At Narvar, we’re all about innovating (*ahem* that’s why we were recently named No. 7 in the Enterprise segment on Fast Company’s 2019 list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies *ahem*). Back when we were still a small 30-person startup, one of our now-veteran engineers (hey, Tom!) helped launch our first ever Innovation Tournament. The event has now become a Narvar tradition and for our 4th annual tournament, we blocked off two days for uninterrupted fun.
Our VP of Engineering, Anand Madhavan, who’s an avid participant and proponent of hackathons explains, “Hackathons are incredibly valuable from both a culture and business standpoint — they encourage out-of-the-box thinking, celebrate creators, promote cross-functional collaboration, and often result in impactful company-wide initiatives. It’s a great opportunity to meet some amazing colleagues who you may not have crossed paths with and the relationships you build can be long-lasting. As a company grows, this aspect becomes more and more important to help facilitate. Funnily enough, I met Ram [our CTO] at a hackathon at our previous company and it’s the reason we are working together here at Narvar today.”
The Theme: Productivity & Efficiency
The first step was to identify our theme. After gathering suggestions, we put it to a vote and landed on Productivity & Efficiency – what could we build that could save us time and allow us to be more productive in our daily roles? Could we create something to empower our customers to be more productive and efficient? Maybe we could build something to measure productivity and efficiency?
We were encouraged to be ambitious, experimental, and collaborative.
Kick-off & Recruitment Day
One of the things we value here at Narvar is an entrepreneurial spirit and uniting people toward a common vision. Nowhere was that more on display than at the kick-off and recruitment day. People chatted over food and drinks, gave their best elevator pitches, and recruited peers across various departments to assemble their teams.
A full breakfast spread got the team up bright and “early” (9:30 AM) and helped get our creative juices flowing. Narvarians across various functions and geographic locations eagerly offered a lending hand to their fellow team members. Need devops help? Done. How about design? You got it. Corey Hall, Director of Product Design, acted as our very own Tim Gunn (of Project Runway fame): “The design team jumps in to support teams when they need some user experience design, it’s like two dozen design sprints packed into 48 hours! We help teams find ways to explain the complex problems they are solving to larger audiences. After all, if no one understands what you’re doing, how will they understand how awesome it is?”
Hackathons are incredibly valuable from both a culture and business standpoint — they encourage out-of-the-box thinking, celebrate creators, promote cross-functional collaboration, and often result in impactful company-wide initiatives.
Demos & Presentations
After two days of hacking, it was time for show and tell. This was a global event – we live-streamed the event and remote participants could present via video and screen shares. Each team was given a few minutes to showcase their hard work to the entire company, including a panel of judges representing departments across the business (marketing, sales, engineering, logistics, and product). The key to nailing their pitch? A working demo is worth a 1,000 words.
The judges evaluated the projects based on the following criteria.
- Impact (how much could this help with productivity & efficiency?)
- Feasibility (how quickly or easily could this be executed?)
- Diligence & product readiness (quality of the working demo or business case)
- Creativity (is this a unique & interesting idea and/or approach?)
With 17 teams presenting their work, each team only had a few minutes to impress the judges. It was a tough call and while there were several honorable mentions, there was only one winner: a 5-person team based out of our India office, who built a tool to help internal customer success managers and implementation consultants onboard customers 10x faster. The lucky team won a highly coveted trophy that will continue to be passed on to future tournament winners (plus some $$$ to get their online shopping on). Our founder and CEO, Amit Sharma, wrapped up the event by highlighting the ingenuity and passion shown by each team and committed to following through on many of the ideas presented.
Not working for two days in our routine roles and instead dedicating the time to out-of-the-box, creative thinking allowed us to be more productive and foster new and meaningful relationships. Cross-functional innovation and collaboration have always been a part of our company DNA, and traditions like the Innovation Tournament have been a critical part of preserving that as we grow globally.
Want to be a part of our next Innovation Tournament? Come work with us!