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Dani Passos
Dani Passos

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Building a Hackathon in 2024

Feedback loop. Pain points. New use cases for your documentation. These are all valid points for running a hackathon, and nurturing a strong connection with your developer community. Professionals in our field of Developer Marketing must understand hackathons are more than just mere technical marathons, they are hollowed grounds to incubate new ideas and potential for dev-tool companies growth.

Mastering the art of organizing and executing a hackathon is key to engaging with developers and fostering a space for creativity.

After hosting over 10 hackathons with Livepeer, AWS, 1Password, MindsDB, Appwrite, and several other companies, bringing over 1000 hackers per event, I will guide you through the process of building an effective, developer-focused coding fest. Shall we get started?

What is a hackathon?

Let’s cover the basics.

A hackathon is a collaborative coding event where developers, designers, and enthusiasts in the tech community come together to solve problems or develop new applications within a predetermined timeframe. Usually these events focus on specific challenges and offer a space for creative problem-solving and development of new ideas. Can you imagine a project built utilizing your tech stack during a hackathon becoming a Startup Unicorn? That’s the story of 1inch 😉

Together with bringing innovation and a space for companies to have a direct communication with their developer community, hackathons are crucial spaces for networking, learning, and community building.

What to consider when planning a hackathon

Not to pull your ear here in terms of processes and organization, but any hackathon's success hinges on meticulous planning and execution.

That’s why I like to think of DevRel professionals not only as developer marketers, but also project managers, in some capacity. From setting up a full campaign to locking in sponsorships and managing the hackathon's operational aspects, every step requires attention to detail. Utilizing resources like detailed planning documents, design best-practices, and operational guidelines ensures a streamlined process from inception to completion.

Before diving into the logistics of organizing a hackathon, it's crucial to identify the target audience and set clear, achievable goals. Whether the aim is to foster community engagement, encourage innovation, or scout for talent, understanding these elements will shape the event's structure and content.

Logistics, including venue selection, budgeting, and scheduling, are foundational to the event's success. Equally important is the consideration of participants' needs—ranging from technical resources to food and accommodations—ensuring a seamless and enjoyable hackathon experience for all involved.

Virtual or in-person…?

Choosing the right format for your hackathon— virtual, in-person, or, even, hybrid —is crucial, and should align with both your goals and participant preferences. Virtual formats offer broader accessibility, allowing global participation without the constraints of geography. In-person events, however, offer a unique energy and more direct interaction, which can enhance collaboration and networking opportunities. The choice will definitely impact your planning, from logistics to tech requirements, and shape the overall experience for organizers, sponsors, and, most importantly, developers.

Each format presents its own set of challenges and advantages. Virtual events require robust tech infrastructure to facilitate smooth communication and collaboration, whereas in-person events involve logistical considerations such as venues, accommodations, and on-site resources. Hybrid events demand a careful balance, ensuring both remote and in-person participants can engage effectively.

When selecting a format, consider factors like the potential reach, cost implications, and the nature of the challenges being posed to participants. The ultimate goal is to choose a format that maximizes engagement, fosters innovation, and aligns with the hackathon's purpose.

Setup your developers for success

Cater to the needs of the participants and the event format when selecting of appropriate tools and platforms. For a virtual event, the choice of a proper hackathon platform, landing page setup, hacker guides, and establishing solid communication channels is paramount. These tools will support fast dev cycles and real-time feedback, which are critical components of a positive developer experience (DX). Our goal here is to minimize any potential points of friction and enable participants to focus on innovation and problem-solving.

Selecting the right set of tools involves considering factors such as ease of use, integration capabilities, and the ability to support the hackathon's scale.

Additionally, incorporating DX best practices, such as providing complete documentation, directing your community onto how to take your stack for a ride in the quickest way possible; app ideas, giving direction to participants; boilerplate codes, so your developers can optimize for quick setup and iterations, can significantly enhance participant satisfaction and productivity.

Inclusivity… who?

Challenges at a hackathon should ignite creativity and push the boundaries of conventional thinking. They should be designed to be accessible and stimulating for a diverse range of participants, encouraging innovative solutions to real-world problems. Balancing technical complexity with the potential for creative freedom is key to crafting challenges both engaging and rewarding.

Inclusivity in challenge design ensures every participant, regardless of background or skill level, can contribute meaningfully. This approach not only levels up the hackathon experience, but also promotes diversity of thought, which brings more comprehensive and innovative solutions.

