Hackathons are Sparking Innovation Across the Globe | Mars, Inc.
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HOW HACKATHONS ARE SPARKING INNOVATION ACROSS THE GLOBE

It’s a concept widely popularized by Hollywood in movies like “The Social Network.” A group of computer programmers come together, working into the wee hours of the morning to create something spectacular. The idea changed the face of social media forever and the concept is gaining steam worldwide as corporations look to stay on the cutting edge of technology.

We pride ourselves on our Science and Innovation efforts and know that in order to succeed, need to tap into every creative outlet possible. That means assembling the best and brightest minds in the business, whether they are Associates at Mars or the like-minded professionals in the community ready to help us grow. So, a “hackathon” seemed like a natural fit.

We traveled to Brazil for the inaugural event, partnering with University of São Paulo State to bring together 80 of the best and brightest technology-minded students and professionals. While events can last anywhere from a few hours to several days, this hackathon gave 20 teams just eight hours to develop an innovative solution to real-life business challenges.

Only 10 teams finished, with the winning team developing a live dashboard that could predict sales curves by region, product and season.

The top prize included a visit to the Mars Global Service Hub in Guararema and the opportunity to interact with our leadership team.

Event creator Jorge Sakaguchi, Site IT Services Senior Manager for Mars Global Services Brazil, said their Hackathon taps into the strength of local universities where we can tailor a curriculum fit for our demands and take advantage of hundreds, even thousands of brains to solve problems traditionally solved internally by just a few.

“This journey is just getting started,” Jorge said, “and it’s been driven by a simple, but powerful question: what’s the problem to solve or avoid?”

Marcelo Oliveira, Customer Relationship Manager Lead, said the event was a huge success.

“In this fast-moving world, organizations can no longer be locked inside their walls. A Hackathon reaches out to new talents, solves real business challenges and envisions future possibilities. You build the scenario and invite the best people. It’s all about creativity and partnership.”

The events are now gaining popularity with our businesses and Associates across the globe.

  • In the U.S., a 24-hour event in Chicago with more than 80 students resulted in three worthwhile ideas ready for further testing. One featured an automatic way to determine product inventory, ultimately preventing out-of-stock products. Two students from Purdue University won the $7,500 grand prize.
  • In China, hackers worked to redefine retail by creating a new consumer shopping experience. The Beijing event lasted three days and challenged teams to solve real-life problems involving the retail industry. Scenarios included developing better ways to gather real-time customer feedback and improving in-store shopper engagement with technology like facial recognition.

Judging by the success of each of these Hackathons, it’s clear we’ll continue to rely upon the unconventional events to keep seeking the next big thing in retail technology.

Think Mars would be a great place to grow your technology talents? Come join us!