How to organize a Hackathon — A Beginner’s Guide from absolute beginners

In summer 2020 we met Lea and Ilgin from Malt at Ledu Happy Dumpling in Munich. Lea just started her position as a community developer at Malt to build and grow a community of freelancers in Germany. Malt was already one of the biggest freelance communities in France and Spain. In 2019 Malt entered the market in Germany with the goal to build a great community here and to organize amazing and engaging events for freelancers.

Our co-founder Elias at the time had just quit his position at Google to fully focus on Codesphere and took over the Javascript Meetup Munich. With Codesphere we build a coding cloud with zero configuration needs. A coding environment that lives in your browser and deploys, tests and scales TypeScript as you type.

We were both intrigued by our ambitions and knew we wanted to do something together. And what better way to bring together the tech community than by organizing a Hackathon?

And with that it was decided. We were going to organize a Hackathon. How? We would figure that out by doing it.

1. Find partners & incentives

A Hackathon requires the participants to put in a lot of hard work. It is more than streaming an online course while answering e-mails at the same time. It means a full day of dedicated work and sometimes days of preparation beforehand. That is why it was important to value this work with great prices. To finance it we were looking for partners to sponsor our event at the same time. Thankfully we found a great partner with Fitmotion that kindly supported us in funding our prices. A special thanks goes to the CEO of Malt, Vincent, for sharing his ideas and CTO Hugo for being part of the jury.

2. Define the project & set up a schedule

What should be our theme? In the corona year we chose something that would be beneficial for everyone working from home — how to improve the home office. To make it possible in one day it had to be a rather small project scope with just some basic lines of code and a first draft of a business plan. There are hackathons where people solve the problems of the organizing company, but our goal was more about having fun, getting together and building something for everyone.

3. Find a venue

Throughout the planning process we realized doing the Hackathon in person was likely to become impossible due to Corona, so instead of finding a venue we were brainstorming about alternatives: doing it online and from where? In the end, there was no way to rent a place and we ended up doing it in… Elias living room — with a full video team from simple media! And it worked surprisingly well! Fun fact: they normally do rap videos.

4. Communicate

Over the weekend a landing page was coded by Elias and Jonas where participants could sign up per E-Mail. We started to invite our existing community at per mail and set up ads on LinkedIn and Twitter. We saw quickly that our ads were performing well on social media but didn’t seem to convert. Without any previous experience in Hackathon communication we didn’t know what a good conversion rate was, but we decided to switch tactics. We decided to focus on the community we already had and use the network effect. We invited everyone we knew and asked them to invite everyone they knew.

5. Engage

We reached out to the organizer of one of the biggest hackathons in Russia {} to get some best practices and followed his example to start a Slack channel. Instead of signing up per mail and gathering our community in an excel list, we changed the sign up and let all participants sign up in our Hack@Home Slack channel. This was the idea all along for the day of the Hack@Home but it turned out to be the best idea to gather our community beforehand. They were able to connect among each other to form teams and we could keep them up to date about our organization status. AND we could ask them for direct feedback on our plans. We stopped our ads and asked our slack group to invite their friends and colleagues. As a thank you we put together a set of goodie bags (thanks to Edelobstbrennerei Schleihauf for the Gin & Juice ;)) that we sent to participants in our slack group. The possibility to use the network effect via our slack community instead of putting money on ads, was a great learning for me on how community building can make up for marketing costs.

6. Have Fun

With our motto “learning by doing” we ended up changing plans quite often along the way. Many of the things necessary for this event we did for the first time, like choosing the project scope, producing a video or live-streaming the event. The two things I learned in this process:

  • Be open to changing your initial plan, even if a lot of work went into it
  • be optimistic and have fun, even if things go wrong

Check out the VIDEO → LINK

The outcome was our first, very down-to-earth Hack@Home. We made it happen with little resources but a lot of hard work. The whole process was beautiful, fun, chaotic, not really fancy and anything but perfect. But for us it didn’t have to be. We just wanted to create something where people could come together, work on real ideas and have fun in the process.

We hope we achieved that and want to thank everyone who participated for their hard work and passion that we saw in each submitted project. The project pitches to improve Home Office were AMAZING.



With Vision Up Tim Riffelmacher designed a smart conferencing tool allowing deaf and mute people to participate in meetings because sign language is automatically live translated into written words. A great example for an innovative idea encouraging real diversity.

Easy Meet

A tool to automate scheduling meetings easier by Umberto Peretti


A tool to send mindfulness reminders (e.g. looking outside of the window) thanks to Leo Moos & Max Wittenberger

In the end the whole Hackathon would not have been possible without all the people who put in their work so I would like to take time to thank those who made it till the end with their submissions. A big thank you to each and everyone who participated and submitted ideas, because they were all truly great. {All projects can be found here.}

We can not wait to see you at the next Hackathon.

Jonas, Elias and Lea (f.l.t.r.)


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