AiHub Blog

What is a Hackathon & How does it work?

Hackathons have become very popular lately as a way to find developers and solve company problems. In this article, we will reveal what a hackathon is, what it is for and what tasks it solves.

Firstly, what is a Hackathon? 

A hackathon is a competition during which various specialists from different areas of software development jointly solve a task assigned within a predetermined time frame (from several hours to several days or months). The term "hackathon" was first used quite recently, in 1999 by two independent companies OpenBSD and Sun Microsystems. The word itself comes from the English words "hack" and "marathon" - so the literal translation would be "a marathon for hackers". Since the mid-2000s, hackathons have become more common and are seen by companies and investors as a way to quickly develop new software technologies or business cases and solutions.

When did the first hacking competition happen? 

OpenBSD developers first used the term "hackathon" to refer to a cryptography meeting in Calgary, Canada on June 4, 1999. 10 developers attended to write programs that would not fall under the strict export restrictions imposed by the United States on cryptographic software.

How is a hackathon organized? 

The hackathon can be organized online or offline. Each format has its own advantages and disadvantages, but here are 10 steps to take:

  1. Define the tasks of the hackathon and the target audience
  2. Choose the format of the event (online/offline) and budget
  3. Find companies that will provide case studies and expert support for teams
  4. Bring in experts, jury, winners of other hackathons, sponsors, and information partners
  5. Organize promotional campaigns with the participation of sponsors
  6. Prepare the conditions: schedule, site, necessary equipment, food, masterclasses, and mentoring sessions, prizes, the mechanics of pitches, and participation of teams in the hackathon, prepare for unforeseen situations
  7. Encourage teams to participate
  8. Conduct a hackathon and choose the winners
  9. Make reports and highlight the results of the hackathon in the media
  10. Organize the implementation of solutions and cooperate with companies

We found out what a hackathon is and how it is organized. Now let's figure out how to take part in it.

  1. Find a hackathon that interests you 
  2. Read the necessary terms and conditions and register
  3. Form a team: the organizers will tell you how to do it - on the website, through a chat, messenger, social network, or in some other way
  4. Be confident, collected, and focussed, there is a lot of work ahead
  5. Win, get offers from employers, find investors for your projects

And what are the judging criteria? 

It is much easier to choose the winner in a small hackathon than in one where there are thousands of participants. But there are 4 simple questions, asking which will help you understand how to choose the best solution. 

  1. Is it realistic? The team's product may be cool and original, but how realistic is its implementation? A hackathon is a fast-paced event where some of the craziest ideas in the digital world are concocted. Some of the developments turned out to be completely useless in terms of the final product, but in the end, they went down in history. However, if you came not for fiction, but a viable product, then choose by this criterion.
  2. Will it have an impact? One of the most important criteria is the originality of the idea. A great hackathon idea should impress both the judges and other participants, and while a completely new and previously unused idea may not happen, you should at least see a fresh approach to an old problem.
  3. Will this idea sell? The Winning Team's idea should contribute to something. If it is not the solution to a problem, it should be a means to achieve it. Study and evaluate teams and analyze the market. Will their idea make money, or at least contribute to the solution that will?
  4. Does the team have the innovations to create this product? While the idea may be original, this does not mean that it is innovative. Did the team consider all the available resources and time to create the final product? How aware are they of how others are trying to solve the same problem?

Online hackathons are now very popular. And how are they arranged? 

First of all, at an online hackathon, neither the participant, nor the organizer, nor the speaker cares where in the world you are. 

Initially, a platform is created on which the hackathon will be conducted. This can be an existing site or a separately created site. Then, after the hackathon's announcement, a registration form is created. It is better to make a form for both participants and those who want to act as an expert, mentor, speaker. That way, your collected database will be more comprehensive, and it will be easier for you to contact everyone. 

Find members. Let's say your client expects 65 teams from all over the world. And you would like them to produce 10 great ideas. At this stage, you need to set up an information campaign and set a budget for organizing your online hackathon. Where to find participants? The most effective way is to use your pool of followers, whom you can send a newsletter or link to a campaign on Facebook and LinkedIn. 

After you have decided on the event itinerary, recruited your participants, and planned a couple of explanatory webinars in the Hackathon program, it's time to attend to its implementation. You need to choose a venue where teams and speakers will gather. 

You need to choose the right time for each country, a platform that can provide an equally stable broadcast for everyone, and a simple login system, without a long registration process on the platform. 

You also need to provide the problem you want to be solved and set a deadline within which the participants of the hackathon will have to submit their project, defend it online, or provide a video presentation. Be sure to attach a feedback form. 

Then, sponsors and companies that set the task are left to make a decision and come back with an answer. 

Now you can reward the winners, connect team members with the companies interested in their solutions, facilitate hiring, get feedback, summarize and promote your hackathon's results in the media.

What Hackathon Benefits Can I Get?

For participants: 
  • Networking. At an event, you usually meet people with interests and skills related to yours. You can communicate and exchange contacts and information. Who knows, this might beneficially influence your future.
  • Add value to your resume or CV. Participation in the hackathon will make your resume or CV stand out. It will help companies understand that you have programming skills, experience in challenging environments, and know how to win.
  • Create new concepts and ideas. Hackathons contribute to the creation of innovative ideas and concepts. You work with people from different fields, with different interests and skills, and they all collaborate to solve the same problem. Time constraints make the task more fun and bring out the best in people.
For companies:
  • Company branding. If your company sponsors or organizes a hackathon, it can easily increase its visibility in the industry. People who attend the event will get to know your company and get a better idea of how your team works and what you have to offer.
  • Search for talent. You can use this opportunity to assess and identify potential talent. If they can produce results in this intense, rapidly changing environment, they will most likely be able to do so to a higher level in your company. This makes hackathons a great way for tech companies to find talent.
  • Product development. The main idea of the hackathon is to identify the problem and work together to create technologies that solve it. At the end of the hackathon, companies receive one or more prototypes that can become new products.


All this can be done by our company at the highest level and within an acceptable budget. We have tested each of the above-described points and have repeatedly used them when organizing our events, so we can say with confidence that we are professionals in our field. You can always contact us by e-mail or in any of the social networks - Facebook or LinkedIn. We will answer your questions and help you organize your best hackathon!