August 27, 2020

The Earnin Hackathon: An Opportunity for Creativity

At Earnin, we understand that great ideas come from anywhere, which is why we set aside time for employees to create and develop new projects that they’re passionate about. Last month, we hosted our first fully virtual Hackathon! For those that don’t know, the Hackathon is an opportunity for employees to explore out-of-the-box ideas, and then spend company-sponsored time to build out those ideas with a team behind them. With the new iOS 14 features just announced at the 2020 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference and Android 11 release by Google, hosting the Hackathon at the end of July was the perfect time for Engineers to experiment with new features and come up with innovative solutions.

What Went On During the Hackathon

Before the Hackathon, we held a Meet and Greet Day, where the team leads gave a short pitch on their idea in hopes of gathering potential teammates and getting people excited. All in all, we had 58 participants and 19 demos. Once the teams were set, they were given a full day to flesh out and work on their ideas. Three days later, we had our Demo Day, the time when every team presented their project and showed off the work they’ve done!

Judging and Productization

After the demo presentations, our executive judges decided on the top three winners based on creativity, demo quality, potential impact, and presentation. Upon review, the judges liked the demos so much that they ended up creating several additional awards: Best Presenter, Best Productivity, Best Craftsmanship, and Best Innovation. Even better, the leadership team was originally only going to commit to one project, but they liked so many of them that we will be productizing 30% of the projects!

Challenges of Hosting a Virtual Hackathon

Being that this was our first virtual Hackathon, it did come with some challenges. Most of the excitement of a typical Hackathon comes from in-person interaction and festivities. It was also a struggle for some team leads to find teammates solely through Slack, our online communication channel. Even with these challenges, teams created amazing demos.

Tips and Tricks for Hosting a Virtual Hackathon

For those looking to host their own virtual Hackathon event, we have a few tips and tricks to help drive engagement and make the event better for everyone. First things first, clearly communicate to everyone that a Hackathon is coming. People can’t get excited for a Hackathon if they don’t know that’s actually happening. Secondly, always include swag to incorporate something more tangible associated with Hackathon, and to drive company spirit. For teams, since the Hackathon is only a day, it can be useful to have a Video conferencing line open throughout the day to make it feel like everyone is working together in an office environment. Teams can also create Slack channels early to bounce ideas off of each other prior to the actual Hack Day.

Future Improvements

In order to improve future Hackathon events, we sent out a survey to all the participants and received some valuable feedback and suggestions. Many suggested that we extend the Hackathon from one day to multiple days or a week, even potentially starting on a Friday so people can continue to iterate over the weekend. Another awesome suggestion was to have an overarching theme for the ‘Hack Week’ to give a framework of what ideas to come up with.

If you’re an engineer looking for a mission-driven company that cares about cultivating creativity and is willing to invest in your out-of-the-box ideas, join Earnin. See our open roles here.


Photo by: Ameen Fahmy

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