Hackathon Projects by big companies: Foursquare, Paypal, Banco Sabadell

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Have you ever heard of a Hackathon? In the software development world, it’s a buzzword.
A hackathon is a sprint-like event in which developers and others involved in software development, including designers, project managers, and others, collaborate intensively on innovative projects during several days, normally between a day and a week. In most of the cases, a hackathon is organized to create something new, or to solve a particular problem. And today, I would like to show you some interesting Hackathon projects created by leading companies around the world.


Hackathons gaining popularity as innovation vehicle


To be honest, Hackathons have become a must these days, companies consider then in terms of innovation encouragement and talents development.

Hackathons are also adopted as the normal internal business activity, involving own employees to foster innovation and creative problem solving which go beyond traditional business and IT transformation.

Hackathon projects can inspire a concerted amount of development effort on a focused project for a short period of time and can increase attention to a critical issue. For people who need motivation and hope in their business, hackathon projects can create this sense of possibility. It can also help to find unexpected internal resources to foster digital innovation.

The nature of innovation has changed in recent years and today is characterized more by speed, flexibility, and openness. When we talk about big companies, collaborating with different departments, especially with IT, can be an issue. And a fast solution is like a dream, which never comes true. But, according to Fast company, as corporations start to embrace the idea of software-first future, they start adopting hackathons for everything from R&D and product roadmap to talent retention. For Fortune 500s, it’s more than just an event, it is a change initiative.

For example, during the past few years, Capital One has run internal hackathons for a variety of internal innovation, such as building prototypes, pitching ideas to senior business and technology leaders, creating new products, introducing new capabilities, and adopting new solutions. It is a great way to help enable a maker culture that is required in a modern company.

Another example is Hasbro, which a few years ago held a hackathon where 150 developers came and developed 45 products, equivalent to billions of dollars in traditional R&D ( source: Fast company).

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As for the traditional automobile industries, they are using hackathons as a means of creating in-car apps and safety features, according to the hackathon organizers. Chevrolet offered eyes-free 4G LTE integration data with AT&T to allow hackers to create apps for the vehicle’s safety while Ford has experimented with hackathons for social driving apps. And Edmunds.com has been teaming with Fortune 500 companies for invite-only hackathons called Hackamotive, where a variety of people get to hack the car-shopping experience using its vast auto data,

And I should say, it is not always just about technology. It’s about how you can implement it, how you can work as a team, how you can solve problems, how you can work with shifting environments, etc.


Why do big companies invest in hackathon projects


1.Seeing the problem from different perspective
You actually learn by doing, learn by watching how other people solve problems. There is always more than just one solution to a problem and this is a great opportunity to see different approaches to the same problem.

2. Sense of accomplishment
How often teams start a project and never finished it? Or thought about something, but never tried it out? A team, especially in big companies, become exhausted of that “never-ending” tasks. Sometimes people need to work on something that gives immediate results. It helps to increase motivation and proactivity.

3. New talents, new teams
A Hackathon is a perfect place for both extroverts and introverts to foster relationships and improve soft skills while engaging in something they have a shared and growing interest in.

4. Innovation
Hackathon projects are a ground for new ideas. They create a uniquely productive atmosphere that forces participants to distill their visionary concepts down to actionable solutions.

5. Collaboration environment
Hackathons build a bridge between developers and marketing people. Hackathon projects help establish two-way conversations between those that develop the technology and the people that use them. This feedback loop increases efficiency and productivity, increases motivation and makes both teams understand each other better.

6. Soft skills enhancement
A good professional is recognized not for his hard skills, but for the combination of hard and soft skills. And hackathon environment is absolutely the perfect place to foster those skills.

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Hackathon projects by big international companies


Fast company says, that PayPal hosts Hackathons around the world. The company hosted Battle Hacks in 14 cities around the world, calling on the most talented developers to work for 24 hours to create something magical that incorporates the PayPal API and solves a local problem. For example, one of the top projects of these hackathons was an app to help puppies in shelters, connecting users with dogs available for adoption and allowing donors to use PayPal to contribute money towards vaccinations and vet treatments.


Foursquare notably helds large and global hackathons, in which over 500 developers at over 30 sites around the world competed to create applications using the Foursquare API. According to Techcrunch, one of the top projects was “Plan Your Next Trip”, which uses the Foursquare API to help you plan out your upcoming 2-day trip to any city in the world using the recommendations from Foursquare’s “Explore” feature.


Banco Sabadell
Several years ago Banco Sabadell started to organize Instant Banking Hack Days, Banco Sabadell’s hackathon, to boost digital innovation in the financial sector with the collaboration of Mobile World Capital Barcelona. They gather a large number of programmers in order to generate new ideas and applications. The participants in the Instant Banking Hack Day work on creating new web and mobile applications to enhance the direct experience of users in four aspects: means of payment, a transformation of customer service, the Internet of things and contextual and predictive services. For more than 30 hours, 23 teams built fintech apps and software at Banco Sabadell’s hackathon. It took place in Barcelona and Banco Sabadell has become one of the most tech-friendly banks in Spain. Not only it offers access to an API for developers to build apps on top of it, but it also runs the BStartup 10 startup program and hackathons for fintech projects. The winners of the Instant Banking Hack Day were:

  • Wallabe: a social banking concept that allowed Banco Sabadell be part of the sharing economy. The app let users withdraw money anywhere and at anytime using smartphones.
  • Quipu: online invoicing software for startups and freelancers. The company already existed prior to the event, but the team developed Quipu Ripae there, an extension that integrates with Sabadell’s API.
  • Investcity: the project tried to establish a link between financial products and games, allowing users to better understand how the financial industry works and to buy and sell shares applying gamification to the process.
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Another hackathon was with Vitalik Buterin – the young prodigy behind Ethereum Blockchain was the star of a Blockchain Hackathon prepared by Banco Sabadell, in which developers from all over the globe took part.
As part of 4YFN, Banco Sabadell held Hackathon dedicated to the translation of business rules in Smart Contracts into Blockchain, the revolutionary new technology which allows data to be transferred in a simpler and more secure way. Hackers and developers from all over the world worked in teams mentored by Vitalik Buterin, the young founder of Ethereum and one of the most influential figures in the world of technology.
The idea behind it is simple, Banco Sabadell seeks to establish co-creation synergies between technology start-ups and enterprises from the Fintech, Insurtech, Legaltech and Cleantech segments. Companies that took part in this Hackathon include Microsoft, Zurich, Roca Junyent, Endesa, and the joint venture Banco Sabadell/Zurich.

And there many more examples of successful Hackathons. If you know some, feel free to share them in the comments section below!

And here, I give you some websites, where you can find upcoming Hackathons in Spain.

  • https://www.hackathon.com/city/spain/barcelona
  • https://www.hackerearth.com/sprints/l/city/hackathons-barcelona/
  • https://hackathonspain.com/calendario/

And if you are interested in other Hachathon projects or in innovation in general, I highly recommend you to subscribe to our monthly newsletter here.


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