The Role of Hackathons in Corporate Innovation

Guest Post By: John Allen – Director, SEO, 8×8

In today’s competitive world, companies and corporations are always in search of innovation. Innovative products or services help them get ahead of competitors and pave the way for growth and success.

Innovation helps corporations to create more effective products, processes, services, and business models. There are many ways a corporation can foster an environment that embraces this, and one of these is hackathons.

Hackathons are a great way to inspire employees and promote creativity, collaboration, and out-of-the-box thinking. Today, they’re championed as one of the main vehicles for corporations to encourage innovation and recruit top talent.

Hackathons also offer many other benefits for companies that host them.

What Is a Hackathon?

Basically, a hackathon is an intensive event or challenge, usually lasting between 24 and 72 hours. It produces software-centric ideas and prototypes that solve known or unknown problems or capitalize on opportunities.

Hackathons can establish a stream of valuable ideas that lead to a lot of innovation. For example, they might explore how to build cloud native systems for health insurance companies or medical providers.

Hackathons are mostly done in teams. These teams can be made up of solely employees or outside participants too. In some cases, they’re randomly assigned, and in others, participants can choose.

The teams in a hackathon might bring together people from various backgrounds or roles, such as front-end developers, back-end developers, engineers, product managers, UI/UX specialists, and anyone else interested in product development.

In current times, it’s possible to host hackathons as a video teleconference so they can still go ahead without compromising participant safety.

Hosting remotely allows people from all around the world to attend developer hackathons.

7 Ways Hackathons Help Corporate Innovation

In the tech world, hackathons are a common occurrence and are used as a vehicle for innovation. But how do hackathons help? Here, we show seven ways that hosting hackathons can benefit a corporation.

1. Encouraging collaborative participation

As the saying goes: “two heads are better than one”. Because of their team-based, intensive nature, hackathons help to foster a healthy, collaborative approach. By placing participants in groups, they’re forced to think, brainstorm, and work together to solve the problem.

Hackathons encourage a resourceful collaborative culture within the corporation as participants are forbidden from working individually. They must think, design, and produce cooperatively. The collaborative ideas from hackathons lead to solutions that can’t be created alone.

2. Taking People Out of Their Comfort Zone

Taking people out of their comfort zones is one of the main ways hackathons unlock creativity. This is thanks to the dynamic change to a regular work routine. Nothing fosters inspiration in a person better than new and novel experiences.

Hackathons usually have a very limited timeframe of one to two days to create a solution. Placing participants in this kind of high-pressure environment successfully takes them out of their comfort zone.

This intense atmosphere creates a sense of urgency and motivates them to give their best. It also forces them to take risks and experiment to be the winning project in a hackathon. Teams must be able to brainstorm fast and hard.

This environment is very different from a normal working day and compels participants to flex their creative muscles. This results in a free flow of innovative ideas, not just from teammates but from themselves, thereby generating innovative solutions.

3. Allowing Socially Diverse Inputs

Hackathons can involve both employees and external actors who are interested in participating. Having external participants from anywhere means teams are more socially diverse. This is conducive to the production of innovative ideas and concepts thanks to the input of various perspectives.

This diversity is beneficial because the problem is perceived in numerous different ways. A freelancer who works remotely may view a problem from a different angle compared to a developer who works 9-5 at a corporation. The differences in culture, lifestyle, and ethos in a team add extra dimensions to the thought process.

Different viewpoints produce more innovative ideas, and hackathons encourage experimentation with a range of inputs from various perspectives.

4. New and Innovative Products

One of the main ways companies benefit from hackathons is in the development of fresh innovations. Hackathons encourage the free flow of ideas, which results in new applications and products based on this collaborative and diverse atmosphere.

A hackathon’s one or two-day time frame is too short to produce a complete product but can lead to prototypes or something that meets enough software quality attributes to have a real chance of succeeding once fully realized.

The practice of exploring and learning is a valuable takeaway for the participants and the host company and may also stimulate further useful ideas down the line.

5. A Live Assessment of Talent

Hackathons can be used to attract talent too. Beyond enterprise workforce management tools, big corporations like Facebook, PayPal, and Chevrolet consider them to be potential recruitment tools.

Host companies get to watch a live demonstration of the talent and skill of participants and can see their abilities firsthand. This is something they can’t get from a resume. Hackathons thus provide a unique recruitment opportunity.

6. Recruiting New Team Members

Hackathons are competitions that feature prizes to draw the top talent and motivate innovative ideas. Judging is strict, with only the most clever concepts or products winning. Participants are incentivized to produce creative solutions, and the host company benefits from the resultant prototypes.

Prizes may range from large sums of money to a job with the host company. These prizes act as an incentive, but companies should use them to their advantage too by offering employment contracts for the overall winners. This way, they have a great job opportunity at the end of it and you have a talented new team who you know work well together.

7. Corporate Branding Boost

Hackathons also represent a branding opportunity for the host company. This is particularly important for startups that need new talent to grow, especially when these individuals usually look to more recognizable brands for employment.

Hackathons create a lot of buzz about the host company and help to brand it as a dynamic market player. If the hackathon includes industry leaders and technical advisors as judges or participants, the company gains added traction in the market.

As a company’s hackathons get more popular, it becomes easier to find sponsors to fund them. Companies can use the local press to attract talent and social media to appeal to a wider audience.

AngelHack helps corporate change-makers drive open innovation for products, platforms and brands by connecting them to the smarts, scale and speed of the world’s most vibrant hacker community. Our global hackathons, online challenges and change-making sessions are designed to inject smarts, scale and speed into your innovation programs- getting you traction faster, with better ideas. If you’re keen to explore a hackathon opportunity with us today, drop us an email and we’ll be excited to bring you through what we do!


Hackathons are not exclusive to tech companies – all companies can benefit from the innovation they generate. These events encourage collaborative thinking and quick action and invite diversity.

All of these factors combine to provide the perfect environment for innovation, whilst also acting as a great recruitment and marketing opportunity for your corporation.

So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your first hackathon today!



John Allen is the Director of SEO for 8×8, a leading Gartner UCaaS platform with integrated contact center, voice, video, and chat functionality. John is a marketing professional with over 14 years experience in the field, and an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs across SEM, SEO, and a myriad of services. This is his LinkedIn.