September 5, 2019

Everyone knows about Hackathons & what good it does to the team or the company. Here we share how we have tweaked the typical Hackathons to our needs & style. Along with what all exciting outcomes we have had during this journey.

Hackathons for us mean

A Hackathon is an event where the entire team product team(engineers & designers), sales team, support team, operations team, and human resource team work collaboratively over short durations varying from a few hours to a few days to solve a problem a team is facing or create something new”,

So it is different from the typical ones in the following ways

  1. Not just engineering or marketing team involved but the entire team including support & human resources teams are involved. Each team takes up a project as per their strengths & needs.
  2. We need not always create something new or novel, we even take up & fix a problem a particular team of ours is facing which needs a lot of man-hours & of course that which is critical.

Our reasons for having Hackathons

  • Enables focussed problem solving: Everyone is focussing on only that problem. So you have everyone’s(sum of all bright minds) attention to brainstorm, get ideas, energies.
  • All other tasks are paused: For this duration, no other task will be taken up. During your every day’s work, your mind juggles between multiple projects, multiple tasks. However, here you forget & drop everything else.
  • Clear end goal: The problem statement is very very clear as you have very limited time. No scope for ambiguity or time to revisit the scope.

The projects that have seen the light of the day, that we had taken up at different instances. 

1. Remote-slides: A website to seamless share presentations or slides in real-time. In 2013 & 2014, when our founders were struggling to share presentations virtually, where the other audience was present on a different slide than that of the presenter & he/she was speaking about different content. This irked them to figure a solution for themselves. Thus this idea was born.

2. Abacus. A real-time alerting system that converts text to speech, due to which any team member from anywhere could send alerts to the team where Abacus was stationed. We had built it on a couple of raspberry pi’s, Arduino. Ex: A US Sales team member could type on slack about closing a new customer & the team in India could get an alert over voice.

Team behind making of the Abacus

3. Sourc-athon: This was a huge sourcing drive. And we had invited our friends outside work. Tried to hack the sourcing. We reached out to 250+ top-notch engineers with personalized emails and videos. We got a great response especially for the video and it's filling up our sourcing pipeline.

Poster asking friends & others to join the Sourc-athon
The team behind the success of Sourc-athon

4. 200 Custom Pilot Websites & Reports: For a conference, around 200+ schools were to attend. These schools could be our prospective customers, so we needed some tools to draw their attention. And we being a tech-savvy team we came up with an interesting idea. For each of the schools we created a custom pilot website & a custom report showing google comparison of the speed of their existing website vs our pilot website using scripts etc, so that over 1 weekend, all 200 websites & customer reports were ready.

Custom Reports prepared for each school at the conference

5. Ark Hackathon: We call our office space as “Ark”.(After Noah’s Ark). To make our office space more lively, we all took upon doing some quick & impactful projects, of course with the help of four brilliant & enthusiastic students pursuing a Bachelor of Architecture.

Plain wall transformed into a Customer Wall

A plain wall transformed into an interactive wall

Bookshelf from pipes
Before & After - The dangerous walkway made safe using plants

Before & After - A mess Garden fence made more cleaner

6. Data Buddy: As part of one of the Hackathons where we wanted to build something easy keeping in mind our customer pain points, one team came up with this novel idea. A chrome extension to download alumni profiles from LinkedIn in bulk for Free! This tool worked wonders & was favorite with our customers.

7. Shorter Hackathons: We have quite a handful of such shorter, team-specific hackathons. “Let’s do a hackathon” is the favorite line of Sri. All of us or a few of us huddle up, leaving everything else, for a few hours in the day, to focus on only that problem statement. It could be to clean up the huge pileup of applicants for an open position or to clean up the data on Customers Dashboard once for all or to analyzed data on Hubspot for historical deals etc. This aspect has worked wonders when we need to get a few things done on priority.

Through these Hackathons, we have learned a lot of things. One is the need to be very thorough in preparation with the end goals, setting clear guidelines & timelines, etc. Other being to pace multiple-day duration hackathons with a considerable amount of gap, as they do drain the energy & thus impacts the weekdays' work. We thus are still learning & trying different things.