04-Mar-2015 by ZulfiqarDeo

I was heading into the unknown this past Friday the 13th! Been there before, but it always feels a bit weird. The uncertainty of doing something you haven’t done before still touches you the same way it did on your first day at school. To me, the concept of a hackathon was something computer geeks used to do in the Silicon Valley. Yet, here I was, a decidedly non-technical person on my way to a hackathon in London. I finished off my Friday afternoon meetings made my to the Rainmaking Loft in the shadow ofTower Bridge. It was quite pleasant walking across the bridge.

This hackathon was focused around the Finance Sector, i.e. Banks and other bodies who worked with cashflowand, the Techy sector, i.e. how do you use tech to solve some financial problems and dilemmas. I finally made my way into the building with my lunch still in hand. It was 5.30pm.

After going through registration formalitiesI found a quiet space and made the most of my lunch. But the moment didn’t last long and soon I was back in my zone: Phase 1 – network and get a feel of who everyone else was. Phase 2 – find a project / team and then Phase 3 – deliver value.

The event started by bringing us together and helping to break the ice. We formed small teams and were challenge to innovate on the spot. My group came up with the idea of using Virtual Reality. We looked at how to make the experience of going to an art gallery more fun (to put it mildly). We then heard pitches from the other projects and formed our hackathon teams. It didn’t matter how often they highlighted the formalities it just seemed to go straight over our heads. I feel we were more interested in self organizing and just getting to work. By the way the Virtual Reality ideas we played around with were useful to a client of mine. They are currently working on challenging conventions of accessibility in the art world — artFixLondon .

The event was structured so that Finance Sector companies highlighted their concerns. After Pay, MyOrder, MasterCard, Lloyds Banking Group, Open Bank and Rabobank were represented. They allowed us access to their knowledge base, customer data – where appropriate, etc. This helped us to come up with solutions they could use to support their real life business concerns. The project I took an interest in was Easy Pay. Here we looked at using Instant Messaging to transfer micro payments among users of eWallets. By having access to the code from MasterCard, After Pay and MyOrder we were able generate a more precise solution. We are now looking to commercialise with the support of some of the companies in attendance.

A weekend full of intense focused work in an open innovation environment was truly valuable experience. I am now looking to cross apply the hackathon philosophy to other areas in order to encourage open innovation across other platforms and industries.

How about you – What are your experiences with Open Innovation based events ?

The Author, Zufi Deo, is the Founder of a business support service for Entrepreneurs. He is also a Co – Founder at , is a UK Top 50 Business Adviser and promotes Entrepreneurship in London via Entrepreneur Commons, London.