What really grinds my gears close

Luke Hubbard
22nd March 2012
What really grinds my gears

So this month for some unknown reason I put my hand up and volenteered to do "grinds my gears". It's taken longer than expected to find something that actually annoys me but here it is... the subverting of hackathons into investment competitions.

What is a hackathon? In its purest form its a gathering of geeks where you get together, share ideas and build something you find interesting. Ideally you make new friends, team up and help each other to get something in a good enough state that it can be shown working. This is hacker / maker culture in action.

Now there are many different kinds of hackathons. Some are community driven like barcamp or Super Happy Dev House, others are company sponsored like Google hack days. Then there are more business or ideas focused ones like Startup Weekend. All are awesome in thier own way.

So what's my beef? My issue is recently I've seen more events with more emphasis on pitching where the prize is the carrot of seed stage investment. While this may seem like a good thing it changes the vibe of the event for me. Many of us are not really interested in investment or incubation we just want to make friends and hack. If you are ready for investment it's not hard to find and connect with the right people.

Thinking about it from the investor's perspective I can understand it makes sense to host these events. You have money you wish to invest in technology startups. What better way then to invite a load of geeks to come and compete to build startups out of thin air then pick the winners. But if this is the motive lets call it what it really is. It's a pitching / investment / recruitment competition.

Also it should be clear from the events website what the deal for the "winning" team really is. How much equity is expected in return for the investment, what other strings are attached. All too often these questions are left unanswered and that is what grinds my gears.

Hold on! Rather than moan I think it's time I did something positive about it. We haven't had a Super Happy Dev House in Bangkok yet so I'm volenteering to organise one in April (date and location TBC). Lets get back to old school hacker culture. You bring your laptop, we will provide food, beer and enough coffee to keep you awake till the morning. Have fun, make friends, code on whatever you like, just leave the elevator pitch at home.

If you are in Bangkok, tell us which weekend works best for you.