Pin-point all the concerning stakeholders of your problem. The impact and longevity of the outcomes of your hackathon critically depends on the participation of key stakeholders in the ecosystem, just as the topic and agenda of the event. Read more on who is who and how to identify the ideal challenges in the dedicated section.
Who is who
You start the hackathon process with the what and the why. But pretty soon you need to start thinking about the who as well. The who is who at a hackathon:
They own a challenge track. Challengers can pitch their idea or problem that teams will work on during the hackathon. They are a face to the problem. They provide participants with the opportunity to work on something real, practical, tangible and personal. The best challenger is one that participates hands-on during the hackathon, side by side with the team (or teams) working on his or her challenge.
Sponsors partly finance the event and connect their brand and network to the hackathon. There are different options for working with sponsors: there can be one or multiple sponsors (gold/silver). Another option (and/or) is that each challenger pays for the opportunity to pitch their challenge. Not all hackathons need sponsors: clients can pay for public (or closed!) hackathons as well!
Although at FarmHack we love open, we are also huge fans of pragmatism. So if data is not fully open, we are still happy to work with closed or semi closed data. Challengers and Sponsors can be datadonors too.
These are the coders, tech savvys, data creatives, design thinkers, the secret sauce of each hackathon. In collaboration with domain experts, problem owners, challengers and relevant stakeholders, together they are the heart and soul of your event. So take good care of them!
Participants of the hackathon
As a golden rule we at Farmhack strongly believe in quality over quantity: we had our best results with targeted events, where we got up close and personal with a farmer, and 3 to 4 well-composed teams.
Still, every hackathon needs a critical mass of data and tech savy creatives to translate ideas into working prototypes. Of course the type of skill you are looking for depends on the theme of your hackathon (remote sensing, blockchain, data science, IoT etc). But in general we look for:
Data scientists and machine learning experts
Frontend developers (Angular, React, Vue etc) and UX/UI experts
App developers: Android, iOS
Open Source enthusiasts.
Generic or owned challenges?
You have hackathons of all sizes and shapes. One area where this will settle out is in the identification of the ideal challenges for your event. For instance, when you organise a hackathon to introduce a broad audience to the domain of agriculture, you might opt for broad, generic challenges, that leave many degrees of freedom for exploration, interpretation and a personal view by the participants.
On the other hand, if you are looking for in-depth results, feasible solutions that you can build on after the hackathon, you need to use the “identification phase” in your preparation to research the initial topic or theme of the hackathon and really get to the question behind the question. The more on target teams can start at the hackathon, the further they will get.
Each occasion asks for a tailored approach. But it must be said that we as FarmHack have had the best results with targeted challenges, that were put forward by a passionate challenge owner. Not in the least because with this set up you can focus your efforts as the event organiser, and you have a far better change to avoid teams reinventing the wheel, as you navigate the landscape through the eyes and priorities of real problem owners.
One final remark for the identification phase: another golden rule at FarmHack is ‘anything goes’. So if at the very last minute some startup wants to join the event as a team to work on a pre-existing idea, you say yes because other teams can learn from them. Or if you come across a challenge owner that offers his or her own out-of-the-blue initiative or challenge, you say yes, because in large part the magic of hackathon depends on allowing for unscripted surprises and unintended connections.