Today Mashery, an Intel company, announced its acquisition of Hacker League, the world’s largest platform for hackathon organizers. Created in late 2011, Hacker League has helped run more than 450 hackathons worldwide over the last two years. The acquisition will allow Hacker League to reach an ever wider audience. At the same time, Mashery gets the opportunity to invest in a hackathon management tool that meets the growing demands of its enterprise customer base.
In a conversation with ProgrammableWeb, Hacker League co-founder Mike Swift made it clear that Mashery was the preferred candidate to partner with to take Hacker League to the next level. Currently, Hacker League has a number of high-quality events that are still seeking more sponsors. For Swift, there was already a built-in familiarity—Mashery has used Hacker League for API HackDay since early 2012. “When people talk about hackathons and companies that are there, Twilio always comes up, Sendgrid always comes up and Mashery always comes up,” he said.
Of course, Mashery has its API management platform but “what takes it above and beyond that is the folks they have on developer relations and in the developer community in general,” Swift said. He estimated that the Mashery developer relations team goes to 60-plus hackathons a year. The reason for this focus is that many of Mashery’s customers host hackathons or regularly attend them. These customers often find themselves in need of an event management solution, which is where Hacker League comes in.
When asked if his company would be rebranded under the Mashery umbrella, Swift was quick to point out that although his company’s software was in transition, Mashery was keeping the Hacker League brand and that it would remain an open, vendor-agnostic platform for hackathons.
Delyn Simons, Head of Developer Platform at Mashery, said, “we are seeing increased demand from our enterprise customer base of 200-plus customers to participate in and run their own internal, partner and public hackathons in order to engage with developers inside and outside their companies.” Time and again, evangelists at hackathons have reported seeing Hacker League provide solutions that help solve developer pain points ranging from helping developers discover new verticals, submissions of hacks, and on to helping the presentation of demos go smoothly. Along with the investment in “open source projects like I/O Docs and mobile development sample apps, Mashery is investing in Hacker League to make this hackathon management tool even better for developers and hackathon organizers,” said Simons.
As Mashery strives to reach out to developers through channels such as hackathons, the partnership with Hacker League would appear to be a natural result. Swift points out that Hacker League “is a great intersection of developers, APIs and event organizers, all of whom are people that Mashery is interested in supporting and talking to, so it makes sense.”
Hacker League was started in October 2011 by Swift, Abe Stanway and Ian Jennings. Since then, Hacker League has powered more than 450 hackathons, with notable events including TechCrunch Disrupt, Evernote Devcup, PennApps and HackNY. The growth of Hacker League has coincided with the growth of hackathons. When the company started, hackathons were held maybe once a month. Today, the Hacker League team has seen some weekends with as many as 17 events being held. When asked about the keys to the company’s success, Swift talked about the sense that developers are constantly being quantified and defined by platforms such as GitHub and Stack Overflow. The proliferation of these platforms creates a high noise-to-signal ratio that makes it harder to find where developers are. Because developers are already going to hackathons, Hacker League brings together developers and organizers in a way that is unique without imposing anything on either party.
The company was formed in response to what the founders saw as a need for organizers to have a platform on which to run their events. This platform includes tools such as the hackathon landing page, GitHub Wikis, submission areas for hacks and more. During an event, the page acts as a central dashboard for information. After the event, it acts as a historical reference of the hacks that have been made.
When asked why hackathons continue to grow in popularity, Swift offered, “Hackathons are a really safe place for developers. You never get fired or get an ‘F’ because your hackathon project failed. …You don’t have anything to worry about if something goes wrong.” As the API economy continues to grow it’ll bear watching what impact this partnership will have on bringing together API providers and developers in ways that help spur innovation.