Hackathons are a great way of driving open innovation - their goal is to find solutions for existing problems, develop new products and services, and accelerate corporations beyond what they could do indoors.
Don’t get us wrong.
In-company or internal hackathons are also a great way to drive your business forward, but by launching an open innovation hackathon, you can obtain results from people all over the world, from different backgrounds, perspectives and fields of expertise.
Moreover, sometimes the problem is not just to develop new ideas, but to let go of old habits.
Habits are comfortable. We tend to like comfort.
But they also lead us to a funnel vision and make breakthroughs harder.
At TAIKAI, we consider ourselves lucky - we work on a daily basis with incredible companies from all over the planet, looking to put their businesses in the forefront of innovation.
You don’t need to be a silicon valley company to have people committed and ready to find solutions for you.
What you need instead is to make sure your hackathon is well-thought, thoroughly prepared, and aligned with the community.
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Hence, we’ve compiled four of the best open innovation examples hosted here at TAIKAI - an all-in-one hackathon platform to host and manage your challenge.
We hand-picked these examples not just based on their results, but the entire process that went behind organizing and preparing the event.
In order to come up with this list, we’ve considered the following criteria:
Without further ado, here are the best company hackathon examples and ideas:
Wiener Linien - Vienna’s public transport operator - is responsible for roughly 180 underground, tram and bus lines.
To put it in perspective, on average, there are about 2.6 million passengers using the Wiener Linien network every single day. Not only that, but their public transport vehicles cover a distance of 214,000 kilometers - which is about the same distance as orbiting the earth 5 times! Because public transportation in Vienna uses a gateless ticketing system, they have inspectors inside the vehicles or outside the stations to validate passengers' tickets.
This, in turn, takes time.
Inspectors try to validate tickets as fast as they can, but there’s always a chance of long waiting lines and overcrowding, depending on the number of passengers at any given period. To make things harder, passengers can use paper or digital tickets, through their WienMobil app.
Wiener Linien conducted research, prior to the hackathon, and found out that there’s been a growth in the use of digital tickets.
While this might seem good at first glance, it actually wasn’t. It took passengers up to 10 times longer to validate the in-app ticket.
It all comes down to the steps it takes. Commuters have to find their phone, unlock it, find the WienMobil app, open it, find the tickets tab, and then show the ticket. On the contrary, physical tickets were easier to present because it required a lot less steps - passengers had it in hand, in a pocket, or in a wallet most of the time, and just had to show it to the inspector.
Their goal for this hackathon was not to delete the WienMobil app and go back to full paper tickets, but instead, to find solutions to improve and accelerate the digital ticket validation process.
In its core, the challenge was to create a prototype to validate tickets as fast as possible, starting after the passenger located their phone.
The winning project would be the one that could achieve 3 goals: solve the problem, ensure a smooth operation, and improve the passengers' experience.
Using hackathons as an open innovation challenge can be the answer to overcome many problems. Instead of outsourcing or trying to figure it out in-company, Wiener Linien used the power of the community to aid them.
And the community showed up! With almost 150 participants and 45 completed projects, it goes to show that the power of hackathons are enormous.
This open hackathon wasn’t meant to reinvent the wheel, either. Instead, the community understood the power and value it provided, knowing they could help millions of people in their daily commute by optimizing a simple process.
Collecting data has always been important, and more so in today’s digital world. Once you have real, palpable data, you can really understand the scope and dimension of the problem at hand. Knowing that validating digital tickets was taking 10x longer than paper tickets, is a better support data than just realizing it was taking more time overall.
As you can see with this example, innovation comes in different sizes and shapes. Something so ordinary, such as showing a ticket to an inspector, can be a costly and inefficient process for the company behind it and its users. The innovation lies everywhere, and every step of the way.
Landing.jobs is a job marketplace that connects companies with tech professionals, such as software engineers, data scientists, and product managers.
Every year, they research and survey the portuguese tech community and launch their Tech Careers Report: an in-depth report that analyses salaries, schedules, benefits, motivations and other important data in the portuguese tech industry.
The goal for this open innovation hackathon was to improve the Tech Careers Report, by analyzing the raw data and developing ways to improve the quality of the insights.
Landing.jobs leveraged their biggest asset - the community - in their favor. The TCR is made for them. By having a chance to build on top of it, data experts were able to contribute positively to a better analysis that ultimately, can help the community make better and more informed decisions.
Even though Landing.jobs has a massive community in the computer science field, they clearly knew the best participants would be the ones interested in data science, specifically. They allowed anyone from the community to join and participate, but the target was clear. Also, who would have more interest in developing a data report other than data geeks?! 😄
The tech giant Microsoft returned to hackathons in 2021 and brought us the “Building the future Hackahton”.
After a tough year 2020, this hackathon was meant to drive inspiration and innovative ideas to push the boundaries of technology.
In more practical ways, the challenge of this open hackathon was to come up with solutions on electric mobility, and power a more environmentally friendly world 🌎
Microsoft challenged participants with not just one, but five different innovation categories, ranging from turning parked cars into sources of revenue for owners, designing infrastructure for shared electric mobility vehicles, to even using blockchain technology for mobility applications.
If your organization is involved in a variety of industries, it may be tempting to organize a hackathon to cover all of them. While this may result in more registrations, the truth is if the themes are too broad, initiatives can become scattered or overly general.
In turn, you might end up with a lot of projects or solutions for diverse segments, but only a few within each category.
Microsoft, a technological business with a wide range of products and services, opted to focus solely on the subject of electric mobility in this open innovation example.
Microsoft partnered with Galp - a portuguese multinational energy corporation, and gowithflow, a startup working towards sustainable mobility. These hackathon partnerships with relevant companies are fantastic. They strengthen the perception of authority and quality of the hackathon, and also provide support during the event planning and mentoring stages.
Social HackaCOM is an innovation and communication marathon. They focused on digitally connecting academics and professionals with transformative talent potential, who want to work with purpose and achieve a positive social impact. The Brazilian host, Instituto GRPCOM, focuses on establishing projects that adhere to the group's ethical beliefs and corporate social responsibility principles.
This innovation hackathon was open to participants from different fields of expertise, ranging from communications, digital marketing, web design and many others. It consisted of four challenges: performance & optimization-based solutions, communication strategies, resource management and remote activities.
Instituto GRPCOM had 7 different co-hosts for this hackathon! Having this many companies promoting the event is bound to bring you some incredible results when it comes to the number of innovators that participate in the challenge.
And they did not disappoint.
With over 800 participants, this is one of the biggest challenges we’ve hosted to date! Also, it was an open innovation challenge, but exclusive to Brazilian residents, which makes this milestone even greater.
While in other hackathons niching down was a great option, it’s not always necessary or adequate.
For this challenge, it made sense to promote it to a broader audience given the context and challenge characteristics. You should always set clear expectations and goals you want to achieve with a hackathon so that you can later determine what type of participants you want to target.
These were only some of the best open innovation examples we’ve hosted here at TAIKAI. The variety of challenges, the scope of the problems and solutions is something quite fascinating to look at when you put them together. From big tech corporations like Microsoft to local companies like Wiener Linien, there’s room for innovation in every industry and every size.
Hopefully, these four hackathon ideas and examples provided you with valuable insights to host your next (or first) hackathon.
TAIKAI is a virtual hackathon platform that makes an online hackathon event much easier to host. If you’re looking for a new way to drive innovation, feel free to reach out to us.
We’re always here to help :)