#HackMTL, Largest-ever Canadian Hackathon, Sells out in Five Hours

Posted by Joseph Czikk

Five hours after #HackMTL organizers opened their event to developers, it was sold out. After that, Maeghan Smulders, Heri Rakotomalala, Greg Whiteside and Derek Jen opened up dozens more spots for the meet up, all of which were promptly filled.

Rakotomalala called it the largest Canadian hacking event to date. He may be right too: previously the largest event was HackTO in April 2012. Then 100 hackers met at Freshbook’s Toronto office to take part in the event.

“In terms of the Montreal startup community we see a lot of business events for marketing and SEO, which we’re really skewed towards,” said Rokotomala. “But there’s a gap in events just for developers and there’s actually no real event that gathers everyone, so lets have something that’s really interesting, that’s open to everyone.”

Based on the reception the organizers saw upon activating sign-ups, “that’s very good proof that people are looking for these types of events,” he said.

MTL Startup Talent, a local startup activist group that hold’s monthly pitch events, is organizing #HackMTL. Like other hackathons it will give developers a chance to show their talents and creative abilities in a 24-hour window. They can join teams, eat bagels and drink coffee and beer, and ultimately challenge each other for valuable prizes.

The event will be sponsored by Montreal-based startup PasswordBox, Google, Facebook and iWeb.

Since PasswordBox is a browser and Google Chrome extension, #HackMTL’s main focus will be on JavaScript web apps or Chrome extensions. One of the developers that helped build PasswordBox will deliver a three-hour how-to workshop the day before #HackMTL. Any programmers with limited experience in the aforementioned areas can get a crash course on node, backbone, Google chrome web extensions and more.

Prizes will include a Nexus 7 Google phone and server cloud hosting both for the best team and the best solo developer. The best Google Chrome web extension developer or team will receive a Google Chromebook laptop on top of the those prizes. The best security app developer or team will get a Github plan, a Nexus 7, and server cloud hosting.

Among those judging the event will be a Google Montreal engineer as well as PasswordBox’s Marc-Antoine Ross. They’ll base their decisions on “the difficulty of problem solved, elegance of solution, impact of solution and completeness.”

Smulders, an employee at PasswordBox, said the idea for #HackMTL evolved out of a simple conversation among the organizers. They spoke about the difficulty companies face when seeking out and hiring developers of very high quality. Ideally this will change along with the creation of events like #HackMTL.

“It attracts those people,” Smulders told Techvibes. “Linkedin just had their hackathon and a news post said ‘hackathons are going to be what changes the world,’ because it’s an open-space environment for people to create things while having the drive, excitement and influence of those around them.”

The inclusive nature of such events is something that #HackMTL is playing up. At least 14 women developers will be present at the meet up next week, in an effort to attract more female programmers. “I think being involved in the community and being able to meet others and build things, that’s a really valuable experience,” said Smulders. “The fact that you can be a part of that, I think that’s very valuable for anybody.”

Those interested in attending can still join the waiting list, as the organizers said usually a few spots will open up prior to the event.

Rakotomalala expects the event to run smoothly. At the end of the day, he said, “It’s really just designed to have developers come, have fun, connect and see what other people are doing here.”

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