Here at the Startup Shell, we are big fans of hacking. We had a blast traveling across the country with the Terrapin Hackers to PennApps, MHacks, HackMIT, and so on. It was super swell to contribute towards the winning of the Major League Hacking’s Hacker Cup, an auspicious validation of Maryland’s hacker community.

Shell members learned a lot from these experiences, and we applied such collective knowledge to a new arena. To us, hacking goes beyond said 1000+ attendee events, and far beyond desperately coding for prizes. Hacking is a mindset that says “make useful stuff, and do it with focus”.

We injected this ideology into Startup Shell’s first Self-Hack. Hat tip to fellow Startup Shell director Eric Mintzer for his inception of the idea. In our Facebook event, he wrote…

What is the Startup Shell? What we do know is that it’s about to take off. The Self Hack is where we force ourselves to actually get done all the stuff we need to set the stage for the eminent takeoff and take concentrated, focused action to make this space awesome.

Fueled by bagels and OJ (and later pizza and Chipotle), 50+ students—Shell members and friends—gathered throughout the day to work on internal matters.

Projects included…

  • Assembling a membership portal to connect people and startups
  • Creating a philanthropy initiative (soon to launch!)
  • Designing and ordering business cards, t-shirts, stickers
  • Completing line-item budget for operations and equipment
  • Updated website copy
  • Building a realtime voice-messaging console

And it worked! We struck off item after item from our collective to-do list, most of us not even touching a line of code.

We figured this model can be adopted outside of our walls. Internal hackathons are nothing new, as many companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google have events to encourage employees to explore project ideas. But at Self-Hack, we focus on building our organization instead of products.

Clubs, student groups, startups, organizations, corporations: try it out! Stop having meetings. Start getting s*** done! These extended work sessions can help you attack [perpetually-tabled] issues in a productive, collaborative, and fun environment. Hack on.