What Is A Hackathon In 4 Minutes

24 hours of intense focus. Prolonged sleep deprivation. Nerve-wracking, stressed out moments. Unexpected friendship formations. Proud working prototype to bring home.

Yes, all that is described above is just some of the fun you will experience in joining a hackathon, but there is so much more to it.

A Marathon To Hack Things? 🤔

The common misconception is to tap into our cognitive bias and assume that a hackathon is a marathon. One funny incident happened during one of my clinic appointments.

Having injured my legs, the doctor told me not to do any strenuous activity. I replied, telling him that I will be participating in a hackathon that weekend. He assumed I was going for a 10km marathon because Music Run, a literal marathon, was also happening in the same week.

After explaining, he calmed down and concluded the session with assurance.


An overview of how a hackathon looks like

So, What Is A Hackathon?

A hackathon is an event, typically lasting several days, in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming, as according to Lexico.

In simpler terms, it is often a 24 hours(or longer) event where 2–5 members form a team to solve problems by coming up with a basic prototype to showcase to the judges.

A hackathon could be as niche as a virtual reality hackathon or as broad as a general hackathon.

For example, if the hackathon’s theme is drone, you are expected to come up with a working solution for the drone industry. After the hack time, there will be judges(often industry experts) to come and judge your prototypes.


Money, money, money!

Wait, You Can Earn RM1,500 In An Event? 🤑

Hackathons often come with cash prizes to award the best among the best too. And yes, it is possible to quit your job and earn money through hackathons; provided you continuously win one hackathon after another. But don’t do it, please don’t.

Nonetheless, there is often as much as RM16,000 as a total prize pool in some hackathons, or even RM8,000 as grand prize winner. Yes, that just means a possibility of RM4,000 per team member, if your team consists of only 2 members.

Sometimes, you can even secure conference tickets or additional incubator program slots to develop your solution into an existing product in the market.

But Why Join A Hackathon?

Now, I think joining a hackathon is an eye-opening experience. Whether you win or not, it doesn’t matter, because your mind will just be blown for the first-ever time.

Did I also mention that hackathons tickets are usually very affordable for most people?

1. You will always gain a new experience

Every hackathon you join will always be different. With different team members, atmosphere, food, itinerary of hackathons and theme, the way you approach and comprehend your hackathon experience will also be different.

You could potentially gain new industrial skills from any moment during the event, which could increase your value in the market.

2. Networking in the community

There will be tons of people who will join too, especially people who are very active in the community.

You will get the opportunity to know them and add them to your contacts. Having more contacts in your twitter could be somewhat beneficial to you in the future as it expands the opportunity for potential collaboration or development in your own projects.

3. Cash Prizes

As mentioned above, there will be tons of attractive prizes everywhere in most hackathons. Most of the time, you will also receive free meals and freebies on the competition day itself.

Not to mention cool stickers that people stick on their laptops, promo codes to try new apps, or t-shirts that are comfortable and beautiful will be available as well!

4. Efficiency Boost

Working under stress could be mentally exhausting, but sometimes a good 2-day productivity hustle can increase your efficiency dramatically.

This is because you will be performing under the biggest factor of all time, which is time itself.

5. An opportunity to exhibit your skills

Joining a hackathon shows that you are passionate about software engineering. Even if you lack experience or confidence, you will be allowed to try your best as a team to make a working prototype that you can bring home at the end of the day.

On top of that, it is a good way to show what you can build to people because judges and other people will be interested to see what you built!

Don't Think

Stop thinking and just join it!

Are Hackathons Only For Professional Coders? 🎓

The short answer is no.

Hackathons come in all shapes and sizes. Some are relatively larger and scarier in terms of their niche or target audience. For example, a hackathon that only allows university students won’t have the same difficulty as compared to the hackathon for financial technology.

My take on this is to research on what type of hackathon you would like to participate in and sharpen your coding skills to make sure that you can contribute enough to the team.

If you are not a tech person, you could always help out in things like business development and design. But once again, always make sure that you can provide value on the table.

Closing Thoughts 😄

I genuinely think that everyone should try to join a hackathon in their lifetime, especially people who are in or interested in the technology industry.

You don’t need to win a cash prize to gain an experience that money can’t buy, so don’t hesitate to always try out new things!