Customer love: Karbon’s first ‘shipathon’ (the what, why and how)

Hackathons continue to grow in popularity since I first started running them back in 2015. It’s not surprising—they’re a phenomenal tool for creating energy, generating prototypes, and boosting company culture.

Engineers Pulkit and Qutub from the Karbon team working together on the Karbon shipathon.

This year, Karbon’s taking the hackathon concept a step further with our first ‘shipathon’.

Leveling up on the success of Karbon’s hackathon

A hackathon, traditionally, is a collaborative event in which teams compete to often build prototypes or very small features solving specific problems or challenges. In December 2021, we ran our first hackathon at Karbon with great success. I was amazed by how we were able to open up networks across our global team and find opportunities for future cross-team collaboration. 

We also came away with some incredible ideas that were eventually developed into actual Karbon features, one of which was a different take on the experience customers get when they first open the Karbon app.

Hackathons are usually brief—ours only lasted for two days. We quickly generated phenomenal, cutting edge ideas. But as is with a hackathon, not every idea was fully-formed or ready to release.

To solve for this, we’re turning Karbon’s hackathon up a notch by hosting our first shipathon. A similar event, conceptually, but one that ends in building and ‘shipping’ (i.e. delivering) fully functional features that our customers can either use—immediately. 

What is a shipathon?

This new event extends the concept of a hackathon by bringing the entire company not just into the ideation process, but also into product development. Karbon’s shipathon allows cross-departmental teams to experience a full product development sprint for the first time. 

For three weeks, the entire Karbon team works collaboratively to build products and features for our customers. By the end of the sprint, we’ll release these features to production.

Pulkit, Software Engineering Team Lead at Karbon, concentrating on this computer.
Pulkit, Software Engineering Team Lead at Karbon, in deep-concentration mode.

Why are we running a shipathon?

As a company, we’re committed not just to helping our customers run their accounting firms more efficiently, but to creating extraordinary outcomes. Doing so requires us to always ask: What’s next? 

The shipathon is an opportunity for our entire team, not just engineers, to reimagine how forward-thinking accounting practices can operate and what they need to remain ahead of the curve. Everyone in the company gets to offer their unique perspectives on how to address customer pain points and elevate our product. 

Top 5 benefits of running a shipathon

1. Make an immediate impact on customers

Finally, the shipathon is an opportunity for us to focus on making an impact for our amazing customers. This is about really making sure we are meeting all of their needs. Our customers have fantastic ideas about how to enhance our product, and the shipathon gives us the time and space to deliver what they’re asking for.

2. Build camaraderie

With Karbonites spread across the globe, the shipathon serves as an excellent opportunity to forge new friendships and collaboration via unexpected partnerships. We certainly saw how the 2021 hackathon gave people a chance to build networks that they wouldn’t have otherwise.

3. Tap into broader perspectives

The shipathon is an opportunity to utilize the entire company. We’ll be able to see how totally different skill sets can contribute directly to a product development exercise. We already use cross-functional teams, but by bringing in non-product development folks we hope to add breadth and new capabilities to the sprint. 

4. Shed light on the product development process

After our 2021 hackathon, I heard from many non-product team members about how much they enjoyed becoming part of the software development process. The shipathon is a chance for non-technical Karbon employees to gain even deeper insight into how we build the software that we all know and love. 

Zhanna, a Front End Engineer at Karbon, working hard at her desk.
Zhanna, one of our awesome Front End Engineers at Karbon.

5. Create a sense of collective pride

During the shipathon, our teams will work together to deliver something of value in a short time frame. It’s a chance for everyone to come together over a shared goal.

Getting ready to ship

Right now, our teams are working on technical designs and scoping to make sure they can deliver what they’re working on in the sprint. We’ve put together a panel of judges representing different parts of the business who are assessing our teams’ project plans and setting criteria for judging the final products. 

Excitement is certainly in the air. This is the first time we’ve run an event of this scale, and we are eager to see where it takes us. 

I’ll share more about our first shipathon in my next article.