How To Organize a Hackathon and Develop a Product in 24 Hours While Having Fun with Your Team

Nacho Rodríguez

Nacho Rodríguez

CEO & Fundador de Repeople

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Hackathon

Imagine if your team were able to create a successful app over the course of one weekend. That’s exactly what companies such as GroupMe did. In this short period of time, they were able to develop a mobile app prototype that Microsoft later bought for USD 80 million.

How did they do it? They organized a hackathon.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about hackathons: what they are, what type of company can organize one, what a hackathon could do for your business, and how to choose the best place to hold one with your team.

What Is a Hackathon?

A hackathon is a team-building activity where a group of people – normally a group of software developers but sometimes also UX/UI designers, product managers, and other executives such as a company’s HR director, CEO, and CMO – get together for a few days at a location away from where they usually work to develop a web or mobile app.

The key, as the name suggests, lies in the time frame, which is short. It’s more of a sprint than a marathon, with the emphasis very much on quality over quantity. A hackathon tends to last from 24 hours to a weekend. The idea is not to exhaust the team, but to reward them for their efforts after a very intensive working session and give them time to enjoy themselves and rest in a unique environment.

That’s why company retreats, where the whole team can enjoy a few days of leisure, share experiences, and carry out team-building activities, are the perfect opportunity to organize a hackathon.

What Type of Company Can Organize a Hackathon?

Although hackathons tend to be associated with start-ups and software development companies, they offer a range of benefits for all kinds of businesses.

For example, a hackathon can be useful to identify new business opportunities and create new products and services that meet a need in the market the company had not previously covered.

So whatever your company does, you can organize an event like this. There are only a few things you need to do:

  • Find the perfect place to hold a company retreat.
  • Award special prizes to those team members who contribute the most.
  • Find sponsors: This is common practice but not compulsory. Companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon frequently sponsor hackathons, but you might want to find a sponsor that aligns better with your business.

Organize leisure activities and allow your team members some time to rest so they can enjoy the whole experience.

The Benefits of Organizing a Hackathon

There are many positive sides to organizing a hackathon:

  • It improves team spirit: information is shared, and the team learns together.
  • It encourages a meritocratic mindset: Those who contribute the most are rewarded (these prizes tend to be symbolic, e.g., t-shirts, caps, and mugs; after all, the ultimate winner is the team and the company). In any case, staying at a hotel, holiday home, or coliving space is a reward in itself.
  • Participants get the feeling that they are the project’s cocreators: the ideas in a hackathon don’t come from the top down; instead, they are the result of the team’s joint efforts.
  • It provides an opportunity to learn new skills: talks and workshops are often organized to complement the development of new products and services.

Senior roles support junior roles: it’s also common for more experienced employees to help the newer members of the team develop their skills.

How To Choose the Perfect Place to Organize a Hackathon

This point is crucial, because the success of your hackathon will depend greatly on where you choose to hold it. 

Ideally, a hackathon should be part of a company retreat, which is an opportunity for a team to get together somewhere nice for a few days or even a week (if possible, away from the city and near the beach or the mountains) where they can take part in both leisure and team-building activities.

Why? Well, if you only organize a hackathon, team members will think the company just wants them to work more during their days off (as they are often held on weekends).

That’s why, during the hackathon, it’s important to allocate time to

  • attend a talk;
  • network with mentors and other guests;
  • relax with a nice cup of coffee;
  • go for a walk and enjoy the local sites;
  • go to the beach, for a hike, or cycling.

The truth is that if you really want to encourage creativity, you need a relaxed environment; and if you want your team members to be more productive, without the stress, you need to make them happy.

If you need some inspiration to find the perfect place to organize a company retreat (and a hackathon), check out this article . If you’ve already decided to hold one, at Repeople, we manage several coliving spaces on Gran Canaria where you can bring your team members to enjoy a unique experience in an idyllic environment that offers 

  • a dream climate with an average temperature of 25°C all year round;
  • good connections to many European capitals less than a three-hour flight away;
  • hundreds of activities and attractions all over the island;
  • European standards of living at more affordable prices.

If you would like to find out more, email us at we@repeople.co. We look forward to helping you organize your next retreat.

Who knows, your company could be the next unicorn … 🙂

Nacho Rodríguez

CEO & Fundador de Repeople

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