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Applications are Open for Hack the North: Canada’s Premier Hackathon

Hack The North is a student-run hackathon held in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Waterloo. After a successful inaugural event in 2014, Hack the North has already earned a reputation as Canada’s premier hackathon. It brings some of the most technically talented students from around the world and allows them to embark on a 36-hour journey to create a unique software or hardware project from scratch. Fueled by Red Bull, an endless amount of pop and invaluable mentorship these hackers mean business. Last year’s event included Y Combinator president Sam Altman and some impressive sponsors like Facebook, Bloomberg, Apple and Uber..

This year is expected to be another phenomenal hackathon highlighting tech talent in Canada and Kitchener-Waterloo. Liam Horne, most recently featured in our Thiel Fellowship blog, is Velocity Garage company, PiinPoint’s Chief Technology Officer and leader of product development. He is also the Co-Founder of Hack the North and leads the organization. We had the chance to catch up with him about this year’s event happening September 18-20.

Where did the idea for Hack the North come from?

The idea behind Hack the North came from a group of students that regularly attended collegiate hackathons across the United States like MHacks, PennApps and others. We saw how powerful these hackathons were from a learning perspective and wanted to bring the excitement and experience that hackathons provide to Canada. However, these hackathons lacked a structured and focused approach to getting students to meet talented people in the industry — we aimed to solve this by inviting some of the most well known names in technology to our hackathon.

What did you learn from last year’s extremely successful Hackathon?

We learned how big an impact an event like this can have – one that brings together so many different parts of the tech industry. By bringing in the top technology companies, well known leaders in the industry, and immensely talented students we discovered that tons of important and unique connections can be made. For example, some students that attended Hack the North have created companies from their projects and been accepted into larger accelerators. Other students have even landed their dream jobs at large technology firms, and the community as a whole has evolved significantly because of it.

How many applications did you receive to fill the 1,000-person hacker limit?

Last year we received about 2600 applications, and this year after only two weeks we are nearing the same number; we anticipate to have to filter through about 5000 applications for this year’s Hack the North.

Will there be any notable changes this year?

Last year’s event was so successful that much of it will remain the same. However, we learned a lot from last year and will be improving on every aspect of the event. Some key areas that we will be improving are mentorship, judging and the opening/closing ceremonies.

How many organizers, and sponsors are responsible for making this Canada’s premier Hackathon?

This year our team of organizers tripled in size from around 15 last year to nearly 46 people this year. In terms of sponsorship, last year we had 47 sponsors and have already confirmed 30 sponsors for this year.

Last year, Hack the North attracted some big names such as Sam Altman, who should we expect to see this year?

We’re slowly revealing who will be making an appearance at this year’s Hack the North as we go as we have a number of surprise judges and guests we’re really excited to announce. So far, we’ve already announced nine judges, including Alexis O’Hanian, co-founder of Reddit and Danielle Strachman, Director of the Thiel Fellowship.

We will be announcing more exciting judges and speakers in the coming months, so keep an eye on hackthenorth.com for updates!

How have people from all over the world been hearing about this, and applying to attend?

The great thing about the hackthon community is that it’s a global movement. We’ve already received nearly 2,000 applications organically through social media and word of mouth. Last year we built a reputation as one the world’s premier hackathons so people just seem to find out about us on their own.

Do you think this Hackathon solidifies the technical talent-pool in KW region?

We think the technical talent-pool has always been here. We’re just raising awareness of the region both locally and globally in a way that not many other events have. It’s our hope that our hackathon, along with all the other amazing initiatives in KW, will get even more technical talent and companies to move in and invest in the region. 

What are you most excited for this year?

Last year we set out to throw the best hackathon Canada has ever seen. In many ways we accomplished that goal but there were a lot of things that we feel could have been done better. This year we are most excited about providing world-class mentorship and providing support for students to learn a lot about technology in that small period of time of 36 hours. We’re bringing in some incredible judges and mentors this year with the resources and experience we have behind our belt now to make that possible.

Apply to be a hacker at this year’s event here!