Teppo Kuisma // October 24 2018

Hackathon happiness

Just during the recent two weeks the Digitalist teams across the world have taken part in more than one or two hackathons. In North America we ran through two hackathons. During #SanFrancisco blockchain week Digitalist teamed up with KickCity and hosted a Blockchain hackathon. And more recently, during the last weekend together with NASA we hosted the world’s biggest hackathon – SpaceAppsChallenge.

After judging the latter, I feel there are still a couple of myths about hackathons that need to be busted and I believe I have some advise to give. Firstly, logistically speaking they are not hard to arrange. You do need a plan, some dedication to make the plan work, eye for details, and open communication as well as some openmindedness. If you have never been to a hackathon, change that and go participate! Cant’ code? Worst excuse I’ve ever heard, as every team I’ve ever met, all are looking for help on their pitch, marketing plan, business model canvas, etc. You name it. I’m sure everyone has a skillset that can be applied to a hackathon.

Openness is the key ingredient, the secret ingredient to success. It is important for the people of the company or NGO that are arranging the hackathon. Being clear on Your challenges is vital. Don’t hide them. On the contrary, hand them over for everyone to see and give direction on overcoming challenges. Bravest teams and participants go as far as to tell what has not worked earlier. Challenges are what teach us and make us better.

Openness is also important for the ones who participate. When a team is on the same page and understand each other, it is much more rewarding to spend 48 hours on minimal sleep with fluctuating low and high energy levels and a lot of excitement. When you work together to push the limits, it’s good to understand why each of you is doing so.

The coolest thing in hackathons for me are still the people you get to work with. Closely. Hackathons are a mix of so many interesting personalities, skills and ideas. It’s great to learn what drives them. Learn about their backgrounds. Get to know the people, young and old. Judges. Participants. Students. Seasoned techies abroad on their vacation.

Everyone and everything fully in place to make world a little place. Together.

Written while Spotify played “Midnight Oil – Beds are burning” that I added to my playlist after the publication of Global Climate Report.


The writer is Managing Partner @digitalist in SanFrancisco Studio that works on connecting  #deeplearning and #Designthinking,  #ServiceDesign to new innovation. 

By Teppo Kuisma, Managing Partner

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