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With its involvement in the Classified Post Hackathon, insurance giant AIA offers young entrepreneurs the chance to try out their business ideas

Fast paced and creative, hackathons such as the Classified Post Hackathon are high-energy events that bring together individuals with a diverse range of skills to form teams with a unified mission to solve real-world challenges.

Beyond the well-known hackathon mantra of “code, eat, sleep, repeat”, all-night hackathon events have proved to be a successful breeding ground for a wide range of business ideas. Frequently, new ideas or solutions created at a hackathon to solve a pain-point in one industry end up being incorporated into another.

GroupMe, for example, which began as a hackathon project in New York, was acquired by Skype; similarly PhoneGap, bought by Adobe in 2011, began life as a hackathon project. Many familiar aspects of Facebook’s interface – the “like” button, the user photo profile change-frame function and the “tag” a friend function incorporated in the comments section on a Facebook post – were conceived at hackathons.

As the main sponsor of the first Classified Post Hackathon, Mark Seifried, chief technology officer at AIA, says that, because of the real-world brief provided to participants they will gain insights into what it is like to create technological solutions that solve real-world problems. “Hackathons are relevant to the actual world-of-work scenarios,” says Seifried, who explains that similar to a hackathon, in the business world there are often time constraints and limited resources available.

Seifried points out that AIA’s support for the Classified Post Hackathon demonstrates a strong belief that technology has become an integral part of daily life  and business strategy. Through the Classified Hackathon challenge, AIA hopes to see new innovative ideas developed.

 “We’ll be looking for creativity in many areas, including technical approach, analytics and information management, including the use of AI tools, presentation format and design.” Seifried say this makes hackathons the ideal place for cutting-edge technology solutions that can have real-world applications.

For this reason, says Seifried, participating in Hackathon is definitely one of the selling points for candidates when they apply for positions related to technology, engineering and data analytics positions. “Through participation in hackathons, candidates can show their ability to collaborate with team members to tackle real-world problems within a short period of time, and come up with creative ideas,” says Seifried.

Furthermore, winning teams will be given the opportunity to further develop their ideas through  potential internship opportunities offered by AIA. “We have created a real-world challenge for the teams so the work they produce could quite possibly be further developed to the commercialisation stage,” says Seifried.

Notably, Seifried says the Classified Post Hackathon provides a channel to focus attention on the rising importance of harnessing the power of technology to create a business edge. For example, as customers become increasingly digital-savvy, InsurTech (insurance and technology combined) is already changing the insurance industry’s way of doing business.

As this happens, insurance firms across the industry will need to integrate technology into their business models to meet evolving customer behaviour and changing expectations. “In a world where digital disruption has become the norm, it’s important for businesses to engage with technology and make it work for them, says Seifried.

With more organisations considering idea generation methods such as hackathons to produce desired solutions, the events are no longer just the domain of developers.

Similar to the real world of business, hackathon projects require participants to assess large amounts of information, distil the information into important key elements, and effectively communicate the key elements through technology solutions and presentations to the judges.

 For the concept to work successfully, Seifried says hackathon teams need to ensure they have good team organisation, efficient distribution of work and effective intra-team communication. Agile decision-making is also a feature of all high-performance teams.

According to Seifried,  the ability for individuals to pull together and collaborate as teams is essential to success in both hackathons and industry and creativity is often what distinguishes the winners.

“There are many examples throughout history of superior technical solutions losing out to alternatives that are more clearly understood and presented for people to see the value,” says Seifried.