Hackathons in Singapore: My thoughts

I am not sure when the non-evil meaning of the word 'hack' started. It can be confusing.

Hackathons are not new to the world or to Singapore. Interestingly, not many people in the Singapore corporate business world are even aware of what hackathons are, much less have attended or participated in one.

OpenNews.Hack Asia 2013, at Newsplex Asia. Image: Imelda Tan, with permission from Newsplex Asia

I realized that there has been a technology track for the business of news, such as OpenNews at the first news hackathon in Singapore, OpenNews.Hack Asia 2013. I decided that hackathons can be a fun way to keep up with technology.

People familiar with international hackathons told me that there are not enough business people at the hackathons in Singapore. Oh, hackathons are not just techie idol shows? At OpenNews.Hack Asia 2013, user interface designers and journalists also have their identified roles in teams, besides the techie and business roles. Hackathon teams, I observed, may be formed spontaneously. The lack of prior working relationships certainly did not weaken the rapport of some of the winning teams at OpenNews.Hack Asia 2013 and the E3 (Energy Efficiency for Everyone) Hackathon. It goes to show that competence and coordination are critical if teams wish to achieve a useful outcome.

The OpenNews.Hack Asia 2013 panel discussions were insightful to the news business and the hackathon context. At least in Singapore, the business alignment of infocomm needs is important in every industry, whether it is for profit or not.

Like marathons, many hackathons are endurance tests. OpenNews.Hack Asia 2013 was atypically spread over about two weeks, allowing teams to take into consideration the feedback from mentors of the profiles of their potential customers or business investors.

The hackathon-winning teams proved that in a few days to about two weeks, it is possible to form an effective team, develop a working software prototype with a pretty user interface, and pitch a plausible business model.

OpenNews.Hack Asia 2013 went further by providing a business accelerator program for the winning teams — business development mentorship, technology mentorship, marketing services, public relations services, and overseas pitching opportunities. Now that instant noodles have their value in our work life, hackathons may well be where future nimble businesses start up. Watch out, big, clumsy businesses.