How Hackathons Can Attract Tech Talent and Startup Founders to Tampere

Tech events can be very powerful when it comes to bringing people together, inspiring them with entrepreneurial ideas and introducing them to new career opportunities. Hackathons, tech and startup conferences are probably the most impactful of all as anyone can join, contribute and get excited with new solutions, technologies and pathways that they can try out at any time regardless of their background.

From Hero to Net-Zero

One of the greatest benefits of being a Tampere Ambassador is that you can experiment with the ways that can help Tampere become an attractive city to live, work and run business in. And even within one project, Ambassadors bring different visions, ideas, resources and expertise that can result into something truly innovative. Like our hackathon this year.

“From Hero to Net-Zero: Decarbonising the Cities” was a 3-day hybrid event on March 11 – 13 2022 organised by four Tampere Talent Ambassadors (Margarita Khartanovich, Apil Karki, Talita Tobias Carneiro, Esin Guldogan) with the help of the coordinator of the programme Natalia Gromova. As I work for a startup house Platform6, I was curious to play around with a pathway “from idea to business” – can participants of a hackathon create their own startups based on the solution they will develop and how can we facilitate this process? Apil and Talita are from Nokia Networks, and they were interested in activating the creative thinking of their colleagues. Esin is Principal Algorithm Architect at Microsoft – she believes in the power of data and was fascinated to see how open data could be utilised to improve the world around us. 

Coming together with these agendas in mind, we focused on the topic of creating a tech solution based on the public APIs of the City of Tampere. The hackathon was supposed to be part of Tampere Smart City Week 2022, thus, the angle was on building a solution of decarbonising cities. TSCW was moved to summer but the team made a decision to carry on with the event in March.

We were not alone in this challenging journey as we reached out to and got supported with various needs by 9 organisations: International House Tampere, The City of Tampere, Platform6 Startup House, Microsoft, Nokia Networks, Nordic Startup School, Business Tampere, and even two companies outside of Tampere – Metabolic (from Amsterdam) and Plan A (from Berlin). I’ve been a fan of these two sustainability-driven companies Metabolic and Plan A – for years and wish that Tampere would get something similar in the near future. It was also important for the hackathon participants to learn from the best experts in Europe about decarbonisation of the cities – what kind of solutions these could be, what to use in their development and how to monetise them. Thus, having speakers from Metabolic and Plan A was a game-changer.

Hackathon Participants

While organising hybrid events is not a walk in a park, we still decided to make the event as open to anyone from around the world as possible. So we used Hopin’s virtual venue once again and ended up having 70 registered participants with a background in software development, data science, UX/UI design and sustainability representing 13 countries: Finland, the US, Canada, Nepal, the UK, Germany, Russia, Japan, India, Tanzania, Nigeria, South Africa, the Netherlands. Three teams were formed out of all the participants that wanted to develop a solution. There were also a few participants that just wanted to listen to the keynote speakers but did not take part in the development process.

Team 1 was present physically in Tampere and worked on their solution at Platform6. Their app is called “GreenAid”.

As a result of their 3-day teamwork, an application has been built – a backend API server using Nodejs and mongoDB and an Android app using Java. “We built and engineered an android app which would allow companies and organisations to track their carbon emission rate and provide simplified solutions and steps to reduce their carbon footprint. With the EU’s adoption of European climate law to reduce greenhouse gas by 55% by 2030, we believe our app can contribute greatly” says Safiul Alam, a member of Team 1.

The app of the 2nd Team is called FleaGo. The team worked remotely in different countries. With FleaGo flea market customers can get reward points when shopping and then exchange them with goods. The app is for customers who physically go to the flea markets in Tampere and it’s NOT an online shopping app. The customers can register (for free) and the app will give them a unique QR code. Every time they shop at a flea market which is registered in FleaGo they can scan their QR code at the cashier and get reward points which will show in the app. The reward points are specific to the flea market where the customer has shopped in and can be spent only in that specific store. The shopkeepers can register by paying a monthly subscription and they can get access to the QR scanning through their phone’s camera. Every time a FleaGo user shops at their store, the shopkeepers can scan their QR code to grant them points.

“I spent the weekend participating in my very first hackathon as a UX/UI designer put together by Nokia, Microsoft, Platform6 Startup House, and the City of Tampere International House Tampere. With the theme of Decarbonising the Cities, many speakers were invited to share insight that helped to put us in the right mindset for thinking sustainably and creatively. To promote a more circular economy, our team focused on reducing the carbon footprint of product consumption. We aimed to create a service that connected the rich network of secondhand retailers in Tampere, motivating people to shop sustainably. With such a quick turnaround time, this was valuable practice for thinking and pivoting quickly. Very stoked to say that our team was awarded the 2nd place prize! Thank you to my collaborators Sina Deznabi and Pranav (Van) Pradeep, and all event organisers for making this opportunity possible!” wrote Adrian Luna from Team 2. 

And finally, another remote team came up with the following idea: gather surplus stock statistics to find out the less sold items and determine which items quantity should be minimised for transportation for which area or try to minimise the production all together (if they are being unused & expired). Context of lessening carbon emission is to use the same process to lessen food wastage in areas where a particular category of food isn’t popular but is oversupplied.

“We Team 3 have developed a web app/prototype that basically connects to shops/online vendors/retailers, who can list their product with simple scan or manually fill up the product details with expiry dates, those products are monitored by our server and notifies the product owner which are being expired within next 48 hours (this time can be updated as per need) automatically”, wrote Sandip Basnet.

Award Ceremony at Nokia Arena

The award ceremony for the hackathon winners was held at Nokia arena. The winning team was invited to participate in the 6-week startup programme by the Nordic Startup School (NSS), where the team will be coached and receive mentoring from the international mentor pool. The team that came 2nd got three mentoring sessions with the NSS international mentor pool to tackle current challenges, or receive a perspective on the future journey. Last but not least, the team that came 3rd got health trackers. The Hackathon was sponsored by Microsoft, International House Tampere and Nokia.

A roundtable discussion was also part of the award ceremony –  What can we do together to attract more tech talent and help create new tech companies in Tampere? Representatives of International House Tampere, Platform6, Microsoft, Nokia and Nordic Startup School debated the collaboration models, current challenges and opportunities.

It’s All About Networks, Support and Collaborations

During this hackathon we were not only supported by organisations but also by fellow ambassadors – Beatriz Macías, Mariam Sutidze-Haveri, and Daniel Paul who performed at the event and motivated the participants with inspirational talks about sustainability. 

Here are some of the key takeaways from this event that I summed up below:

  1. Networks are vital if you want to drive change – be that a network of Tampere Ambassadors, personal or professional ones. 
  2. If you are building something meaningful and valuable, you will be able to find support for it in Tampere both in public and private organisations.
  3. Tampere needs more tech and startup events as it has a potential to become Europe’s next most attractive tech and startup city. 

We did this hackathon once and again because we believe in Tampere, and we hope to contribute to its growth and global recognition. With this mission, we move onto the next project, so stay tuned!

Written by Margarita Khartanovich