are intended to help kickstart a bigger journey. We're increasingly seeing innovative agencies structuring to provide some of that next round of support.
They're getting more diverse + better, with positive impact effects
We've been part of new knowledge formation and Hackathon Communities of Practice across the globe and within Australia, where event hosts share knowledge, growth tips and moral support. They're an inspirational, talented group of hardworking, connected, generous, innovative individuals wanting to accelerate the pace of innovation in their communities in practical, targeted and fun ways. They're creating event formats to learn, team, experiment, make and fail fast, with support. They're also committed to building a bigger, better, brighter YOU. In the process, we're also building the literacy of technology experimentation, Maker skills and strengthening network density of entrepreneurial skills in our communities.
There's more coming.
Established organisations are increasingly exploring how hackathons and venture catalyst events can enhance edge-based innovation to help see what's on the horizon and prepare for it. Corporates and Governments are realising the inherent value of smart innovation and the need to test ideas, fail fast and learn quickly to maximise effective use of capital.