My First Time Running a Hackathon

I’ve planned events before – but never anything like this 48-hour marathon spanning 200 participants across 3 continents and 2 time zones! 

When I was given the opportunity I was extremely excited, but at the same time somewhat anxious. Would I succeed in matching everyone’s energy and meeting their expectations?

The task was daunting, but I took it slow and steady, step by step. 

First, I designed (with help from our talented graphic designer) a cool and eye-catching theme that would decorate all of our hackathon materials. Decorating slide decks, headers, banners, and t-shirts, our hackathon branding quickly became an R&D favorite.

With the event only a month away, we held the official Taboola R&D Hackathon kickoff. Immediately, all of our participants – from engineers to designers to managers – began to gather in groups and cultivate project ideas. 

To encourage creativity and tech innovation, we even held an intro workshop, “The World of Making”, where our hackers learned about smart homes, automation, robots, and much more.

One of the most important values here at Taboola is collaboration and in company spirit, three of our developers from Tel Aviv found themselves flying to Los Angeles only a few days before the hackathon. Jet lag didn’t seem to be a problem, who ends up sleeping at a hackathon anyway? 

Ready, Steady, Go!

The stage was set for the event of the year and Adam Singolda, CEO and Founder of Taboola, rang the bell.

43 projects showed up at the starting line and with only 48 hours, the teams had no time to spare if they were going to realize their ideas and get them working and ready for the semi-finals demo presentation. Meanwhile, every few hours, we made sure that the participants had plenty of sugar to keep them going 🙂

For those looking to take a break and rejuvenate, a challenging 30-minute Escape Room (made and hosted by enthusiastic Taboolars) awaited them.

By 5:00 AM, our participants had demonstrated a clear ability to find new and interesting places to sleep all around the office.

The Semi-Finals

Our Semi-finals took place in 3 countries – one in LA, and 6 in Israel and The Ukraine. We carefully selected judges from within Taboola, chosen because of their broad vision, passion and love of innovation. They spent a lot of time listening to the teams, deliberating amongst themselves until finally deciding who would qualify to make it to the Finals. 

The Winners’ Podium

The 2019 Hackathon winners was a group with developers from both our Tel Aviv and LA offices! Their solution offered SMB advertisers a solution to help optimize their campaign based on similarity to popular campaigns amongst various groups of users.

The 2nd place was won by the Taboola Beacon team. Taboola Beacon created customized recommendations for users based on very specific location using Beacon-based targeting in a Taboola mobile app.

Last but not least, our runners up in 3rd place – the Taboola Police team! Taboola Police decided to help our Taboola kitchen staff and added a facial recognition component on the kitchen sink, that makes me frightened every time I put dirty dishes in the sink instead of stacking the dishwasher ?

The Hackathon Magic

Two weeks of sleep and sugar-balancing later, I am finally starting to understand what we like to call the “Hackathon Magic.”

As builders, the absolute best way to grow our skills is to innovate new ideas and create new things and when we do this alongside others, we learn from them and they learn from us. Most importantly, hacking helps us make lasting connections with others, and that is the Hackathon Magic!

Now it’s time to plan for Taboola Hackathon 2020!

Check out our 2019 Hackathon Highlights in this video:



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