[AMA] I am a hackathon sponsor. AMA!

Was browsing around for when the next Hackcon is and ended up here. Hello!

I’m Ari and I worked at Spotify for 2 years as a developer advocate, where my team had the ability to sponsor hackathons. We sponsored several events and also turned down many events.

I can any burning questions you have about sponsors (though obviously this is only from my own experience and other companies operate differently!)

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Hi Ari! Spotify is an awesome company I’d love to both work for and sponsor my event (PickHacks!). Got a few burning questions for you:

  • What’s your general criteria when evaluating sponsorship? Location, size, etc.?
  • What’s the most unique sponsorship perk you’ve come across?
  • Unrelated to sponsorship, but what did you like most about working about Spotify, and what led you to pivot to a different role (if you have)?

Hey @luisocampo!

This varies SO MUCH, but I can try to generalise.

Cost of sending people vs reach/impact we would get is a big factor. Tiny events with a homogenous audience that are very far away (I was in Stockholm, Sweden, so for me this meant a lot of single-university hackathons in the US), were usually off the table. I highly recommend looking for local sponsors where possible!

We also looked at how hands-on people were likely to get with our APIs. If I can run a workshop to show people the ropes and then run a challenge to use the APIs, it’s more likely that hackers will use our stuff and we’ll get more value out of it.

Diversity was a large factor for us as well. We hosted a couple women/nb in tech events in our offices and sponsored Nonbinary in Tech.

Things we didn’t care about were getting resumes or having recruiters around. This would be different for companies where the recruiting/TA org does sponsorship, but in our case we were in engineering and more focused on getting people using our stuff.

Most unique, though questionably useful, was in a music hackathon where we had access to a VIP room where recording artists were competing in some sort of song competiton. Also Ninja (the streamer) dropped an album…it was a weird event.

Some of the best ones were proposing our own challenge, and running workshops (I hecking love workshops, exhibit a, exhibit b). When in doubt, ask the sponsor what would be cool for them!

Spotify works on a lot of cool problems and builds a product I use daily, which was awesome. It’s also a very product-driven and agile org, and I ended up learning a ton about product management for consumer-facing products while there.
I moved on to a newly formed game studio which was just too cool to turn down! I would have also liked to see Spotify invest more in developer relations and 3rd party developer strategy - there is a lot more I would have liked to do if I had the chance.

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Thanks so much for the answers!

For Spotify, did you all in Sweden manage hackathon sponsorship worldwide? Or did you focus primarily on EU events while offices in the US would focus on US events?

Was this Capitol Royale in Hollywood? :hushed: I almost went - what made it weird?

Dev rel was only in the HQ office (Stockholm), so yes.

Haha, yes. Mostly just the mix of very traditional music industry folks and tech folks. I had people pitching me rising star artists and also startup ideas.

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Hi @ari, thanks so much for doing this! I have two questions:

First: who were the actual decision-makers when it came to sponsoring an event? I assume a developer advocate may be able to suggest/advocate for sponsoring an event, but who all had to sign-off to actually finalize the sponsorship?

Secondly, is there specific timing with regard to financial quarters that is conducive to getting sponsorship approved? We’re often told to ask one quarter prior to the event (i.e. asking in July for an October event) since that’s when budget allocation happens. Based on your experience, how much does timing our sponsorship ask around financial quarters actually matter? Thanks again!

Hey @camakk!

In our case it was an engineering director (my boss’ boss) who signed off on final budget, but that was more of a final check. We did most of the filtering and decisionmaking and brought it to him only when we were sure we wanted to do the event. There was only 1 time I can remember where he vetoed our decision.

Ah yes, I heard this as well when I was organising!

Yes, I did tend to plan in quarters, because we do all of our OKR planning on that cadence (so every 3 months we all discuss and plan our work for the next quarter). This was less of a budget thing and more of a prioritisation thing - if I’ve already planned a full quarter of work for all our developer relations folks, we would need to cut something if something new came up. I liked to be able to plan for events during that quarterly planning so I knew how much capacity we had.

But in general, the earlier the better. I may not be able to commit to an event if you tell me half a year in advance but then it’s at least on my radar. You can start making relationships with sponsors and making them aware of what you’re doing before your actual fundraising crunch time.

Oh, and one month in advance is likely never going to come through unless you’re in the city. It’s just not enough time but I have unfortunately still had people ask.

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