HTC Vive is a major player in the hackathon scene. By offering their technology and expertise to hackathons across various industries, the virtual reality headset maker fosters the creation of innovative new solutions. We interviewed HTC Vive’s Senior Program Manager, Ian Phillips who explains why the company engages in hackathons and what he sees for the future of these rapid prototyping events.
Gathering a Tribe
The major benefit of hackathons for HTC Vive is exposure to a diverse community. Ian explains,
“We really see that hackathons help us to bring together a community, and a community helps us grow an ecosystem.”
That ability to build a community is a key reason many companies run or partner up in hackathons. For tech companies in particular, hackathons serve as a powerful evangelism tool because the events bring together a target audience who gets hands-on experience with the technology. For traditional companies, hackathons are an opportunity to explore new solutions for their businesses by connecting to and collaborating with developers and startups.
For traditional and tech companies alike, partnering up with emerging tech businesses generates multiple benefits. For instance, your company can differentiate its hackathon in an environment rife with developer-centric events, particularly in major cities. You can raise your hackathon’s appeal by offering, thanks to your partner, an array of disruptive technologies participants can work with. Developers love to get their hands on the “next new thing” and share their findings within their communities. Partnering up, therefore, helps to bring curious, motivated and quality participants to your event while also creating buzz within their respective communities.
The Wisdom of Partners Chosen Wisely
When planning to participate in a hackathon, consider what could potentially emerge. Ian says he likes to look at what kind of outcomes derive from a hackathon as well as what use cases are generated that wouldn’t have otherwise existed.
These outcomes and use cases rely on your company’s partners. The involvement of quality technology partners — particularly for industry-run hackathons where the objective is mostly to discover new solutions to a given business challenge — not only attracts a diverse range of skill sets, but also allows participants to produce far more creative and varied outcomes.
“Through that ecosystem and community, we’re able to pull together the kinds of innovations that wouldn’t come from single companies, but cross-collaboration and perspectives from different areas become some of the best ideas you can see.”
Experts Preaching What You Practice to the Choir
The involvement of great tech partners at your hackathon is vital, but so is having their experts on hand. Experts can run workshops during the hackathon, answer questions and provide feedback throughout the event, and that boosts its appeal while firing up participants.
On-hand tech experts ready to provide support not only gets participants more excited about using a product, but can make a big difference to the quality of project outcomes. Another way to encourage teams to use a tech partner’s solutions is to provide a dedicated partner prize.
To reap the benefits of a tech partnership and to optimize time at the hackathon, we suggest to run pre-hackathon technical workshops either online or in-person. These workshops can help fully prepare participants before they even arrive at the official event. Pre-hackathon workshops have several other uses such as communicating event objectives, inspiring participants on the event topic and begin network- and team-building.
The Future of Hackathons
As technology progresses, Ian predicts that emerging technologies and their communities will become increasingly interdependent. Hackathons, he believes, will play a vital role in bringing them all together to create new solutions.
“The future of hackathons is going to become more important. Communities start to become more involved with new emerging technologies and become more dependant on each other for their success.”
So what does this constantly evolving future mean for corporates? Within traditional companies, “hackathons-as-a-process” are emerging as part of an innovation strategy where companies regularly run hackathons to generate new product ideas.
Already, companies increasingly look outward as they rely on startups and accelerators for their next product line innovations. This is happening because the accelerating pace of our technological environment makes the long R&D and approval processes faced by large companies no longer sustainable. Given this, it will be no surprise to find hackathons become the go-to format for corporates looking to quickly explore and test ideas.
Meanwhile, hackathons are likely to play a central role for technology companies in their evangelization and community-building efforts. Hackathons will help those companies contribute to the creation of new solutions across industries while staying relevant within their communities.
Ian has two strong messages about the way hackathons serve as a critical tool for tech and non-tech companies alike:
- They build communities: Hackathons play a critical role in connecting with different developer communities. To attract them, involve a diverse range of partners. This allows companies to connect with different skill sets, both for evangelization purposes as well as for discovering new use cases around their technology or business challenges.
- They enable technologies to dovetail and encourage collaboration:As technologies progress, they will become increasingly interdependent. Hackathons are a practical tool to bring technologies and communities together in order to collaborate and discover new solutions across all industries.
Ian’s insights on hackathons, of importance both now and in the future, are especially useful for corporate leaders weighing their company’s direction and the innovation strategy their path demands.
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