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Hackathon   | 6 Min Read

Hackathons: Innovation At Speed

Written By Bhuvi Kathpalia

HackathonWhat Are Hackathons?

Hackathons are events where people from different backgrounds, such as coders, analysts, designers, business strategists, etc, come together to solve various predefined challenges within a specified time frame to create a working solution or prototype of a                                               product/service/business model.

Hackathons are a great way to get solutions to longstanding business problems, it could be designing or revamping a website, a new app or testing an existing code in a new language.

In a world striving for digital transformation, more and more companies are exploring new avenues for innovation, and thus, hackathons have been gaining popularity.

Product Innovation

A business product is always in need of new perspectives and ideas to evolve, and a great way to put your product for testing and improvement is by crowdsourcing through hackathons.

Hackathons are a classic example of the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ phenomenon, which can be dated back to Aristotle. One of the most common examples of this is a contest to estimate the weight of an ox at a country fair in Plymouth in 1906. 800 people participated in it and statisticians observed that the median guess was closer to the actual weight of the ox. The median came to be within 1% of the actual weight, while no individual guesses came so close.

It means that while all of us individually try our best to work to the best of our abilities, the collective ability of a group will always give better results and solutions. Thus, hackathons are a great way to innovate a business problem/product by inspiring the participants with the right theme and problem statement. If your brand or product excites tech professionals, they will surely step up to the challenge. 

“Since the hackathon’s participants work on real projects, supervised by more experienced professionals, the chances are that the end product might be an actual, finished product ready to be recycled for the company's use. Just think of it, you're gathering a handful of talented folks, they will most likely use all their creative powers to come up with a solid product/ idea.”
                                            - Pete Sosnowski, VP & Co-Founder, Zety.

Automation and digital transformation are affecting businesses of all domains. Hackathons are not just for tech companies today, every business is relying on technology directly or indirectly. In a customer-driven market like today, more and more companies want to use technology to understand customer psyche better to be able to track usability, personalize their experience, and build more products. Hackathons help your business innovate by bringing together the best of minds.

Hackathons are increasingly becoming a norm in the industry as they provide a playground for problem solvers to explore endless possibilities and deep dive for a fixed but continuous stretch of time. Usually, an MVP (minimum viable product) takes months of planning and execution, but what makes hackathon unique is its ability to result in a prototype or MVP in one-tenth of that time. There is hardly any other situation that nearly produces the same result as a hackathon.

Hackathons don’t just guarantee innovation, they guarantee innovation at speed, which is exactly what the tech culture aims to do. The agility of a hackathon as an event is exceptional. 

Innovation can also be affected by heterogeneity. With an online hackathon, you can solve for diversity and bring together people from different walks of life, scattered across the globe, to solve for a problem that affects a larger community. 

A reliable solution for continuous innovation, hackathons prove to be quite advantageous and effective in a world where the tech industry is quite competitive for innovation. 

Factors Impacting Innovation - the Problem Statement

Hackathons are a reservoir of innovation, and only a good problem statement can produce the desired result. Identify your target audience, the type of hackathon you want to conduct, and the mode of its engagement. Once you have defined innovation as your larger objective, involve your organization’s leadership in the process to bring a visionary angle to the discussion and think ahead in terms of the future business roadmap.

Choosing a problem statement that a wider audience can relate to will ensure whole-hearted solutions, a better participation rate, and a deeper level of engagement. The problem statement is important for both the organizers as well as the participants. A good problem statement embodies the wider objective of the hackathon that inspires participants to create an innovative solution that solves a real need. 

Hit the Target

Few Tips on How to Hit the Target with Your Problem Statement:


  • Tie the problem statement with the eventual impact, for it to be actionable.

  • If you are looking at benefitting your product/business with this hackathon, make sure to interact with product managers and company leadership to identify topics that the business needs innovation in.

  • Make sure your problem statement arises a sense of interest and curiosity in the participants. Get your marketing team on board to give words to your ideas that communicate effectively.

  • Answer all the questions related to your objective and the problem statement at hand - what, why, its need, its use case, etc.

  • Build credibility by providing data or resources that support your problem statement. It could be a preliminary reading provided to the participants.

The problem statement needs to cover the current state of the situation at hand, the final impact, and where the gap lies. For this, define the theme - it could be a unique technology like blockchain, a well-defined business problem, or something that is trending in the industry. When deciding the theme of your hackathon, think of the future roadmap of your business, your most crucial business obstacle, and/or the trends you want to adopt in your business strategy.

It is likely that you have enough research and insights around the industry your business functions in. Put these market insights to use when deciding your theme and problem statement, and then let participants surprise you with their innovative solution and prototype.

Every hackathon is distinctive and your organization can bring its own uniqueness to the table with the kind of problem statement you put forth that fuels the process of innovation.


Xathon, Mettl’s end-to-end hackathon management platform, is a facilitator for all things that lead to innovation. Mettl’s offerings don’t just limit themselves with easy-to-use platform with stellar built-in features, but with Xathon, one also gets access to Mettl’s subject matter experts who can help device the perfect problem statement that helps organizations look beyond the periphery of their innovation process.




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Topics: Ideathon/Hackathon

Originally published January 03 2020,updated May 27 2020

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