What is a Hackathon/origin/purpose/types/participants/advantages/challenges

What Is a Hackathon?

Hackathon is a competitive dynamic , with a predetermined location and duration, widely used in companies to sharpen the creativity of the team of collaborators in a more challenging and fun way.

In a way, the methodology has the same purpose as a brainstorm , for example, which is to generate insights and think about solutions to specific problems.

However, its implementation is a little different and involves more practical measures.

In other words, in a nutshell, the hackathon can be defined as an event that proposes innovation through a positive dispute of ideas and actions among those involved in favor of the organization.

How Did The Term Hackathon Come About?

Today, the hackathon is a proposal used in the most varied types of company, but until recently it was not like that.

The term is the result of the junction of two English words : “ hack” , which means to program, and “ marathon” , which means marathon.

This explanation helps to understand the origin of the methodology, which, in the beginning, was exclusively focused on the technology sector and software development .

The first known hackathon event took place in the United States in 1999, with the purpose of solving code problems in a specific operating system.

On the occasion, several professionals from the IT area got together and, for hours, raised different hypotheses until they found the resolution of the errors.

The initiative was so successful that more and more organizations began to adopt the dynamic.

This also applies to entities that do not have a direct relationship with the universe of technology, but that are in constant search for creative and innovative solutions in their processes.

What Is A Hackathon For?

Basically, the possibilities for using this methodology are infinite.

Public bodies have made use of this strategy by establishing partnerships with the private sector and bringing improvements to society in health, education, safety and traffic, for example.

The corporate hackathon can be implemented to provide solutions for recruiting new employees, optimizing products, services and processes, among other benefits.

The truth is that there are no rules and what counts is putting creativity into practice to reap results.

It is also important to say that, since it was adopted in different contexts and situations, the hackathon has become a trend.

Just to give you an idea, recently, an online hackathon carried out through a student association of the Polytechnic Federal School of Lausanne (EPFL), with more than 600 participants , developed a series of solutions to reduce the effects of Covid-19 worldwide . away.

The event lasted 72 hours and had a public vote to define the three best projects presented.

What Are The Types Of Hackathon?

Hackathons can be categorized in several ways.

According to the objective, format, those responsible and other requirements.

Below, we present the most traditional division: internal, external, online and classic.

Follow up!


In this type of hackathon, the dynamics are organized and count on the participation of the members of the company in question.

Here, schools, universities , companies and other entities create this marathon of challenges in order to improve the engagement and performance of students and employees in the search for internal solutions.

As a rule, different teams are formed, preferably from different areas and talents , to solve a common problem .

Whoever comes up with the most creative idea wins the final prize.


Here, the institution chooses a challenge that has to do with its reality and invites the external public to participate, bringing their contributions.

Although the main ideas come from the guests, internal members can also collaborate in the role of mentors for the teams.

In this model, often, in addition to having their work recognized, the winning team ends up having the chance to join the hackathon organization as new hires.


In addition to the target audience, another way to classify a hackathon is by its format.

In the virtual model, for example, it is possible to contact people from different parts of the world and, consequently, have a greater plurality of ideas .

In the online dynamics, all stages take place remotely, starting with the registration, going through the process of developing solutions, until reaching the evaluation of the judges.


The traditional model, on the other hand, is one in which the company chooses a specific physical space , with facilities that support and meet the needs of the participants, and all the dynamics take place there.

Normally, in the classic model, teams spend at least 24 hours focused on presenting the best solution for the proposed challenge.

Who Usually Participates In Hackathons?

There are fewer and fewer restrictions on hackathon participants.

Everything, in fact, depends on the objective and how one intends to reach it.

Once restricted to the work of programmers and software developers, nowadays, the marathon of challenges can be faced by anyone, just be willing to live this experience.

It is even possible to find open registrations on the internet to participate in hackathons.

How Does A Hackathon Work?

As we have seen so far, there are several types of hackathon, but their functioning, in general, does not change much.

It can be summarized in the steps described below.

1. Set A Challenge

Choose what kind of situation you want to attack and then start the dissemination to the participating public.

The challenge needs to meet the objective and can be more comprehensive or segmented, depending on the purpose of the company that organizes the event.

2. Choose The Format And Rules

Next, it’s time to define whether the hackathon will be internal or external, online or in person.

From this choice, it is essential to disclose the rules that will be applied very well.

How many participants will there be on the team? What will be the evaluation criteria? How long will the event last?

This is important information that needs to be disclosed in advance.

3. Count On A Support Team

Planning, dissemination, registration, communication , mentoring and evaluation are some essential tasks in a hackathon.

To handle all of them and more than a series of obligations, it is essential to have qualified support .

4. Publicize The Schedule In Advance

The event itself has four main stages : opening, marathon, presentation and closing.

It is important that this schedule is published at least one month in advance so that applicants can know exactly what awaits them in each phase.

5. Open The Event

It is time to assemble the teams, distribute the monitors, remember the rules, present the facilities, deliver the kits, provide the necessary tools for a work in equal conditions, among other actions that fit the proposal.

