Here's What Happened At General Assembly's Intense Hackathon This Weekend

general assembly hackathonFoursquare co-founder Naveen Selvadurai and bitly chief scientist Hilary Mason

Photo: Kim Bhasin, Business Insider

Hackathons have been a part of the technology subculture for a while now, but as they get increasingly popular, they’re starting to appeal to a broader set of businesses.Take General Assembly’s Reinventing Local hackathon that was held last weekend in GA’s awesome Manhattan office space. It was tailored to small business owners in the area, looking for inspiration on how to go digital.

Great, but what is a hackathon, anyway?

They’re events where a bunch of programmers get together, for anywhere from a day to a week, and program cool stuff. At the end, the teams present a demo of what accomplished in the allotted timespan, and prizes are given out to the winners.

We stopped by the Reinventing Local hackathon to see what really goes on behind the scenes at one of these creativity-packed nerdfests. Take a look at what we saw:

The hackathon took place at General Assembly's gorgeous startup office space in Manhattan

When we got there early Saturday morning, they'd already laid out all the schwag -- t-shirts, stickers, mugs and more

These were snatched up in a hurry. Soap on a rope from API management firm Mashery

There's a lot of quirky startup-related things around the GA offices, like this announcement for a 'Yoga for Startups' event

Saagara's Alessandra Noelting, BBC Worldwide's Andrew Pinzler and Patient Communicator's Jeff Novich were eager for things to get started, as everything was being prepped

First, the companies presented their APIs (application programming interfaces -- it's what the programmers use to help make their apps). Foursquare, Etsy, Mashery, OpenForum, Meetup, Yipit and more were at the GA for this one

Here's the OpenForum team, who were there to present their new API, along with helping organise the event

Patrick Neilley, Dave Berard and Josh Scherman of Constant Contact were excited to see what the devs would do with their API

Then came the pitches. Developers with ideas took the microphone, rattling off ideas for projects rapid-fire. Some were amazingly passionate about their work

The energy in the room ramped up big time right after that. Programmers scurried around, sharing their ideas

They also started to form teams. A lot of the developers had come alone, and were either looking for help with their idea, or looking to use their specific skill sets to help others

Other already came in teams. Foursquare's Anoop Ranganath, Tim Julien and Jason Liszka found a nice comfy couch in the GA's library to work on

One of the back rooms was devoted to API help sessions. The Mashery folks are seen here helping some of the programmers

After about a half hour, the programmers got into their groove, and hacked away for the next seven hours straight

They stopped for dinner at 7 PM, and went right back to work, armed with bottles of beer

GA closed shop at 2 AM. It was actually the second 2 AM of the night, since the clocks switched over for daylight savings time

We arrived the next morning to find most of the programmers still hard at work, though a few were already finished with their projects

But it's not all work, after all. Mashery VP of strategy services Drew Bartkiewicz brought in Blake and Dane to see the fun

American Express vice chairman Ed Gilligan stopped by for a bit to congratulate his OpenForum team, as his daughter tagged along. He took at look at what Startup Threads' Frank Denbow was working on

GA served up lunch as everyone entered the home stretch. One last energy boost before folks started filing in for the presentations

Meanwhile, in the back, small business owners attended a special class on social media by Gilt City's Mae Karwowski

Back in the main area, a sizable crowd gathered in anticipation of the demos

Foursquare co-founder Naveen Selvadurai was in the house to see what the programmers came up with. We ran into him chatting it up with bitly chief scientist Hilary Mason, who was there to judge

GA had an impressive selection of beer out too, which guests and developers alike flocked over to

Finally, demo time. Each team was given two minutes to strut their stuff. Starting with FreshTomatoes, there were 27 total demos presented

The judges -- Thrillist managing editor Richard Blakeley, OpenForum VP of digital Scott Roen, bitly chief scientist Hilary Mason, and Mashery president and CEO Oren Michels -- sat right up front, notepads in hand

Some teams inevitably struggled. The Farm Tab crew had a great concept, but couldn't get things quite right in their demo

The judges then headed to the back to deliberate. There was more than $10,000 of cash and prizes to dole out

And the business owners filled out their ballots

They set up the trophies, as everyone awaited the judges' verdicts

LocalVibe's Samantha Elghanayan sipped a beer while anxiously waiting on the announcement. She presented FreshTomatoes hours ago

Ah, there they are. OpenForum's Scott Roen did the honours for most of the awards

Wander Mapper took home the prize for overall coolest hack. They were pretty thrilled

As things wound down, the in-house video folks interviewed the business owners to get their opinions about the event

As everyone was shuffling towards the door, OpenForum's Eric Ho and Erika Chyu posed with Captain Kirk, who presided over the event. Alright, time to head out

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