Odyssey Hackathon 2020 is rescheduled to november 13-15 and will take place online

Message from Rutger van Zuidam, CEO & Founder Odyssey

I’m writing to inform you that the odyssey 2020 hackathon, which was originally planned to start on april 3, and has been rescheduled twice (june 19-21, september 11-13), is rescheduled and will now take place completely online on november 13-15.

Before you continue reading, I’d like to kindly ask you to ignore most of what you know or have heard about any online event or hackathon. The online Odyssey 2020 Hackathon in November will be nothing close to it.

We understand the severeness of the decision to go completely online. The Odyssey 2020 Hackathon was originally planned as a physical event with 2,000 curated participants from 50 countries that collaborate intensively in one confined venue for three days. It is the highlight of the Odyssey 2019/2020 open innovation program. The unique composition of curated participants, as well as the intense experience of this event, contribute a great deal to the value of the complete program. It is here where we turn all preparations, including the Odyssey Polaris and Connect events, into the first tangible results with working prototypes as well as new insights and narratives of our shared future. It is here where the pulse of your ecosystem is collectively raised to the next level: ready to move towards multi-stakeholder pilots. All of the above is fundamental and this epic experience is our starting point to unlock an unprecedented collective innovation experience.

Since March, we have been communicating about potential alternative scenarios that could lead to new dates (beyond September) as well as moving the event from an offline to an online experience.

While building our scenarios, we have taken into account the following:

1. The Dutch national government formally stated on May 6, 2020:

  • regarding the possibility to organize large scale events in the Netherlands:
    “All events above 100 persons are forbidden until at least September 1. For opening up the possibility to organize big events again we cannot yet name a date. These events can be organized only if a vaccine is available and no one knows how much time that will take (…). A year or longer is very realistic.”
  • All steps taken towards opening up our society, now and in the future, are completely dependent on the behaviour of the virus. Any new outbreak may very well lead to new restrictions. (precedent: the German government stating a maximum number of e.g. 50 infections per 100.000 inhabitants, otherwise ‘lockdown again’) This can happen at the last minute before or even during the event.

2. Minimum requirements for a successful physical Odyssey 2020 Hackathon:

  • The Dutch national government allows organizing large scale events for 2,000 international participants.
  • Permission from the local government to use the specific event venue for Odyssey 2020 within (yet unknown) safety/hygienic laws.
  • No restrictions in international travel from both governments and Odyssey partners (over 50% of the participants would travel to Groningen from outside the Netherlands).

Because the coordination of all participants, the complete hackathon process and the production of the event itself is complex, the hackathon requires that the event itself, as well as the (production) path towards the event, is built on certainties. All certainties needed for a successful physical Odyssey Hackathon in the year 2020 are missing. Taking Odyssey 2020 completely online is the only scenario where we can build on certainties. Taking this decision now will allow us to stay in control (as much as possible) instead of just hoping for the best.

The aim of rescheduling the Odyssey 2020 Hackathon to November is to provide all teams, partners and stakeholders with the best possible outcomes for all challenges, through a high quality, impactful, unprecedented online event experience. The goal is to continue innovation. Especially now, when there is a real openness for change, we can’t hold back. We can only go #NextLevel!

Going completely online requires an entire new production approach. Imagine handing out balloons to the teams in your track, or working with the hackathon impact canvas. What would the grid with all hackathon teams even look like on your screen and how will we make sure it is at least as engaging as the offline event? Producing this will set a new standard for online collaboration experiences. To ensure we have the event in 2020, and to ensure the quality of the experience we need for successful outcomes, we need to start with that production as soon as possible.

At Odyssey we have been exploring and investing in the digitisation of our program and events for over two years now. We have learned, because of the specific approach of the Odyssey Program and Hackathon, that readily available tools are unsuitable. This is why we have already started developing some of our own tools and infrastructure. For example: The 2019 Hackathon track “Tokenizing the Odyssey Ecosystem” and the matchmaking app developed for the 2020 hackathon edition. For the past two years we have worked with partners, stakeholders and teams from all over the world in online sessions and workshops. Of course the past two months took that to another level. The new reality caused by COVID-19, moves all this R&D into a next gear out of necessity and brings to the surface what we need to do now. We believe that when it comes to the potential of online collaboration and the way we experience this… we ain’t seen nothin yet!

Will an online Odyssey be the same? No. <enter new rabbit hole>

Could it possibly be even better? YES! </exit physical space/time limits>

Will we create a new level of EPIC? YES! <unlock new paradigm>

What’s next

  • The existing activities scheduled until July 1, remain unchanged.
  • The rest of the program is updated, to make sure we build up the momentum towards the online hackathon on November 13,14 and 15.
  • All teams will be reconfirmed by Odyssey in the coming weeks.

In the Odyssey 2019 Hackathon countdown movie, we quoted David Bowie saying: “I think the potential of what the internet is going to do to society, both good and bad, is unimaginable. It’s going to crush our ideas of what mediums are all about”. In the same interview with Jeremy Paxman he adds: “I don’t think we’ve even seen a tip of the iceberg. I’m talking about the actual context and the state of content is going to be so different to anything we can really envisage at the moment. Where the interplay between the user and the provider will be so… in simpatico!

With this excitement I’m looking forward to the next six months, working together with you to turn the Odyssey 2019/2020 program, and hackathon, into an amazing success and an EPIC experience! Let’s unlock the future of Odyssey and this new innovation paradigm together!

In case you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to reach out.