Hackathons are events in which people - usually with technical  or software development experience - come together, self-organize into teams, and rapidly build solutions to address a particular problem area or innovation opportunity. Participants may form teams at the event on an ad-hoc basis, or join as teams to begin with. 

Emphasis is placed on completion of the project within the hackathon timeframe - anywhere from several hours to several days, demonstrating the outcome to all participants and other audience during the event.

There may be a competitive aspect to hackathons, in which final submissions are judged and the winner is awarded a prize. Hackathons are popular with challenges that require software development skills.



Suitable Subject Suited to challenges that require technical solutions, especially software development where demonstrable prototypes can be produced rapidly.
Participants Hackathons put priority on building the technical community within an area. Participants are typically experts within a technical area, such as coding or design. Participants typically work as teams, while competing between teams.
Key Roles Participants: Build solutions based on technical expertise & motivation
Administrator: Advertises and promotes the call for participation, set up & manage platform for participation
Sponsor: Provide capital for winners’ prize, set criteria for evaluations
Judging panel: Evaluate & select winners
Essential Tools Event: Means for participants to engage, from announcing the challenge, form teams, build & present solutions, and selecting winners.
Acknowledging winners or noteworthy teams.
Outputs Built solutions with varying quality & depth depending on participants’ technical skills and efforts, or the timeframe of the event
Cost & Time Cost: Promotion of the event, hiring of the venue & staff assisting with running the event, hospitality/refreshments for participants, awards if applicable.
Time: Typically short duration to run the event, e.g., 1-3 days. But may take time to promote the event & to find partners and sponsors.


Definition of Challenge

Unlike other challenge competitions, hackathons benefit most by focusing on problems that can be solved with technical knowledge and skillsets.

Considering the nature of short time frame that Hackathon events run on, it’s best to provide the tangible problems that participants can come up with plausible solutions.

Event Planning

Discuss and sketch out expectations for participants, such as eligibility, technical specifications for the solutions to be built, and the timeline for execution. The event requires a physical venue to be able to host all participants and sponsors to interact, build and present solutions, and sometimes even eat and sleep. Some hackathons bring in the element of competition by selecting the winners at the end.

Promotion for Participation

Partnering with large institutes such as a university is popular, both for the recruitment of participants and the venue. Finding sponsors for the event among the global companies or local enterprises could increase the visibility of the event and could be an added incentive for participants.

Running the Event

The event typically begins with a presentation about the topic to all participants, as they may not have any prior preparation or familiarity on the topic of Hackathon. Some hackathons guide participants to create ad-hoc teams at the event, while some require teams to be pre-formed as a condition to participate. Participants create solutions on site, without leaving the venue. Some sponsors or organizers like to interact with participants in this process. Hackathons typically end with demonstrations where all participants show their creations. Some hackathons invite a jury to select winners.