6 Reasons Why Hackathons are Open to (Almost) Everyone

It's likely that you've heard of one. Perhaps seen one. Or even attended one. But that's oftentimes only if you're interested in tech, and have experience in coding. What I have in mind is a hackathon.

However, there's a reason why this term has finally reached those that have never been even slightly interested in tech. Traditional industries are being disrupted, and as a result, hackathons in all industries are sprouting up like mushrooms after the rain.

1) Hackathons are not just for tech companies

Times change. The term ‘hackathon’ was first used in 1999 for a ‘get-together’ of developers in Calgary, seeking to avoid legal problems due to US regulations for exporting cryptographic software. Twenty years later, hackathons are hosted for a myriad of purposes. Companies are actively hosting hackathons to acquire top talent & find creative solutions to their problems in their industries. Here are a few examples of hackathons hosted by non-tech firms, which caught my attention;

The modern definition of a hackathon is to create value through disruption in a limited amount of time. The focus, purpose & event agenda defines who you’re likely to compete with at the hackathon itself.

2) The requirements to participate are loose

Hackathon requirements are usually loose; this keeps them open to participants from different backgrounds, fields & experiences. For the Bierens Hackathon, you are required to have a background in either law, marketing, economics, entrepreneurship, tech or design. That’s it.

A team participating at a hackathon

3) A company in your industry is probably preparing a hackathon right now

Above are just a few examples of Hackathons across three different industries. Go google your own industry right now and see whether there are any hackathons that can help you reach your own objectives. And double down on traditional industries, since they are more likely to be in need of disruption.

Didn’t find anything? Explore upcoming hackathons close to you and see whether you meet their requirements. It’s likely that someone will need you to complete their team.

4) The solutions have no boundaries = there’s no one right answer

That’s right. Once you truly understand the objective & resources available to you, it's time to get as creative as possible to claim the hackathon prize. 

5) You define your own purpose

Everyone enters into a hackathon with a different purpose in mind. Ask yourself; what do you want to accomplish by attending this event? Here are a few options;

  • Prize money
  • Contacts
  • Career opportunities
  • Free food
  • Skill practice

Having the possibility to define your purpose allows you to be open for more hackathon events in the future.

And what about companies? What’s their purpose? In most cases, the hackathon hosts have created this event to scout for top talent. While the event allows you to pitch yourself & network just like any career event, the likelihood of creating quality rapport with the company representatives by not only talking, but also performing, helps you get your foot in the door more effectively.

People collaborating at a hackathon

6) Your field adds to the diversity of the team

The solutions that teams come up with during hackathons must have true impact. By having a diverse team composed of different backgrounds, you’re able to amplify this impact by evaluating & understanding how your solution affects various stakeholders.

An MSc student in Finance may evaluate the financial implications of a solution on the department. In contrast, a law student might consider the consumer data protection legislation that might impede with the implementation of this solution.

And despite most hackathons still considering your ‘app’ as the core component of your solution, your understanding of other fields will help you build a feasible product.

So, what are you waiting for? Go win that prize & land a career opportunity at your next hackathon.


What do you think about hackathons?

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