Hackathons: The Complete Guide- What, Why and How 

hackathon guide

Did you know that Facebook’s ‘like’ button and Microsoft’s group messaging app ‘GroupMe’ were born out of a hackathon? Well, hackathons have been around for a long time and the first one happened in 1999. Before we dive into the details, let’s take a closer look at what exactly is a hackathon. 

What is a hackathon? 

The word ‘hackathon’ comprises two terms- ‘hack’ meaning -an innovative solution and marathon- meaning a long-distance race (in this case, a prolonged event). A hackathon is essentially a hackers’ marathon where individuals come together to find smart solutions to complex problems within a given time limit.   

Also known as hack day or hack fest, the event usually lasts between 24-72 hours and is organized by private companies, governments, or universities. The participants are divided into teams that compete against each other to solve a problem statement given by the organizers.  

What is the buzz all about? 

More than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies organize hackathons. It may not be difficult to see how companies benefit from conducting hackathons. They’ve got a problem and they need a solution. For that, they can either depend on their R&D team, who is already engrossed in pending projects and has a set pattern of research, or involve diverse minds to work out a creative solution. Obviously, the latter sounds better! 

Hackathons not only deliver an effective solution but also shorten the innovation cycle. Besides, leaders lucky enough might also stumble upon the ideal employee they’ve been looking for. If nothing, hackathons provide firms with a fantastic chance for social branding.  

Large companies like Facebook, TechCrunch, and Accenture hold regular internal hackathons to break the monotony and discover new solutions.  

Why should you participate in one? 

While you stand a chance to walk away with the coolest trophy, there’s more to the hackathon fever than you’d expect. Here’s how.  

1. Networking and career opportunities 

A hackathon usually ends with a closing event wherein everyone including the participants, jury, and organizers is invited. Attended by sponsors and company leaders, the event provides you with a chance to interact and collaborate with eminent experts in the field. Who knows? You might end up signing an offer letter for your dream job! 

2. Massive learning opportunity 

With just the right amount of competition and innovation in the air, hackathons foster the ultimate environment for productivity. Continuous brainstorming and problem-solving help you take your skills and abilities to the next level, not to mention the value it adds to your resume.   

3. In the end, it’s all about fun 

Well, coders are already infamous for burning their eyes out in front of the screen, aren’t they? So, it’s almost a no-brainer why a hackathon is nothing less than a fest for them! But let me break it to you- hackathons are not limited to the tech field. Gone are the days when hackathons used to be a ‘coders’ thing’. It’s time that we spared the stereotype and look at hackathons in a more holistic way. 

Today, most industries, from designers to marketers, host hackathons to get their team’s creative juices flowing. Additionally, it serves as a reminder of the teamwork spirit and allows companies to leverage the power of collaborative competition and drive innovative solutions.  

How to find and participate in one? 

Looking for and taking part in a hackathon can seem like an intimidating task, especially if you’re new to the concept. But fret not, here are 3 foolproof ways in which you can conveniently look up hackathon platforms to charge up your skillset.  

  • Join online and offline communities in your field and network with people to find out about new opportunities. 
  • Some companies host internal hackathons. The best way is to keep yourself updated regarding the same by regularly checking in with the HR team. 
  • Simple type a query regarding hackathons in the google search bar.  

Here are some of the reputed sites which offer regular opportunities for participating in hackathons.  

And the list goes on. Each of these has its eligibility criteria with respect to age, nationality, qualifications, skill level, number of participants, and more. However, most hackathons try to be as inclusive as possible to provide opportunities to a maximum number of individuals.  

How does a hackathon work? 


Opening Ceremony 

Day 1- Kickstarting the hackathon and getting everyone energized 

Day 2- Real work begins 

Day 3- Final presentation and announcement of results 

Closing Ceremony 

Day 1 

Registration, Introduction of the problem statement, setting the rules, defining a code of conduct, pitching of ideas by the participants, team forming, and more. Basically, kickstarting the hackathon and bringing everyone on the same page! 

Day 2 

Real work begins. Intensive brainstorming, execution, and problem solving along with regular check-ins and feedback by mentors.  

Day 3 

Presentation of the outcomes once the time limit is reached. The jury decides upon the winners and gives away prizes.   

The basic process may be divided into days for your understanding, but hackers work round the clock to finetune their ideas and come up with outstanding solutions. 

Famous Hackathon Projects that turned into Startups 

  • Carousell– an app for selling unwanted household clutter 
  • Appetas– a website building platform for restaurants 
  • Zaarly- an app for availing various kinds of local services 
  • AutoMatter.io– AI-powered platform to automate emails, chats, and more 
  • CropSafe– an online platform for detecting contaminated and diseases crops using satellite images and ML 

Final tips- Hackathon Best Practices 

With a wealth of ideas in one place, hackathons present an unmatched opportunity for growth and learning. To make the most of it, it is important that you choose your team carefully and prepare well in advance. With the right mindset and a smart strategy in place, winning will be a natural by-product of your success.  


disha agrawal

Disha Agrawal is a Content Creator at TechEela. She’s a B.Tech graduate from Delhi Technological University and takes keen interest in the latest trends related to marketing and technology.

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