5 Reasons to Attend a Hackathon

So as I’m sitting here on the Central Line, on my way to Unilever’s #HackTheHouse, it started to dawn on me just what I’ve taken on. Despite my heavy weekday schedule and startup lifestyle, I have voluntarily given up an entire weekend to do more work. The only difference is this comes with the pressure of a tight time limit and highly influential judges assessing the quality of both my team’s work, and me personally. *Gulp*

Luckily for me, I often throw myself in the deep end assuming I’ll learn from it, rather than worry about what could go wrong. But it got me thinking, why should you attend a hackathon?

1. Broaden your network

No mater who you are, you could have a larger, wider, more engaged network. Fact. Besides, we naturally hang around people like us. If developers have mostly developer friends, whom do they go to when they want to actually set up a business? They have to look outside their network to fill the skills gap rather than look at whom they already trust. Hackathons present the opportune moment to hang around the ideal mix of people that you could eventually do business with. Be it with an idea that comes out of the hackathon directly or one that comes to you years down the line.

2. Leave your comfort zone 

Now there is nothing wrong with being in your comfort zone. In fact, it’s where we do most of our tasks; emails, recurring meetings, the daily grind. Hackathons, however, fit in very few people’s comfort zones and require plenty of time in your stretch zone (hence morning yoga). They necessitate coding harder and faster than you’ve ever coded, hustling better than ever, and often undertaking some new personal challenge for the very first time. And let’s not forgot, fear of public speaking and networking is considered by many to be in the top three phobias. Ultimately though, everyone is in the same boat. And that creates a real sense of camaraderie. And that helps everyone get through the event, make new friends, and build some pretty cool ideas, all outside of the comfort zone.

3. Create something

Let’s be clear. Creating something out of nothing is hard. You have little information, time, and a team that you’ve never worked with, and yet it consistently leads to a myriad of great ideas. Given how contrasting this is to (most of) our day jobs, it leads to a thrilling and unique experience.

Whether it’s running your first 5km, teaching yourself to code, or just ticking something simple off a to do list. Successful people have a success driven mindset, and a hackathon presents a precise challenge with a clear outcome in a short period of time: a viable business idea.

4. Join a startup

Perhaps the most commonly assumed point, hackathons are great for people who want to break into the startup world. However, this comes in many forms. Some people arrive at hackathons with ideas they’ve already been working on and are looking to build a great team. Others want to find an idea so good they can win the hackathon, get funding, quit their job, and work full time on it so it becomes the next hottest startup in town. If only it were quite that easy! What many people find is they connect with key people, who they later keep in touch with and start businesses with, or judges who introduce them into their network. And then there’s plenty who have no intention of leaving their current position, be it in corporates, charities or startups. They just want to learn from the startup environment rather than become a part of it.

5. Free food, coffee, and lots of fun

Last but not least, at least you get a weekend off shopping and cooking!

No matter how many of these boxes appeal to you, if a single one of them sounds compelling, I think you’d have a blast at a hackathon. Luckily for you, there really is only one way to find out.

If you would like to know more about what a hackathon is really like, stay tuned for my live Twitter blog of #HackTheHouse. My weekend’s challenge!

Mark Corbett
Co-founder of Pace Ventures & The Vault London. Big on innovation, startups, yoga & trying new things. KCL & Enactus Alumnus. Gooner.
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