6. Develop Projects

After all the preparation, it’s time to get your hands dirty.

The teams begin to develop their solutions with the full support of the support team, respecting the rules and deadlines .

7. Present The Projects

Once the project development period is over, it is time to present the solution to the public and to the evaluation panel.

To establish a balance during the presentation, it is necessary to define a maximum time for each team to explain how their proposal works.

8. Evaluate The Projects

Obeying the predetermined evaluative criteria and presented in the hackathon schedule, the panel must choose which project best fits the needs of the company or entity.

It is possible that, in some cases, there will be a popular vote to define the winner.

9. Deliver The Awards

It is the most awaited moment by the participants.

After hours and hours of hard work, the winning team receives the well-deserved award.

What Are The Advantages Of Promoting A Hackathon?

The hackathon is a methodology that has come to be used by different types of organizations and does not reach this status for nothing.

Discover some of the main benefits that made it the fever it is today.

Assists In Project Implementation

You know that project that’s been sitting in the drawer for a long time? Through the hackathon, it can be reactivated.

A lot of people think that the methodology only serves to bring completely new solutions , but that’s not quite the case.

With the encouragement of these marathons, such initiatives can be optimized, receive small changes and undergo a co-creation process.

Solves Problems

It is perhaps the most important benefit.

With the hackathon, it is possible to use different talents to think of initiatives that attack a common problem .

Through this process of accelerating ideas, insights emerge that become projects and can positively impact the institution.

Exchange Of Experiences

Imagine the knowledge network that could become a hackathon?

Even if it is an internal model, the exchange of experiences between professionals from different sectors only adds to the institution.

The marketing employee will get to know a little more about the reality of the operator, who, in turn, will exchange ideas with the person responsible for logistics and so on.

Network Expansion

This exchange of experiences will expand the participants‘ networking and, in the case of an external hackathon, expand the organization’s network of contacts .

Marathons are nothing more than great promoters of innovation.

As sources of learning, they allow everyone to grow.

What Are The Main Challenges Of Promoting A Hackathon?

There is no doubt that promoting a hackathon can only add to those who organize the event and those who participate in it.

However, making this wheel spin and this exchange of experiences take place requires work.

The challenges present themselves from the first moment and do not get easier with the passage of time.

It all starts with defining the marathon theme .

It seems obvious that it needs to be aligned with the problem that the institution intends to tackle, but making this diagnosis is not always easy.

Another crucial point is the time to recruit partners.

Defining mentors , finding judges, getting sponsors and other supporters is something that requires a lot of commitment on the part of the organizers.

Still talking about the preparation for the hackathon, you have the choice of the ideal prize (will you prioritize experience or financial rewards?) and all the logistical and publicity issues.

Apart from the previous aspects, there are all guarantees that the event will take place without setbacks, whether virtual or in person.

Food, accommodation, technological support, digital security and evaluative equality are other important issues to keep on the horizon.

The good news is that all these difficulties can be overcome with good strategic planning .

How To Make A Hackathon: Know 7 Tips

The challenges of the proposal cannot be an impediment to holding a hackathon in your company.

So that this is not a problem, we have separated 7 tips that will help in the successful implementation of the methodology.

Check out!

1. Invest In Publicity

The more people who know about your event, the better – especially if you opt for an online and offsite model.

The secret for your hackathon to have a greater reach is to spare no effort in publicity.

Partner with universities, sponsored campaigns on social media, ads in traditional media and whatever else it takes to capture the most subscribers and audience.

2. Offer All Conditions

It doesn’t matter what your hackathon model is, as long as you offer all the necessary conditions to the participants.

If you opt for the traditional version, ensure that everyone has access to the best possible infrastructure .

If you choose the virtual option, ensure good technological support and a stable connection.

3. Choose The Evaluators Well

It is important that the evaluation committee (if you do not opt ​​for a popular vote, for example) be multidisciplinary .

This is a care that aims at the competence to analyze the different stages of the project and contribute with constructive considerations.

The exemption is also essential , so be careful that there is no bond, whatever it may be, between the teams and the judging panel.

4. Focus On The Applicability Of The Solution

A project is, in fact, successful when it has a practical value for the organization.

In other words, it needs to be applied and repeated on a massive scale .

But of course this must be explicit in the regulation, as well as other useful information so that there is no noise whatsoever.

5. Also Value Innovation

While applicability is important, it is also worth encouraging innovation .

Even if the most creative solution is not the big winner, be sure to value it.

Perhaps one way out is to create some parallel awards for the category and, thus, show participants how fundamental it is.

6. Bet On Diversity

One of the great goals of the hackathon is the exchange of experiences .

Therefore, encourage diversity in the formation of participating teams.

There are several strategies for teams to be more plural.

One is to offer extra scores for members to be from different areas, races, and genders.

Everyone stands to gain from this measure.

7. Pay Attention To The Awards

The hackathon prize is one of the main incentives for participants – aside from the experience, of course.

Therefore, it is important to choose this reward well.

A tip to get the decision right is to know your audience .

Not necessarily a large amount of money is the best option.

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