Widgethon (II): 6 Things that Differentiate a Grab Hackathon


In July, Grab held its first Widgethon, a widget hackathon for Grab’s Homepage Feed – Grab’s new lifestyle feed that provides up-to-date content and personalised features to our users, to help them rediscover their cities and local communities. The company-wide event played host to more than 250 Grabbers, and was by-far Grab’s largest hackathon yet.

We asked Samuel from Grab’s People Team to pen down his biggest takeaways from his experience at Widgethon 1.0.


I’ve never had much experience with technical programming, aside from my participation in an external travel hackathon ages ago. With whatever knowledge I had, I went into this hackathon with no expectations. Even so, my experience participating in Grab’s Widgethon really surprised me. Here are some of the things that I found different and contributed to an extraordinary experience.

1) You can participate in a hackathon… remotely

We’re all for working remotely at certain times, but my team took it to the next level by having teammates in 3 different locations, one as far as a cafe in Penang! I was to hold the fort with my other teammate at the widgethon venue and to convey clear instructions to the rest of the team. We held multiple video calls and messaged each other regularly in a group chat to make sure we were all synced up on the idea before we met in person the next day.

Of course, the process wasn’t easy, but it was definitely very different from the way I envisioned how I’d communicate with my team!

Lesson 1: Don’t let distance be an excuse for not working on passionate ideas

2) The enthusiasm & focus in the atmosphere is contagious

You may start the day off groggy, but the moment the event kicks off, you’ll definitely be able to feel the excitement build up! The flurry of back-and-forths and continuous chatter is really contagious and sets the pace at which everyone is working. You can even overhear some groups brainstorming, and others trying to recalibrate on what needs to be done.

Lesson 2: Even if you get up on the wrong side of the bed, get ready to feel pumped when you join a hackathon!

3) You have more fun with diverse minds

Most people had already formed their ‘dream teams’ before signing up for the Widgethon. However, I hesitated and joined a team a little later. That said, teaming up with unfamiliar colleagues can be a really rewarding experience; we had members from interns to country heads sharing their opinions from multiple perspectives, and from a usability standpoint.

Lesson 3: Leave space for one or two external participants when joining a hackathon – you never know what they can bring to the table

4) Discarding ideas is a norm

When you get caught up in the excitement of brainstorming for an idea and bringing it to life, you tend to let the subtle details slip through. The funny thing about brainstorming & ideation is that ideas usually exist on a spectrum from ‘no technical restraints’ to ‘impossible due to technical restraints’. Due to that fact, we had to ditch at least three ideas that sounded really useful, but were impossible to build with the tools available to us.

Lesson 4: Don’t aim for a perfect idea, aim for a feasible idea

5) Don’t give up!

Over the course of 36 hours, one can get tired from working on an idea that may never come to fruition (or win a prize). Don’t let that stop you from pushing on! Even if the idea is relegated to a simple presentation with a mockup, be confident, own it and present that idea to the world. Great products start from simple ideas that sell a vision, not a fully working, ready-to-go app.

Lesson 5: Can’t get a working prototype of your idea? Just present it and sell the vision!

Sam’s Team Widget Prototype: A hyperlocal, high-engagement quiz widget that can be customised to serve any of Grab’s operational countries: where one could earn cool badges for bragging rights.

6) YPIMP (Your Problem Is My Problem)

In the spirit of one of Grab’s organisational principles, Your Problem Is My Problem, the organisers offered to provide help to teams that wanted to turn their ideas into reality to be put in front of real consumers. In my opinion, the proposition that you can ‘invent’ a widget or a mini-app that would be used by thousands of people is incredibly exciting!

Lesson 6: Give it your best shot and pursue your idea all the way if you truly believe in it


So, we encourage you to come and give us your best shot. We’d love to have you at Grab! To find out more, check out our Careers Site today.

Want to read more? Check out Serene’s Widgethon experience from last week.

Serene’s Widgethon Experience