Berlin Geekettes Hold Germany’s First All-Female Hackathon

By Simone ODonovan |

It’s a fairly common sight in Berlin these days; groups of young people clustered around tables, talking and working and focused on the computers in front of them. Another weekend, another hackathon. Yet this was an event with a difference – all of the participants were women.

The Berlin Geekettes Hackathon at Deutsche Telekom‘s new innovation space in Charlottenburg last weekend was undoubtedly a big success.  The winning team, called Monkey See Monkey Do, was proof of that, creating an iOS app to help children understand their daily schedules.

The bright and airy rooms on the ground floor of the massive Telekom building were the perfect scene for the event, the first all-female hackathon in Germany. And it’s no surprise that it came out of the Berlin Geekettes, a group founded by General Assembly‘s Jess Erickson as a means of facilitating relationships between female entrepreneurs in the technology sector.

Perhaps as many as 100 women could be found hard at work hacking from 1pm Saturday to 1pm Sunday. API representatives from SoundCloud, Tumblr, Etsy, EyeEm, Readmill and You Is Now were on hand to offer their help.

An Exhausting and Draining Experience

Before the hacking began, everyone pitched their ideas and formed their own groups based on their personal interests. Innovative ideas such as Wonderbelt, a belt that can play Tetris by tapping it, or Urban Sound Archive, a collection of recordings of locations all over the world, were formed.

Jess explained the reasoning behind an all-female event: “I noticed that there wasn’t a strong attendance of females at hackathons and this came down to two reasons: one is that the women are more comfortable around other women, especially in an intense setting like a 24 hour hackathon, the second is how exhausting and draining the experience is with a lack of healthy food and drinks.”

The event was given a feminine touch with a yoga and relaxation room, an Etsy arts and crafts room, a very hospitable sleeping area and a great array of healthy meals and snacks. On Saturday night Kitchen Surfing catered a healthy, gluten-free and completely organic dinner. An overdose of Club Mate and pizza it most certainly was not.

There was a positive, didactic and collaborative atmosphere throughout the event, with one participant, Belgian Sarah Sal, describing it as a “sisterhood or community where everybody helps everybody.” Sarah had been to a few hackathons before and said that “I got a lot of attention for being part of the small minority of women and they all asked me how I felt about it, but to be honest I was just worried about the wifi remaining consistant.”

A Culture Shaped by Technology

Carla Drago from Australia recognised the importance and the relevance of an all women’s hackathon: “This event excites me because there are so few women in this area. There are a lot of things that are being designed for women but not by women. Our culture is becoming something that is shaped by technology and so women need to be present as people making it. I don’t feel less or more comfortable at gender specific hackathons. Working in media is quite male-dominated so you learn to adapt to it. One thing I appreciate here is that women are less likely to claim expert status.”

Carla’s project called Eye-Moo was a Web app that takes EyeEm photos and sends them to to print them. She had an interest in printed photos but also sharing them online and so created an app to bridge that gap.

The prizes up for grabs included five iPads, goodie bags and a Raspberry Pi mini computer. The winning teams were Monkey See Monkey Do, Life in Music (an app allowing you to create the soundtrack of your life with one song released for every month), myMapster (a map of Immobilienscout24 properties), Soundmill (Readmill for SoundCloud audio books) and HomeThingy (an app that will show you apartments via Immobilienscout24 that will suit your Etsy shopping style).

The student prize went to BOOKBEAT which pairs great books with great music.

Overall, the event was a huge success. Jess said: “I hope to make this event a biannual thing. I’m finding ways of partnering with a London group of women hackers and we could do a Berlin meets London women hackathon. That’s something I would like to work on in the pipeline.”