Today we are officially launching Hackworks. While this may be the company’s public debut, Hackworks has actually been germinating and growing for over four years inside XMG Studio, and we didn’t even realize it.
Back in 2011, XMG was already reaping the benefits of running internal hackathons. In fact, XMG’s Cows vs. Aliens game was a hackathon success story. Born out of a 48-hour hackathon, it went on to be downloaded millions of times and get one of Apple’s prized features. A quick search of the App Store to see how many “Cows vs…” games exist today should give you an indication of its impact on the market.
So when the XMG team was faced with the challenge of growing the studio in a hugely competitive recruiting environment, we created the Great Canadian Appathon (GCA), a 48-hour game development competition open to Canadian college and university students from coast-to-coast. It gave us the opportunity to meet talented developers, designers and artists from across the country, and also allowed us to give back to the gaming community we admired. The first GCA was a huge success with almost 100 teams competing for the $25,000 grand prize.
By 2013, the GCA had built quite a name for itself having been hosted on more than 45 College and University campuses across 10 provinces with over 1200 students participating making more than 250 games. It was at that point that the Honourable Tony Clement, who had been one of the GCA’s celebrity judges, approached the XMG team about running a national hackathon similar to the GCA, to encourage Canadian programmers, innovators, and entrepreneurs to develop apps and websites based on Canada’s vast open data resources available through the federal Open Data portal.
This represented the turning point and, in my mind, marks the birth of Hackworks. In 2014, and then again in 2015, a team made up of both technically and marketing-minded individuals from across XMG planned and executed the company’s first non-gaming hackathon, in partnership with an external partner — the Canadian Open Data Experience (CODE).
CODE was the first hackathon supported by the Government of Canada and the original objective was to recruit 300 participants. CODE 2014 wrapped up with over 900 registrants, and CODE 2015 had over 1300. Apps and websites created by CODE participants helped Canadians find jobs, choose careers, find new places to settle, live healthier lives, and create new business opportunities.
After our first CODE was over our phones started to ring. More and more companies were approaching XMG with the question “Can you host a hackathon for us too?” With that momentum driving us, we made the decision to take our team of hackathon experts from inside XMG and create a new, standalone company focused entirely on driving innovation through hackathons.
That takes us to today. Hackworks currently sits in a unique position. We are a brand new company, with years of experiencing in running hackathons. We evolved out of a tech startup, so we have a fundamental understanding of the development process and agile environments. But our team also has deep roots in marketing, public relations and event planning. We are driven by client needs and objectives, but at the core of all of our events is a focus on participant experience.
Most importantly we are excited by what the future holds and the role we can play in driving innovation, and helping launch new ideas, businesses, and careers.