Internal company hackathons - 5 successful examples
In a previous article, I looked at the many benefits of a hackathon, and explained how running one could be hugely advantageous to your business. There are numerous examples of forward-thinking companies who regularly run hackathons to drive innovation and collaborative effort internally, and I’ll be highlighting 5 of the best in this article.
Facebook’s hackathons are something of an institution. The world’s most high-profile tech company has been running internal hackathons since the early days, and they’ve evolved from fairly informal affairs to full-blown team-bonding, brainstorming bonanzas. Since its launch, Facebook has run over 50 hackathons, and they form an integral part of company culture.
Internal hackathons offer numerous benefits to Facebook, but first and foremost they’re a breeding ground for innovation and discovery. Platform features such as ‘Donations’, ‘Safety Check’, and even the ‘Like’ button were all products of various hackathons, showing how valuable the formula can be. Ancillary benefits of running a hackathon for Facebook include team bonding and collaboration, preserving “hacker” culture, and, crucially, a break from the daily grind. ‘It’s just a mental health break’, says Deb Liu, VP of Platform.
Melbourne-based people and culture platform, Culture Amp, also recognise the value in running internal hackathons. Originally not part of their company identity, the Culture Amp team realised that not only had priority allocated to R&D days dwindled, but surveys were also telling them that innovation should be a company focus. So, they turned to the hackathon.
Culture Amp set out to tick 3 boxes with their inaugural hack. They wanted to encourage innovation, tackle challenging problems, and encourage team bonding across their office. By all accounts it was a great success, with CEO Didier Elzinga proclaiming, ‘the thing that’s probably made me the happiest in a long while, is the three-day hackathon we did… I was blown away by what they were able to do.’
Mercer | Mettl
As a tech company that assists businesses with Acquisition and Development of staff members, Mercer | Mettl truly understand the benefits of internal hackathons from a team development perspective.
The Indian startup hosts annual hacks for its employees, which create a culture of healthy and positive competition, promoting collaboration and team bonding across departments. Another key aspect of the hackathon for Mercer | Mettl is the business mindset it provides employees. Because each department is required to offer expertise on research, testing, and marketing, the process acts as a microcosm of the entire organisational system of a successfully run business.
‘It’s an excellent way to generate curiosity, propel creativity and innovation, and accelerate team bonding.’
— Siddhartha Gupta, CEO, Mercer | Mettl
Capital One is no stranger to the concept of running internal hackathons. The finance giant founded its own developer platform, DevExchange, to promote its co-development and developer engagement principles. Since launching the program, Capital One has hosted eight hackathon events across numerous states in the US, where external developers, designers, and product leaders are invited to collaborate with the team on improving customer experience.
It’s not just tech and finance companies who are reaping the benefits of hosting internal hackathons, however. Hasbro may be one of the US’s oldest toy companies, but it recently broke away from tradition by bringing together 150 developers to create a staggering 45 products in just a few days. Typically, this output would have cost billions of dollars and taken years of traditional research.
Turning to a hackathon was a brave move by Hasbro, but their forward-thinking leadership team has recognised that software is the future in virtually every industry, including children’s toys (although it’s hard to imagine a rocking horse ever going out of fashion). By embracing tech strategies like the hackathon, Hasbro is taking strides to remain relevant in a constantly evolving market.
Gaining an edge
These 5 examples provide a brief snapshot of how a broad range of companies are using successful internal hackathons to gain an edge in their industry. Once a business experiences the true benefits of a hackathon, it tends to become part of the culture. In fact, on innovation alone, an Accenture study recently predicted a global GDP increase of $8 trillion by 2028 if all countries were to simply increase their employees’ ability and willingness to innovate by 10%. Add to that team bonding, improved workflow, positive PR and employee retention and recruitment opportunities, and running a hackathon soon becomes a no-brainer.
Perhaps you’re considering an internal hackathon for your business but don’t know where to start? If you’d like to learn more about how Gravitywell can help, then please get in touch.