Hackathons as startup creation platforms are anti-pattern

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Over the last few years, the hackathon fever has caught the entire world. It is a big thing in India as well, especially, in the technology-heavy cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad. Hackathons, as the name suggests, were constructed as a short time (24-48 hours) of solid energy where participants hacked on problems with a free mind.

It is a very important cultural manifestation of this generation. The whole idea of getting together to solve hard-to-break problems in a dedicated time has been revolutionary.

And, given enough saturation time, a revolutionary idea can eventually become a legacy baggage.

Increasingly, there is a growth in large scale hackathon events, where the focus is to encourage gang of enthusiastic people to come up with viable businesses ideas. I’ve been in the mentor panel in some of them, and I’ve seen brilliantly technical ideas getting sidelined and short-term hacks getting priorities.

Here’s the ask: hackathons are meant to be platforms/places where you sprout innovation. Don’t make them too much business oriented, please. How many of you big guys out there got your business plans and tech stack determined overnight?

Overuse kills the beauty of attractive things.

Starting up a successful business takes a lot more than a energy-drink-boosted, sleepless night of code and jugaad design. 24 or 48 hours are not enough to come up with a viable model that can solve real-world issues. You would be able to make a lot of smartphone apps that do funny things by detecting your face, using myriads of libraries available all over the internet. But would you be able to make a sustainable solution? It depends.

Unless you already have a plan that you would go ahead with, unless you are ready to ditch the solidest of your plans if your metrics show otherwise, unless you are ready to take risks, starting up a business is not your arena.

I meet a good number of brilliant folks at these hackathons whom I would hire straightaway as part of my technical team. I don’t usually meet people whom I would like to have as a co-founder.

Doesn’t this mean that hackathons as a start-up creation platform are not achieving what they can? If the focus is more on the technology, rather than the business, I would love to participate in one of these. But till then, I am happy writing about them, and building my own business outside the current hackathon scenario.