Hackathon Success

I’ve written about how Hackathons are a key intrapreneurial activity and route to innovation which includes various approaches I’ve adopted. I’ve captured how I’ve used my adventures helping customers adopt some of those approaches to good effect and to disrupt their innovation efforts.

This little adventure overview is about the Hackathons I’ve participated in where I won.

Other than observing and practising with others, I’m a pretty keen participant.

The first time I won was at Microsoft the first time I was there (I left for a short while before returning). It wasn’t actually a win in a Hackathon but the Science Fair they often run alongside them.

This was alongside the first global Hackathon run by Microsoft in 2014 which was the brainchild of Satya Nadella who had just become CEO. Take a look at the scale of them now in this great overview of the 2018 event in which I also won (more on that later): This is not your father’s Microsoft.


So back to 2014 when I won at the local Science Fair in the UK which was a part of the global hackathon. Three of us took part and we developed an app for customer success managers (CSM’s). We called it SuccessGo because it was a mobile app for CSM’s on the go.

Built on Dynamics, it focused on allowing CSM’s to capture success events, that is, interactions with or by customers that might have an impact on usage and could be mapped against a usage report, explained here. It also covered success stories that could be shared on Yammer. The purpose was to share learning of what led to successes as well as have a searchable database. Check out a demo of the app at left. This has to a large part been built into current applications.


Last year I participated with two other colleagues and we submitted a separate hack in a local two day Hackathon in the UK and won. That allowed us to go on to participate in the global one week Hackathon in Seattle later in the year – the feature image of this post is from one of the main tents.

There we came second amongst the hacks submitted in our category out of over 23000 hackers worldwide that submitted over 5000 hacks. Although three of us formally worked on and submitted the hack, we had upwards of 15 involved at any time and many more in Microsoft interested and supporting us.

The idea for all this started before I left Microsoft and I took it back up upon returning. I wrote a post on LinkedIn detailing its origins on a piece of work with a customer. We called it Journey and here is a video with a demo of what was submitted and won. Hit the button below to find out more about the concept and how we are trying to take it further.

After hitting the button, please vote in the poll you’ll find there and then share that page 🙏 🙇‍♂️

Disrupting Innovation

Let’s be frank, innovation could do with some innovating. Startups are leading the way.

My experience running a startup, working at several and through mentoring startups, has given me unique insights into how well they are positioned to disrupting not just markets, but innovation itself. I wrote a trend report about this: Startup Innovation.

Hackathons have typically been the preserve of startups but large organisations are adopting them too now. I have found them to be rather effective in mixing things up and making something that is normally formal and stuffy, much more fun and engaging. I’ve taken part in many, even won some, at startups and large organisations alike – more here: Hackathon Success.

Having learned a thing or two about what works, I help organisations take the best approaches to disrupting their innovation efforts.

Click to Enlarge

In line with my Success Hacking approach, I see Hackathons as a key intrapreneurial activity and route to innovation. This is a post I wrote some time ago based on work I did supporting customers with running hackathons to drive innovation efforts (see article at left, just one example). My post includes a breakdown of the full blown approach we took over several weeks if not months – the full monty. I also describe an instant, no frills approach that you can run with teams over a few hours. This all borrows from practices that startups have popularised and I have been using to good effect.

It is quality rather than quantity that matters in innovation, but without quantity, you might not get to quality. Hackathons are a way of Innovation Hacking, as I call it and is the lean and agile way to get to the few from the many in a fun, informal and engaging way.

Below is a summary video I created to explain the approach at the time.