In 2017, we organized a hackathon for 1000 people. It was – what’s the word? – awesome. But since it was the very first edition, there were a lot of lessons to learn. So we took a moment to celebrate (read: cry with champagne) our f*ckups. And to get excited about the next edition of our mega-hackathon.


Things Nobody at Team Hack Belgium said in 2017:


  • So glad we started on time!

We delayed investing in the development of the event, because we were waiting for the partners to sign up. In the end they did join, making the event financially viable. Unfortunately, we ran out of time for doing some of the rather important things.  


  • I can’t believe how smoothly the admin went.

One of the things that we didn’t quite get around to was the behind-the-scenes management. We didn’t have the right tools and processes in place for the way we collected expert and attendee information. This led to countless man hours being wasted by having to collate numerous spreadsheets. Never again! (We hope.)


  • Man, people were mingling like it was the opening Erasmus party.

We know Hack Belgium has mind-blowing potential for facilitating conversations between people who normally never meet. But we didn’t optimize our program flow and networking tools for that. Some of the participants talked to the same kinds of people in the same sector that they talk to everyday. The magic ohmygodIneverthoughtoflookingatitthatwaythatsbrilliant moments didn’t happen enough for them.


  • We had to break up the masses in the Experience Zone!

The Experience Zone is the area of Hack Belgium where participants can try out emerging technologies, talk to experts, and then apply these technologies to their idea or project. While a lot of people had a good time in the Experience Zone, many participants missed out on what it had to offer. Just maybe, that’s because we made the error of physically separating the Experience Zone from the rest of the event. Just maybe.


  • That program flow was smooth as a Bourbon Whiskey.

On Day 1, participants came up with ideas for projects and formed teams around them. On Day 2, they learned about how emerging technologies can make their ideas work better, faster and more impactful. The f*ckup here lies in the fact that participants couldn’t draw inspiration from the emerging technologies while coming up with new ideas. Which means we missed potential for having much more future-oriented, innovative project ideas.


  • Everybody, like, totally got us.

Hack Belgium 2017: 1000 participants, 300 experts, 12 technologies, 3 days to make a better Belgium. Who wouldn’t want to be there, we thought. What’s not to get, we thought. But we were looking at it from the perspective of people who have gone to countless hackathons and Start-Up weekends. Turned out, a lot of people had a hard time understanding what exactly would happen during those 3 days. And we didn’t succeed in explaining it well enough.


  • And everybody, like, totally got what was in it for them.

At Hack Belgium, in 3 days, you do as much for launching a new idea as you would in a year on your own. All resources you need (from experts to consumers to technology to co-founders) are there. That was so clear to us, but we didn’t manage to make it clear to others. Potential participants were a little confused on why we were asking them to pay. We often heard: it’s 3 days of my time, donated to make society better, shouldn’t I be the one getting paid for that?


  • It’s insane how well-prepared participants were.

Not succeeding to thoroughly explain the Hack Belgium concept led to a fair deal of people arriving at the event thinking it was a conference-like event. They weren’t prepared to truly spend 3 full days working on a new project with a new team. Their agenda required them to drop in and out of the event. For the other, very committed, people, this was a bit of a party pooper.


  • Kudos to us. We got the diversity of a good Sunday night salsa party.

In the participant feedback, diversity was highlighted as one of the biggest strengths of the event. We did a lot better than most hackathon-like events. Then again, most hackathon-like events have white-middle-aged-male written all over them. Since we’re aspiring to hack the whole country, we think it’s best the whole country is represented at our event. Mission not yet achieved.


  • Winning the pitch by popular vote was a great approach!

On Day 3 of the event, 50 teams pitched their project to their peers. We opted for a popular, peer-to-peer vote to decide who would be allowed to present their project on the main stage.This had unintended consequences. Such as people voting for the teams with the best presentation, rather than the teams with the best ideas. We know. We should have indeed seen that one coming.


What we’re hacking excited about in 2018:


  • Doing it all, all over again.

