Maybe you need to go “hacking” – and perhaps attend a “hackathon.”
“The word ‘hackathon’ is kind of a mash-up of two words – hacking, and marathon” explains Don Carli, Founder and C.E.O. of Nima Hunter, Inc., a global market research, business intelligence, and strategic planning firm headquartered in New York City.
“There are a lot of negative connotations associated with the word ‘hacking,’ but it’s roots have to do with developing code” he says. “A hacker is someone who is writing code.”
Carli recently visited Austin Hill’s BigWorld of SmallBusiness and says that the concept of the hackathon dates back to the 1970’s, when personal computers were not readily available and people had to build their computers on their own.
“The Homebrew Computer Club that was the origin of Apple Computer, that is actually where this idea of geeks getting together and sharing their knowledge and actually trying to hack something that was useful, was originated” he explained. And while private individuals and groups originated the concept of a hackathon, Carli says that some companies have incorporated the process in their own development.
“Facebook actually institutionalized hackathons internally as a way to give employees a change to leave their day jobs, so to speak, get together over an intense weekend, and brainstorm new ideas” said, noting that the “like” button within a Facebook account emerged from a hackathon type meeting with staffers at that company.
But the concept of a hackathon has expanded beyond the world of technology, and in to other types of business ventures. “The hackathon concept is now used for business startups in general” Carli says, adding that
“people who would like to start a company come together with people who would like to be a part of a company and over a weekend, they’ll fashion a company. In many cases, venture capitalists and angel investors will monitor these meetings and fund some of the startups.”
Carli started Nima Hunter Inc., in 1986. He also works with a non-profit group called “Hack The Hackathon” that has taken the concept of a “hackathon” and brought it to the developing world. He recently met with the government of South Africa and discussed how to create what he calls a “culture of entrepreneurship” in that country.
“There are hackathons taking place around the world almost every day. They are focused innovation fairs, if you want to think of it that way. But they don’t always have to be about software; sometimes communities use hackathons to solve problems.”