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Spare's 2024 Spring Hackathon: Steps Toward Transforming Mobility

In this blog, we recap the highlights of Spare's 2024 Spring Hackathon in Vancouver. Discover how cross-functional teamwork and a week of intense creativity led to the implementation of over a dozen new features, and hear firsthand insights from a Software Developer at Spare about their hackathon experience.

Shelby Perera

In April, we convened our entire development, product and design teams in Vancouver for another week-long hackathon. Since 2021, Spare has been hosting hackathons, transitioning to twice-annual hackathons in 2023. These hackathons provide our team with opportunities to connect, brainstorm new ideas, and design and implement innovative features for the Spare platform.

Setting the Stage for Innovation

Insights from Joel DeYoung, Vice President of Software Development

On Day 1 of the hackathon, each team summarized their recent accomplishments and current challenges. This provided a solid context for the rapid-fire pitch sessions where members of our team could propose ideas for problems to tackle throughout the week. By the end of the first day, over a dozen projects were selected for development. Individuals were split into small, focused groups to work on specific product enhancements, and on Friday, our show-and-tell day, each group proudly presented their accomplishments. The collaborative spirit was truly evident as teams worked tirelessly to bring their ideas to life!

Highlights of the Week

Hackathons are proving grounds for new ideas, where the time limit compels our team members to refine their visionary concepts into actionable solutions. What truly sets the hackathon apart is the formation of cross-functional teams for each project. This collaboration not only unites developers from various teams, but also between developers and product and design teams. That’s why it comes as no surprise that a major highlight of the hackathon was the unveiling of the projects after an entire week of effort and teamwork. On the show-and-tell day, the rest of the company, along with the participants, gathered in person or attended virtually to show their support and celebrate shared achievements.

Interview with Mesbah Mowlavi, Intermediate Software Developer II

Q: What was the most memorable moment for you?

Mesbah: I always really enjoy the presentations, and this time was no different. I love watching people’s faces light up when you share something interesting, and we have a very supportive environment. It also helped that our demo worked perfectly, and the little twist at the end with generative AI added to the excitement.

Q: What was it like creating a new feature in 4 days?

Mesbah: We started with a simple, stripped down version of what we wanted to create and a clear list of “required pieces” to make this feature work. As we were planning, we also came up with a bunch of other fun ideas, and built a list of stretch goals. It’s always hard focusing on the important but kind of boring bits when the fun, new, shiny thing— like adding AI— is already in your head. But I think our team did a great job of hammering out the fundamentals, leaving just enough time to add some extra fun parts, which we wrapped up less than 12 hours before presentation time!

Q: Why do you believe this initiative is beneficial?

Mesbah: I think the hackathons are great for two main reasons: the safety to ideate and fail, and the energy of in-person collaboration. As much as I love working from home, I must admit that the spirit of working in person is unmatched, especially for brainstorming. It’s great having the distractions of others coming by to see what you’re working on, spending lunch hours chatting with colleagues you normally don’t get to see, and hearing the sounds of success (and failure) from across the office. While the end goal is still to create a successful feature, it is nice to imagine a world where the only goal is solving one problem, and know that if it doesn’t work out, the time hasn’t been wasted.

Onward and Upward

The projects we worked on delivered real value quickly, to both transit operators and riders, with over a dozen new features from the hackathon already released! Our hackathons are just one way we demonstrate urgency and speed in delivering innovations in mobility.

Headshot of Joel DeYoung, Vice President of Software Development
Joel DeYoungVice President of Software Development

The success of this hackathon is a testament to the power of collaboration and focused effort. Over the course of 1.5 months, we have released more than a dozen new features from the hackathon and they are already making a positive impact on our platform. As we continue to innovate, these hackathons will remain a vital part of our strategy, driving us to push the boundaries of what's possible in mobility. With the first hackathon of the year checked off our list, we invite you to stay tuned for more updates and innovations from Spare as we continue to make strides in transforming mobility.