What the heck is a hackathon? As Creative Director of The Behaviours Agency, that’s the first question I asked myself when I received an invitation from our lovely client Aggregate Industries (AI) to take part in two such events last month.

Mark Collier, Director of Marketing at AI, quickly provided an answer, “a hackathon is a process to fast track the development of digital solutions”.

It turns out that a hackathon involves bringing together, for a relatively short period of time, colleagues from different functions and backgrounds to collaborate on new digital ideas and projects.

Modern day think-tank

In other words, it’s a modern day think-tank, or to be more precise a think-really-fast-tank. In our case this involved a bunch of designers, writers, marketing people, web builders, coders, colleagues from around the business (and in this case from around the world) and hackathon experts being locked away in a room for 48 hours to come up with a complete concept for a new online enterprise – including identifying the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), target market, customer journey, name, idea, wire-frames and branding.

What the heck is an MVP?

I have to admit that after, “what the heck is a hackathon?” this was my next question! I soon learned that an MVP is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, and to provide feedback for future product development. So, at the outset, it’s a case of less is more – instead of building on an idea, it’s fine-tuned until it has one simple offering, with a maximum of three value propositions.

The hackathon model

48 hours to proof of concept
3 months to develop
6 months to monetise
18 months to scale

10 top tips for hackathon virgins

If you’re a hackathon virgin, like I was just a few short weeks ago, and you’ve been asked to attend one of these events, then here are my 10 top tips.

  1. Get a good night’s sleep prior to the event.
  2. No pre-reading or other preparation required (unless stated).
  3. It’s okay to be nervous!
  4. Turn up with an open mind.
  5. Be confident, your skill base has been requested for a reason.
  6. There’s no such thing as a stupid question.
  7. There are no right or wrong answers.
  8. Get out of your comfort zone.
  9. Work hard, play hard.
  10. Go for it! You will come out feeling accomplished.

Dorina D’Ambrosio,
Creative Director, The Behaviours Agency