In Video: Zalando Techies Sold on the Company’s Hack Week

By David Knight |

Quick, what’s the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the word ‘Zalando‘? Is it hackathons or technical innovation? It’s not, is it? That might just, however, be about to change.

The German e-commerce giant, which was launched in 2008 and grew out of Rocket Internet, is probably more famous for taking ‘inspiration’ from American equivalent Zappos. But the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, with the company’s entire technology department in Berlin and further afield being taken off their usual duties for a week and given the chance to work on their own ideas.

Some 400 people in the German capital, as well as sub-offices in Dortmund and Erfurt, came up with nearly 150 project proposals as part of Zalando Hack Week in December with around 100 teams being formed to tackle them. The goal was to develop ideas that would contribute to Zalando’s core business or improve their everyday office life. (Check out the video here)

The best projects were recognised with an awards ceremony at the end of the week, with highlights including the Kinect Shoe Recognition and Recommendation – an automated shoe recognition via the 3D cloud and Microsoft Kinect that offers Zalando customers recommendations of shoes that fit – and ShaZalando, which suggests similar items when users take a picture of something they like.

Till Juchheim, who was part of the ShaZalando team, described the hack week as a “productive and creative melting pot,” and praised the chance to work with people from elsewhere in the company who he would not usually have contact with.

He added: “Thanks to the different backgrounds like product management logistics or mobile development, team work was very inspiring and we experienced five days of strongly solution oriented hands-on work. We did not expect to get that far in such a short time, but the result is a prototype of our virtual pattern recognition for mobile devices, that works way better than we’d ever expected.”

Philipp Erler, the chief information officer at Zalando, told Silicon Allee that the hack week would definitely be repeated. He said: “The event facilitated the great innovation potential that we see in our Tech department every day and kindled a remarkable passion among the teams to really push their own ideas.”