Matthew Dodd, of Datacom, is one of the organisers of HackNelson – an event dedicated to raising the region’s entrepreneurial capabilities. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Beers, Burgers and Banter

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Every few weeks the Nelson Weekly sits down with someone interesting, doing something interesting. This week we speak to Datacom’s Matthew Dodd who is part of the team behind HackNelson, a start-up weekend dedicated to finding exciting solutions to business problems.

Q: So what is HackNelson all about?
A: This is a way to get smart people together in Nelson who can solve problems that are meaningful to local businesses. It’s about getting a variety of differing perspectives. People bring business knowledge, software skills, digital skills and to get those people together they then learn from each other and spark off each other. Then we add that to the local businesses who are looking for solutions to problems. They are wanting to innovate outside the walls that normally constrain us and do it in a way that’s fun and fast and leads to new opportunity.

Q: What actually happens on the weekend?
A: Hack Nelson is a 48-hour, high-energy event that starts 4pm on Friday, September 14 to 4pm Sunday at NMIT. We get 50-100 people together – we give them food and fuel, and talented, experienced mentors to coach then and challenge them. Within the structure there is a whole lot of freedom for them to do what they want to do. They form teams and each team works on its own problems.

Q: Why is it beneficial?
A: It’s about raising entrepreneurial capability in this region. Last year we had a 18-year-old florist and 55-year-old software developer, students from NMIT and experts flying in from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. There are people who have done a bunch of these and others who don’t really know what it is. The feedback we got last year is people loved it and others who weren’t sure have signed up to come back again this year.

Q: Why do businesses want to have their problems solved in this way?
A: It’s hard often to innovate within your own business. You have the pressure of making a dollar and keeping customers happy. Innovating outside is a good way to approach it. That’s what they are thinking. If they try it what have they got to lose.  What we say is that the team who produced the ideas, that team and the business sponsoring the problem, they have the first opportunity to work together. They can then enter into a commercial agreement to take it further. But there is no obligation.

Q: Why should people take part?
A: For cost of 99 bucks you get free meals, meet cool people and get free training and could end up with a new job. For more information visit hacknelson.nz