Hackathons: a Launchpad for App Innovation

To those of us who work for API companies and spend more time on HackerNews than we do on Facebook, the ubiquity of hackathons may not be too surprising. But, as immersed as the Singly team is in hackathon culture, we were impressed to learn that 2012 brought 1170 hackathons – an average of 22 each week.


Not all hackathons are in offices and coworking spaces. Take StartupBus, for instance.


We went to AngelHack in NYC, DC, Boston, Seattle, LA and San Francisco this year. Here we are in DC.

The trend of competing to traject an idea to a launched product in a limited amount of time existed long before 2012, but last year was when it truly became a global phenomenon. The range in cities, countries, categories, prizes, and teams was incredibly diverse, and inevitably contributed to the launch of apps and the beginnings of new development projects and teams. And no longer are all hackathons “just a hackathon.” From civics to mobile to hardware to music, hyper-focused hackathons have picked up steam.

As Apple clocked 20 billion app downloads in 2012, bringing their historical total to 40 billion, Gartner is predicting 81 billion app downloads in 2013. As a generation of app-empowering services — from Twilio and UrbanAirship to Heroku and AWS — have matured, innovative mobile products are leaping from idea to market faster than ever.

There’s no one way that an app is born. Some are contracted by a large company or built by dev shops that crank out a new app every month. Some are launched in a basement in suburbia, while others rise through incubator programs. And, whether they succeed in the marketplace or not, thousands of apps have been built at hackathons.

Whether hackathons become refined, strategic mini-incubators or just a passing fad remains to be seen. But there’s no doubt that apps are here for the long haul – at least through the decade, according to Gartner’s predictions.

Last year, Singly participated in, sponsored and hosted dozens of hackathons – including one where we gave away $10,000.

Want to throw a hackathon? We’ve created a comprehensive how-to guide!

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In September, we partnered with Braintree to throw a hackathon in Chicago


It’s not *all* about the hacking. There’s also food, beer, music and toys.

See also: Our 2012 Hackathons Infographic and our open-source guide to throwing a hackathon. Thanks to API Evangelist for collaborating with us on these projects.

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