What’s the Difference Between a Hackathon and a Shark Tank?

What’s the Difference Between a Hackathon and a Shark Tank?

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Positioning Your Innovation Event for Success

It’s not uncommon for companies to mislabel their innovation event, thereby not attracting the right participants, or setting the correct expectations, undermining the event’s success. This is a nuanced point since a hackathon and a shark tank, or ‘pitch’ event, are both types of events where individuals or teams come together to present their ideas or projects. While both hackathons and shark tanks involve a final presentation by participants with a panel of judges responsible for selecting the ideas the business will pursue, the event structure (leading up to and the day of) will vary based on the key activities and expectations.

Differences Between Hackathons and Shark Tanks

The essential difference between a hackathon and a shark tank
The naming convention “hackathon” is typically associated with digital, and an in-person build-and-break mentality. Whereas a shark tank is where you’re articulating the business pitch for senior leadership rather than actually building a working prototype. In other words, hackathons are often leveraged to create a functional software or technical solution, while a pitch event is about presenting new business or product ideas.

The life cycles of hackathons and shark tanks
There are also differences in the length of the events and the overall life cycle when you factor in the planning and preparation for each. Planning a hackathon typically takes several months, and the actual event can last several days as participants build their ideas together, relying on cross-functional collaboration to bring their vision to life.

Pitch events generally take longer than hackathons to prepare. It’s not uncommon to take several quarters, or even a full year, to develop a high level sizzle reel for the pitch and a memo to back it up. The pitch itself is typically a one day event where top teams deliver their final presentations. It’s also worth noting that hackathons tend to be much more focused on team formation and collaboration, whereas pitches can be made by individuals or small teams.

We can help you get clarity on which innovation event is right for you
In summary, a hackathon is focused on creating a functional project and a pitch event is focused on presenting a business idea and securing funding. If you’re still unclear on which innovation event is right for your business goals, we can help. Whichever path you choose, Brightidea offers apps to help promote and manage your innovation event: Hackathon and Pitch.


Planning a Hackathon