Why Hackathons Are Driving Customer Success

Count me as a non-believer (just don’t tell anyone I said that!). I admit when I first heard we were going to be hosting hackathons, I of course pictured something like the satirical scene in the TV show Silicon Valley. If you don’t know that reference, then this definition will do:

A hackathon is a gathering where programmers collaboratively code in an extreme manner over a short period of time. Hackathons are at least a few days – or over a weekend [gasp!] – and generally no longer than a week. While working on a particular project, the idea is for each developer to have the ability and freedom to work on whatever he/she wants.

In short, I thought this was 1) too long, 2) too free-form, and 3) too nerdy!

But, like any good corporate soldier, I gave it a chance. Our hackathon was not going to be “coding” per se but, rather, building Seal models: 1) over a few hours, 2) based on specified criteria, and 3) yes, still kind of nerdy (we are a software company after all).

Like many other typical hackathons, the larger group works in smaller “teams” so that people of different skill levels can share knowledge and ideas. Even those with little to no “Seal skill,” when paired with other novices, end up collaborating. Seal is an end-user product (i.e. no coding required), and if you can manage an Outlook Inbox you have enough computer skill to operate Seal. The idea is that people are not inventing new functionality but making decisions based on plain language of their own choosing or based on Seal’s suggestions. Whether users are creating custom analytic policies for use cases such as M&A, Brexit, or Data Privacy, we continuously demonstrate the scalability, versatility, and speed of our AI-powered platform with onsite hackathons.

After the fact pattern (summary of the key facts) was presented and the green light given, what I saw almost instantaneously was that almost everyone began “competing.” I don’t necessarily mean to be first or winning, or avoiding being defeated, but rather, to build the best possible model for their own satisfaction.


Generally, I would break the reasons up into a few main categories: Pride, Competitive Spirit, Desire to Learn, or just plain Showing Off.

But here is the thing – Empowering and educating our customers and employees is the goal. So, all we ask is for attendance. One of the four motivations will take care of itself. Better yet, everyone in the hackathon takes away two things, one tangible and one intangible.

The intangible is knowledge. Yes, I know, this sounds a bit clichéd, but why wouldn’t a Seal customer, partner, or prospect want to learn more about what they are paying for, considering paying for, or evangelizing to others about? It can only make your business, partnership, or potential investment more informed and better utilized.

The tangible takeaway is the actual model itself. Unlike other industry seminars or product launch gatherings, where one is lucky to bring home real, useable knowledge in place of a pamphlet or sales pitch, Seal Hackathon users are provided the model created to take home and use in their own Seal environment. This is no small parting gift. It may be a model that a customer has been thinking about and didn’t know how to create. It may be one they have been trying to create but with less than magnificent results. Or it may be a completely new use case that they didn’t even know they needed.

Why not give a hackathon a try? The knowledge and intangible value more than speak for themselves. All you need to do is show up and the rest will take care of itself. Get the most out of your Seal investment and join us for a day of training (including an interactive hackathon) at our Seal Insight Training Day on October 3. I look forward to seeing you there!