Collaboration and networking

The sense of being part of something bigger is what unites developers around a community. Especially in tech. So, fostering the sense of collaboration is the essence of any hackathon.

Facilitating teamwork among participants from various backgrounds enhances the creative process and leads to more effective problem-solving. Organizers can encourage collaboration through team-building activities, mentorship programs, and platforms that support real-time communication, support, and project sharing.

Let’s talk networking. This is another critical component of hackathons, providing participants with valuable connections that can last well beyond the event. Structured networking opportunities, such as keynote speeches, panel discussions, and social events, can nurture relationships and community building within your ecosystem.


Sponsorships and partnerships with aligned organizations can significantly enhance the value and reach of a hackathon. These collabs provide financial support, access to trendy tools and technologies, and boost your efforts when it comes to co-marketing, awareness, and actually elevating the event's profile by putting it in front of new developers. Identifying sponsors and partners whose goals and values resonate with the hackathon's theme is crucial for establishing fruitful and mutually beneficial relationships.

In return, sponsors gain access to the hackathon’s community of developers, offering a solid opportunity to showcase their stack and services, have direct community feedback, and, even… identify talent.

Bringing projects to partner up or sponsor your event will take the event’s visibility and engagement to another level, together with promoting a lasting impression to the tech space and opening the stage for upcoming collaborations.

Marketing strategies for a hackathon

A well-thought-out marketing strategy is pivotal for attracting a diverse and talented group of hackers to your hackathon. By implementing a blend of communication pieces such as social media, email campaigns, and community outreach, you can effectively spread the word about your event. Highlighting unique aspects of the hackathon, like innovative winner tiers, notable workshop speakers, and enticing prizes, can serve as attractors to developers. Additionally, engaging with tech communities on social platforms amplifies your reach, drawing in participants who are eager to showcase their skills and connect with like-minded individuals.

Here is the recipe I’ve used for some hackathons over the past 6 months:

  • Efficient timeline management: An efficient timeline, starting with locking in companies eight weeks prior to the hackathon, ensures all stakeholders are aligned and prepared. Activities ranging from landing page creation to promotional efforts and post-event engagement are scheduled to maximize impact. Regular updates to sponsors, engaging social media posts, and targeted email reminders keep the momentum going, ensuring high engagement throughout the hackathon.

  • Resource allocation and promotional efforts: Allocating resources effectively and executing targeted promotional efforts are key. Leveraging newsletters for weekly communications, social media for regular updates, and a dedicated landing page for registration and information ensures participants are well-informed and engaged.

  • Social media: The person managing social media should execute platform-specific strategies to maximize reach. Creating engaging content, including videos, tailored to each platform ensures your message resonates with the intended audience. Collaborating with creators for specialized content needs can further enhance the campaign's impact.

  • Community outreach: Strengthening ties with the existing Hashnode community and partnering with tech communities and educational institutions broadens your hackathon's visibility. Exploring collaborations with events like ETH Global or US-based universities could offer new avenues for growth and participation.

  • Influencer collaborations: Teaming up with 3-4 tech influencers for each hackathon can significantly extend your event's reach. Lead DevRel also facilitates the identification and collaboration with the top tech influencers, while social media analytics help track the campaign's effectiveness, ensuring your message resonates far and wide. Feel free to reach out to us on X, LinkedIn, or email if you want support on this front.

DevRels, this is a comprehensive and multifaceted approach to help us to build and engage a developer community eager to participate in your hackathon and continue contributing overtime.

Providing resources and support

This shouldn’t even have to be said, but here we go: ensure all your hackathon participants have access to necessary resources and support. This includes comprehensive documentation, robust development tools, and responsive technical support. Good DX practices enable quick onboarding and iteration, support guidance, and even easy upgrade paths for dependencies.

Mentorship is underrated, but invaluable during hackathons. Providing mentors from your team who can offer expertise, guidance, and encouragement can greatly enhance the participant experience. A support structure ensures that all individual devs and teams, regardless of their initial skill level, have the opportunity to fully engage with the hackathon's challenges and learn from the experience.

Last thoughts

Organizing a successful hackathon in 2024 requires careful consideration of format, tools, challenges, and participant support, all with focused at providing an excellent developer experience.

By focusing on the elements mentioned throughout this post, dev-tool companies can create hackathons that not only spur tech innovation but also build stronger connections within the developer community, laying a solid foundation for advancements and future launches.

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