A short guide to HACKATHONS for NON-HACKERS

In the last 5 years, Hackathons have become really popular events among developers. Although the word itself consists "hack", it's not all about hacking skills. The main focus is to solve given problems. Let's start with some basic information:

1. What is a hackathon?

A hackathon is a fun and innovative event where participants are creating or innovating solution for a given problem or challenge. The focus is usually on business, technology, environment or social challenges. There are different types of hackathon depending on:

  • Audience (students, women, national..) - example

  • Technology (blockchain, Artifcial Intelligence, Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix…) - example

  • Ownership (Ownership vs. Partnership) - example

  • Location (Virtual vs. Physical) - example

2. How long does it last?

Usually, hackathons last 24 hours but some can last several days.

3. Who are participants?

Majority of the participants are developers but I am always encouraging teams to collaborate with designers, marketers, product developments or anybody from technology, design, science or business world. My experience is that the more diverse team is, the better outcomes are.

4. What are outcomes?

Outcomes can be mobile apps, websites, videos or just a great idea that can end up in a product or process that will solve crucial problems. Although some companies expect a full-functioned product at the end of the hackathon, more realistic is to expect only wireframe, mockup or prototype.

5. What are benefits?

Developers, startups, academia, entrepreneurs and employees love hackathons because they can show their skills and be awarded, plus they are solving real case scenarios which will be later implemented which. Companies love hackathons because they are getting fresh ideas and valuable prototypes in less than 24 hours. Hackathons also give them the opportunity to meet and hire top tech talent that best suits company needs, strengthens organizational culture and increase brand awareness


  • Preparation is the most important part of the hackathon, if participants don't get precise instructions or mentors that will guide them through the whole event, outcomes can be disastrous for both sides.

  • Never leave participants hungry, thirsty or overloaded. Nobody can work on an empty stomach, not even developers.

  • Rome wasn't built in a day, so expecting a full, functional solution from participants is a bit overhyped expectation. Everybody should have fun and what's worse than unfulfilled expectations.

  • Organise few pre-workshops where participants will get a better insight on given challenges and technology they will use in a hackathon.

  • Have prepared a checklist (overarching themes, infrastructure, promotion, registrations, submissions, judges, food, prizes, logistics..) before, during and after hackathon. It will save a lot of nerves.

If hackathons sound like a win-win situation for your company, give as a call on +44 749 064 9885 or send us an e-mail on