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Here’s what happened at the latest Simply Business hackathons

3-minute read

Sam Bromley

5 February 2020

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Every year we hold two hackathons in the UK, one for each of our offices in London and Northampton. 2019 was no exception – and both hacks were aimed at making the world a better place. Here’s what happened.

What is a hackathon?

During a traditional hackathon developers usually work together to solve problems through coding. Teams create unique solutions, often involving websites, apps or even chatbots.

Hackathons at Simply Business last two days and are open to everyone in the business, not just technologists. This encourages people from different teams with different skills to work together to solve a particular problem.

The best thing is that the problem doesn’t have to be business related – our hacks have produced everything from a better way to book meeting rooms to guitar-controlled drones and a voice-enabled programme that helps people with disabilities map accessible routes around London.

Simply Business’s 2019 hackathons

London – hack your habitat

Last year’s London hackathon was held on 15 and 16 October and the theme was hack your habitat. We wanted to leave the theme open to interpretation, encouraging teams to be as broad as they liked with the term habitat.

Before the hackathon we invited speakers to give hack-themed talks aimed at inspiring our teams. These included Dr. Sal Freudenberg, who runs digital consultancy Cucumber Ltd, and Chris Sandilands, founding partner of Oxbow Partners, an insurance industry advisory firm.

With the creativity flowing, next came the pitches. This is where everyone hears about the ideas people have come up with before deciding which team to join. Some of the best pitches included:

  • Cold Wars – using technology to monitor not just temperature in our office but humidity too
  • Carbon Travel Policy – aimed at reducing our carbon footprint caused by travel, with fully prepared policies and a new carbon offsetting programme
  • Simply Walk – a way to encourage people to take walking meetings, using an application that presents a wide variety of routes and options

The results

The Simply Walk team won best hack. They managed to come up with a Slack-integrated application that gives employees routes and options for walking meetings.

The benefits of walking are huge – the team told us that when you walk 10 minutes a day the risk of early death reduces by 15 per cent. Creativity even goes up by 60 per cent. And as it’s easy to get stuck inside the office all day, our judges felt this was an excellent way to hack your habitat.

Other winners include best presentation for Simply Bangers 2.0, who came up with a radio station on wheels for the office (complete with mobile karaoke technology) and the social impact prize for Carbon Travel Policy.

Finally the people's choice award went to the business name generator, a hack designed to help businesses choose a memorable name (the punnier the better – think 'Kanye Pest' and 'The Bark Side of the Moon').

Northampton – hack for good

The 2019 Northampton hackathon took place on the week of 9 December and the theme was hack for good. The aim was for our Northampton team to think about their wellbeing, the way they work, and how to balance life with work.

While only people from the Northampton contact centre could pitch an idea, anybody from the business could join their team to help make their ideas a reality. Here are some of the pitches:

  • Recharge – a revamp of the the ground floor of our Northampton office to enhance wellbeing at work, including reading areas, a meditation room and areas for yoga
  • Simply Kitchen – a way to encourage people to develop their cooking skills, helping them make healthy meals to improve wellbeing
  • Befriending the Elderly – this team wanted to battle loneliness in Northamptonshire and recruit a team of volunteers to regularly go out and speak to the elderly

The results

The Simply Buddies team won best hack. This hack aimed to reduce the stress and anxiety of being a new starter by building a buddy platform, helping people make friends quickly. This hack went beyond the office too, with the team wanting to build the potential for lasting friendships outside of work.

Other winners include Simply Wellbeing, who were runners up. They proposed using Fitbits and gamification to improve our employees’ lifestyles in just 30 days. Simply Kitchen won the people’s choice award.

What happens next?

The winning teams have the opportunity to continue working on their hacks, taking their projects to the next stage.

All our hack teams really got into the spirit of the 2019 themes – and we’re looking forward to seeing where they go with their ideas next. Watch this space!

What do you think about some of the hacks our teams worked on? Let us know in the comments below.

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