Tuesday, August 7, 2012

5 Innovation Contests and Hackathons that Spurred New Products

In the tech startup world, innovation happens all the time. Innovation is a resource that the world can always use more of, and like any resource, it must be harvested. To harvest the energy of the sun, you need solar panels. If you want to turn the air into electricity, you need wind turbines. If you want to turn innovative ideas in profitable businesses, you need hackathons.

Hackathons embody everything that is fantastic about the tech startup world. Hackathons take place when a handful (or many, many more) like-minded individuals come together, take time out of their days and build amazing new companies and apps just for the sake of building. But there are some pretty jaw-dropping benefits to hackathons that justify the time and energy spent organizing and participating in these events.

There are a variety of different hackathons that have spurred hundreds of great innovative new products. Below are five hackathons that carry a little more prestige than the others because of the success that the startups have achieved since their inception.

1.   Startup Weekend LA, Notable Birth:  Zaarly
Part of the Startup Weekend series we all know and love, this hackathon takes place in Los Angeles at the Coloft coworking space. Anyone is welcome to pitch a startup idea and receive feedback from other Startup Weekend attendees. Teams organically form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote) and then it’s a 54-hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing and market validation. Startup Weekend culminates with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with opportunities for critical feedback.
2.   Startup Bus, Notable Birth:  txtroo
With buses departing from San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Chicago, Cleveland, New York and Miami, Startup Bus is a hackathon on wheels. Participating ‘buspreneurs’ produce different products as they travel to SWSX in Austin, TX. Not only is there a Startup Bus America but in December 2011, this style of hackathon was launched in Europe as well.
3.   Hack the Midwest, Notable Birth: Qup
Participants have just 24 hours to build and create a viable product. They can either build a team on their own or be paired through event coordinators.
4.   AngelHack, Notable Birth: Go Give
AngelHack unites developers around the country for a national hackathon where they can showcase big ideas and win seed capital from investors. It is one of the largest hackathon series with over $200,000 in prizes and $30,000 in sponsor prizes.
5.   Disrupt, Notable Birth:  Docracy
Presented by TechCrunch, Disrupt is series of hackathons that have taken place in Bejing, New York and San Francisco. Consisting of separate events over four days, Disrupt is open only to hackers and developers willing to work on projects to present. At the heart of Disrupt is the Startup Battlefield where entrepreneurs present to a judging panel of VCs, angels and general investors. What’s up for grabs?  The $50,000 prize, the coveted “Disrupt Cup”, a wealth of press exposure and new open doors.

So if you have an idea that you’ve been itching to try it out, but may not have had the time to do so, try out a hackathon. Sure you may lose some sleep, but you might gain a million dollar idea.  

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