One weekend late in January, a hundred or so college kids made their way to New York City, ready for an intense weekend learning, presentations and not very much sleep. They weren’t heading to a Hackathon. Not this time. Instead, they gathered for the first ever HackCon.

College hackathon organizers from over 30 events – veterans and first-time organizers alike – spent the weekend doing what growing, maturing communities do – learning, arguing, searching for ways to improve and understand their world. The schedule alternated between talks, Q&As and general discussion.

We recorded most everything that wasn’t off-the-record.

Background: A Brief History of Hackathons


Jon Gottfried is a co-founder at Major League Hacking.

Selected Favorites

If you’re curious about where student hackathons are going (or want to start one yourself) but only have a few minutes, watch these audience favorites:

1. When ‘awesome’ is isolating: Making Hackathons Accessible to Newbies

ADICU, the student organizers behind most of Columbia’s Tech Events, focus their time on getting students with some programming background interested in making stuff and tech in general. This year’s DevFest, ADICU’s week long lots-of-tech-talks-culminating-in-a-hackathon event, attracted over 700 signups (and over 300 attendees) inside Columbia alone. Here’s their report on how – and why – they did it.

Dan Schlosser is a Sophomore at Columbia University and a board member at ADICU.

2. Aligning Interests for Successful Hackathons

John Britton has been on all sides of the new age of hackathons. As one of the first Developer Evangelists at Twilio, John pioneered the current generation of “let me give an unbelieveable 2-minute demo” developers that exist today. As a hackathon organizer, he has organizer several MusicHackDays in New York. John joined us at HackCon to talk about getting Sponsors, Organizers and Hackers interests’ aligned for a great event.

These days, John Britton is the Education Liason for Github.

3. Hackathon Stories: Why they matter, and how to make them happen.

Beyond the hacks that get created and the learning that goes on, one of the most important outcomes of a hackathon are the stories. As a powerful medium for sharing the ethos of hackathons with potential attendees, Tess Rinearson reflects on her year-and-a-half of blogging at – and about – hackathons, creating a compelling case for making sure your hackathon has its stories.

version of this talk is also available as an article on Medium.

Tess Rinearson is an engineer at Medium, and somewhat of an alum at Penn and CMU.

4. Hackonomics 101

Why have hackathons blown up in size as much as they have over the past few years? How can an organization like PennApps or MHacks raise over $250,000 for a single event? Where is this money coming from, and is it sustainable?

(Alexey) gave a talk about the economics behind the current and future state of Hackathon Sponsorships

version of this talk is also available as an article on Medium.

Alexey Komissarouk is the founder of the PennApps hackathon, and most recently a Developer Evangelist for Pebble.

5. Hackathon Values

ADICU’s Dina Lamdany, spoke about the values underlying their organization and lead a discussion about the values of the hackathon community as a whole. The discussion was not recorded, but Dina’s statement of principle stands on its own.

Dina Lamdany is a Junior at Columbia and Board Member at ADICU.

All the talks

The rest of the videos are worth watching as well. Easily. They’re full of advice about branding your hackathonrecruiting and training your organizing team and advice for pairing newbies with experienced mentors, and much more.

For a full list of topics as well as slides for most talks, see the full HackCon schedule.

More posts about hackers and hacking are also available on a Medium collection curated by Tess.

Thanks to Nick, Ishaan and Swift for putting together a fantastic event.

PS. Ideas, concerns? Email [email protected]