19 May, 2017

Do hackathons deliver return on investment?

In 2014 Unilever engaged with 1UP for the first ever retail eCommerce hackathon and we created the Re.Hack series. Based off the success of that event Unilever commissioned the 2015 sustainability hackathon and then the 2016 Re.Hack, the third in the series.

What is a hackathon

A hackathon is a 48 hour event (usually) where a variety of people with differing skills come together to generate new ideas based on an agreed brief. Typically the ideas generated by the teams are retained as intellectual property and the client, in this case Unilever, has the first right of refusal to commission the projects. This is how we attract the keenest minds in the community. It’s a chance to work with big brands and showcase their best minds.

The brief for a hackathon tends to be wider than a standard design sprint or innovation day to allow small agencies and startups to use previously developed concepts and modify them to fit the objectives. It promotes diversity amongst teams which may range from advertising agencies, to hardware hackers, to financial, logistics and retail professionals. We even invited a number of kids along to the 2016 event for some truly untethered thinking. In total we had just under 200 attendees including Unilever employees and their retail customers (Tesco, Sainsburys etc).

27 teams were formed and each team pitched their best idea during the pitch stage at the end of day 2.

Why hold a hackathon?

This was the third hack in the series which indicates the value Unilever derives from such an event. Each year Unilever select five or six concepts that are taken into focus groups, before selecting a few to back financially to bring them to proof of concept.

It’s not just about the final projects though, it’s also a great team building environment. Unilever staff are plunged into teams for 48 hours with startup founders, hardware hackers or creative freelancers. They learn about the startup ecosystem, about lean process and test based development. They also make friends and business contacts that are invaluable for future business.

It’s also a great opportunity for PR and to show the world that you take innovation seriously.

Check out the Re.Hack twitter feed. https://twitter.com/rehack_io

What’s it like

It’s fun and inspiring but also exhausting (in a good way). Here’s the official video for Re.Hack 2016.

A word from our client

“1UP have been fantastic partners for us. Not only are they able to connect me with amazingly talented people in the tech area, but they also deliver thought leadership and inspiration. The team have a great way to make the complex simple and cut through jargon to find actionable solutions to the problems we face. This year marked our third Hackathon partnership and I’m sure there will be more to come thanks to the quality of thinking and ideas that it delivers.”

Joe Comiskey — Head of eCommerce and Digital Capability, Innovation and Strategy; Unilever UK

About The Hoxton Mix 1UP

1UP bridges the gap between the corporate and creative worlds. We give corporations easy access to the brilliance of cutting-edge agencies; and we give agencies access to the financial clout and global reach of corporations.

If you’re interested to know more about how a hackathon, innovation day or immersion session might work in your company, drop us an email on hello@get1up.co or call us on +44 (0) 207 613 7220.

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