Free Enterprise Staff  | October 16, 2015

Your Guide to This Weekend’s Free Enterprise Hackathon

After weeks of anticipation and months of planning, the Free Enterprise Hackathon is finally here. Now that your heart is racing from all the excitement, here’s everything you need to know for the big event.

When’s this hackathon going down?

The Free Enterprise Hackathon will be held Saturday, October 17th through Sunday, October 18th, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters located at 1615 H Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20062.

That gives attendees 36 hours to come up with something amazing.

Is there still time for me to register?

YES! You can register online here.

What are the prizes? 

1st Place: $1,000 American Express gift card per team member

The overall winning team will get the opportunity to accelerate their winning prototypes with the team. The program will include desk space at D.C.-based global incubator and seed fund 1776, as well as networking opportunities with key stakeholders on the Free Enterprise team.

2nd Place: $350 Apple gift card per team member

So, what’s a hackathon, and why have they become so popular in recent years?

Since many people had this question, we put together a great primer on hacker culture and hackathons. Here’s a snippet from that piece that gives a broad overview of the hackathon:

Hackathons take place in a multitude of settings, from high schools and universities to multinational corporations. Companies like Facebook, Netflix and VMware routinely roll out new features developed over the span of a day or two by employees participating in a corporate hackathon.

“Right now, hackathons are a tool that many different organizations in a lot of different sectors are utilizing for a variety of reasons, including recruitment, innovation, and research and development,” said Sabeen Ali, founder and CEO of AngleHack, a company that organizes hackathons for clients that range from Hasbro to UNICEF. “Hackathons are proving to be kind of that silver bullet, which is really interesting because they’re cost effective and people can create prototypes without too much time loss or too much commitment to a particular solution.”

If you want to learn more about hackathons and the huge impact they can have on an organization, check out our full piece here: “How Hackathons Are Flipping R&D on Its Head”

Why is Free Enterprise holding a hackathon?  

That’s a good question. That we are holding a hackathon is a testament to just how malleable this kind of event is: Regardless of who you are, or what you’re trying to do, a hackathon is, at its core, an opportunity for people to get together and collaborate to solve a problem—regardless of what that problem may be.

For us at Free Enterprise, the problem is not a physical one. Here’s how we see it:

“Because we highlight the men and women behind American businesses, we decided we wanted to try to create a way to spotlight the businesses across the country that are having an outsized impact on the local and national job markets.

Even though there are many sources for jobs data, there aren’t any that specifically address what actual businesses are doing to boost the economy. By holding the hackathon, which will take place over the weekend of October 17th, we’re inviting some of the brightest minds in technology and data science to ‘hack’ this problem and create an altogether new way to measure the effect that these kinds of businesses are having across the U.S.”

So there you have it. We’re not looking to build a new kind of computer or some futuristic device. (Though that doesn’t preclude participants from doing so if it fulfills the goals we’ve set.) We are looking for a new, innovative way to measure the impact of small and medium businesses across the U.S.

You can check out our full explainer on why we’re holding a hackathon here.

What resources will be available at the Free Enterprise Hackathon?

To successfully complete the challenge, attendees must utilize at least one of the following data resources, and are free to incorporate other data sets as well:

  1. ADP
    1. ADP Small Business Report
    2. Regional Employment Report
  1. Dun and Bradstreet
    1. D&B Direct 2.0
  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics
    1. Databases, Tables & Calculators by Subject 
  1. Census Bureau
    1. Business Dynamics Statistics (1976-2012)
    2. Economic Indicators Time Series (various years – present)
    3. The 2015 Planning Database (2015)
    4. Economic Census (2012, 2007, 2002)
    1. Census API – By Coordinates
  1. Quandl
    1. USA GDP Growth Data
    2. USA employment
    3. Starup and Venture Capitalist

What are examples of successful products that have come out of other hackathons?  

As we mentioned, there’s no simple way to define a hackathon, other than to say it’s about people coming together to solve a problem in a predetermined period of time. Earlier this week we highlighted a number of hackathon-spawned tools that we think are pretty cool. Here’s one from this year’s Disrupt NY Hackathon:

“The event’s judges ultimately designated the group behind Witness, a panic button application, as the victor. By hitting the red button that appears after the Witness iPhone app is opened, your phone will automatically call and text your emergency contacts and record your location, camera, and microphone activity, according to TechCrunch.”

To see more hackathon-inspired creations, check out our full run-down here.

What else is there to know?

Just that you should make sure to follow our coverage this weekend, as we report live from the event to bring you all the exciting news that’s sure to come out of our inaugural hackathon.

You can keep up with our full coverage of the 2015 Free Enterprise Hackathon by signing up for our e-mail newsletter, liking us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter (#FreeEnterpriseHack)

Also, be sure to check out our recap of the event on Monday, and stay tuned over the coming weeks for even more hackathon coverage!