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The Hackathon Landscape in Australia

Updated: May 2, 2020

Hackathons. How many of us immediately think... What are all these geeks doing in a room? Did you know that 70-80% of Hackathon go-ers in Australia have never been to a Hackathon? Most people are on the same boat. In this article I’m going to demystify what people actually do in a hackathon… at least at the ones in Australia!

As someone who has participated, mentored, judged and supported hundreds of Hackathons over the past 5 years, I can tell you what happens. According to Hackathons Australia, we define hackathons to be a “creative, intensive competition where a diverse group of people solve problems using technology”.

There are a couple of things I want to point out that makes us unique:

  1. Hackathons are 2-3 days. The Hackathons in Australia are not just about the code. It’s about a) being educated on frameworks such as the lean canvas, design thinking and upcoming technologies  b) connecting people with each other and creating a forum for collaboration c) experimenting solutions where it’s OK to fail to learn. We have a well rounded approach where there’s enough time for these methodologies can be explored.

  2. Hackathons are creative. The innovation ecosystem in Australia is quite mature, but not as speedy and technical as the US. They have the investment, people, and resources, whereas we tend to be the sales and marketing arms of many global organisations. As a result, we need to be creative with the tools and resources we have. Use that prefrontal cortex part of your brain (or what I call your ‘innovation muscle’) to be creative in your approach - the sky’s the limit!

  3. Hackathons are intensive competitions. With the limited number of investment, people and resources, creativity can in fact be unleashed! If you hit a roadblock, you’re forced to think outside of the box. If you have a short period of time, you’ll do whatever it takes to overcome it if you badly want it. If you don’t have the tools, you’ll hustle to find an alternative. Yes creativity can be done from a blank canvas but having constraints can be even more eye opening.

  4. Hackathons include a diverse group of people. There are generally 3 types of people - the hustler (sales and marketing guru), hipster (the customer-focused creative designer), and hacker (the person who engineers the MVP). Traditionally hackathons comprise of only programmers but here in Australia we highly endorse the Minimum Viable Team (MVT). The MVT has the skills that ideally cover the fundamentals of creating a startup or company. It’s also good to consider a mix of stakeholders such as corporates, schools, educational institutes, startups, government and industry bodies to give different perspectives. We aim to be diverse and inclusive of everyone - especially if you’re a techy or non techy person, everyone is welcome.

  5. Hackathons solve problems. Often we think of amazing ideas and go straight into solution-mode. We need to address a customer need and consider where the market is heading. How do we rewire our minds to solve problems? Hackathons are a great way to learn about this process and test solutions in a safe environment. Solve a customer need - a painkiller and not a vitamin!

  6. Hackathons use technology as an enabler. Globally and nationally there is a massive push for organisations to be more ‘digital’ and adopt digital practices. Access to technology has accelerated exponentially over the past 5 years and it will continue to rise. If we want to keep up with the world and rise the ranks in the Global Innovation Index then we must educate ourselves and our peers. Will you join us in activating Australian innovation?

So what do Hackathons in Australia look like? We’re more focused on well rounded teams, education agile methodologies and digital tools, and see ourselves ‘hacking’, or experimenting solutions in a safe environment. Now what are you waiting for?

Join us as we ‘hack’ solutions in Australia - hackathons are not only for programmers, they’re an experience which everyone should go through. You’ll learn so much!!

Visit to find hackathons happening in your area or if you’re wanting a facilitator or help with organisation, we’ve sourced the best people around Australia to help you out.

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