After reading about our f*ckups, you may be wondering: was it even worth it? The answer is Y-E-S. It’s absolutely normal to not get everything right the first time around. And the results we achieved and the feedback we received were beyond our own expectations.


  • Seeing the results of Hack Belgium 2018.

At Hack Belgium 2017, these projects were born. And man, stories we heard about partnerships being kick-started, freelancers finding new clients, entrepreneurs finding first clients, participants becoming confident about their ability to lead innovative projects, people meeting people whom they’d never thought they’d meet, thought-provoking conversations, the list has no end. We simply can’t wait to see what Hack Belgium 2018 will deliver.


  • Bringing emerging technologies and Belgians together.

There is a big wave of technological automation coming to hit our shores. Times are changing. It’s kinda scary. It’s also kinda exciting.  We think that the most urgent thing to be done is bringing emerging technologies closer to the masses. So that we don’t stand by passively as technological disruptions change our world. Instead, we proactively look at what technology can do and match that to what we want it to do. That’s why we’re bringing these 10 technologies to Hack Belgium for everyone to discover and incorporate in their work.


  • Giving you a platform for Open Innovation.

You’ve probably heard about the importance of Open Innovation. But what is Open Innovation, really? And how can you put it into practice? Open innovation is opening up the innovation department of your company. Not only to everyone inside your company, but also to input from the world outside. How you can you go about it? By taking part in Hack Belgium.


  • Helping you reach your SDGs.

Hack Belgium aims to solve 12 societal challenges. These challenges are based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. A lot of Belgian companies have committed themselves to significantly contribute to these goals. But they don’t specifically know how just yet. If that’s your case, Team Hack Belgium is doing the content work for you. Hack Belgium 2018 is set up so that you will go home knowing how to contribute to Global Sustainable Development, right here in our little rainy country.


  • Taking you through our new program flow.

With all that we’ve learned from Hack Belgium 2017, we’ve set up Hack Belgium 2018 so that you can’t help but innovate. Here’s how it’s going to happen. First, you get introductions to emerging technologies and what they can already do today. Then, you choose a societal challenge that matters to you. Together with the other people who care about this challenge, and with your newly acquired technology knowledge, you come up with ideas to solve the challenge. So that by the end of Hack Belgium Day 1, you’ll have a dazzling idea for a project and a team to work on it with you.

  • Making sure your Life After Hack Belgium will be fruitful.

Last year, the third and last day of Hack Belgium was all about pitching. In 2018 it will be half about pitching (storytelling, it’s important) and half about connecting to you to all our partners and supporting organizations who can help you take your project to the next level.


  • Spurring unusual meetings and conversations.

One of the biggest values of events like Hack Belgium are the encounters between people who don’t usually meet. Speed-dating, games, semi-serendipitous mingling: whatever your networking style, Hack Belgium 2018 will have you covered. Additionally, we’re setting up our scheduling app to gently nudge you into discovering topics out of your everyday interests. Not only will you meet unusual suspects, you will be an unusual suspect!


  • Breaking out of our own networking comfort zone.

To meet our own diversity ambitions, we’re working hard to break into new networks. We want to get a good representation of all genders, ages, languages, ethnicities and professional backgrounds in Belgium. Also, Hack Belgium is fully wheelchair accessible. And tickets for students and 65+ are discounted. Everybody is welcome.


  • Helping YOU realize your wildest ambitions.

Did you know that our main motivation for organizing Hack Belgium is not solving the 12 challenges? It’s giving something meaningful to each of the 1000 participants. That can be a new project, a new business – but also knowing how to survive the next coming wave of technological innovation, new partnerships, new clients, new perspectives. It can be narrowing the gap between doing what makes money and doing what improves society. It can be finding the confidence and nudge you need to do your own thing. Whatever your professional ambitions, we’re here to help you achieve them.


We can’t wait for Hack Belgium round 2. See you there!

Be a part of Hack Belgium 2018

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