FROM APPFEST TO ENTREPRENEURS: USING A HACKATHON EVENT TO SEED A UNIVERSITY STUDENT-LED ENTERPRISE
University of Lincoln (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Conference name: 11th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 6-8 March, 2017
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:Hackathons were once industry-specific programming sprints to get overdue features and applications completed; today they are a worldwide phenomenon, with businesses, educators, and entrepreneurs taking an interest in the benefits they can provide. Hackathons can be a breeding ground for brainstorming, innovation, networking, and product development, and as such they can have multiple outcomes including the sparking of new businesses and entrepreneurial activity. This paper investigates the effectiveness of utilising a hackathon as the genesis for the creation of sustainable student entrepreneurial activity. In particular, it seeks to evaluate the effectiveness of using hackathon-type events to initiate a successful University student enterprise project. The paper outlines the findings from this project, and concludes with a series of recommendations from the authors, on how one should market and structure a hackathon, and whether this vehicle should be chosen as a means to initiate a student enterprise project.
The key factors that led to the success of this project were: the degree of formal structure that was introduced into the timings of the principle activities, not normally a feature of this kind of event, including scheduled “diversions” to break up the weekend; keeping the goals achievable; the duration of the event, in this case 48 hours spread over three days; the involvement of representatives from business in the judging process; and crucially the adoption of an over-riding ethos for the event that focussed not on providing completed problem solutions but on potential innovative solutions that may not have been fully-functional.
Areas for improvement included: inviting more students from earlier study years of degree programmes, not always the target audience for University hackathon activity; inviting students from a wide range of disciplines to ensure a broad set of participant skills and to encourage the formation of multi-disciplinary groupings by enforcing a balance of skills across teams, which as a corollary means not always allowing friendship groups to remain together; employing a team sufficiently large enough to support the duration of a long event; and careful consideration of the extent of competitiveness adopted in the event ethos.
The project was part of the institution’s “Student as Producer” initiative where students and staff work side-by-side on projects to engender research-engaged teaching and learning. Students were fully involved in all aspects of the project, including the authoring of this paper.
Keywords: Hackathon, Student enterprise, entrepreneurship.