ChocoHack: Team Collaboration in Action

Inspiring ideas. Hilarious banter. Here's the story behind our first company-wide hackathon.
Life at Choco Oct 21, 2021
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What happens when Chocorians from all functions gather to brainstorm new initiatives for the global food supply chain? A party happens. A party of incredible ideas, groundbreaking tech innovation, enthusiastic cheering, some healthy competitive banter, and an awesome prize for the project that has the greatest potential to add value to the world.

Last quarter, the first hackathon event took place at our company headquarters in Berlin.

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But before we get into the details of the event, let’s take a step back for those of you who may be new to the Choco world.

The heart of Choco

Choco is here for the planet. In fact, our name comes from one of the most biodiverse and rich ecosystems on the planet (El Chocó is a District of Columbia that extends from Panama to Ecuador.) It’s places like this that we’re fighting to preserve by cutting down food waste and optimizing the supply chain.

Humble may not be the right word, since our aspirations are global and we think big. We are needed. And the team knows that. We get a sense that this is why people not only join our team, they join the mission as a fellow visionary. We’re not programmers, engineers, or marketers - we’re trailblazers.

There’s something special that happens when the great minds of Choco come together, bringing with them passion, extreme enthusiasm channeled through their respective talents and collaborative energy that births more than what could have been created alone.

Why a hackathon?

If you’ve not heard of it before, a hackathon is essentially a sprint event that brings minds together over a short period of time. The goal is to create meaningful, functional solutions to tech problems by the end of the event.

Generally, they’re competitive events, where prototype software is built (like mobile or web applications) to advance technology by creating new products and systems.

Director of Engineering at Choco, Gab Michels, says that ChocoHack has been “a long time in the making.” Since the start of the pandemic, many Choco employees (known as Chocorians) had been working remotely. Gab says it felt time to bring them together with this event to reignite the unmistakable Choco team spirit.

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Gab Michels, Director of Engineering

The hackathon didn’t disappoint. We had some incredible ideas come forth. It was hard to choose the winner (but eventually, we did. Read on!).

How it all came together

The event had two main themes: food sustainability and unlocking tech potential. Prior to the event, Chocorians submitted their project ideas. There were no limits, as long as they were aligned with the themes. Two weeks before ChocoHack, participants signed up for the projects they liked best. If a project collected four or more signatures, it was funded.

Chocorians joined either physically in person, or digitally if they were working remotely, to develop their ideas and present them to the entire team and management in hopes of winning the grand prize.

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What would they win? Since Choco is all about the love of food, the prize was a very fitting trip for the winning team to go to the foodie city, Copenhagen.

Team spirit and healthy competition

In true Choco spirit, the event was the perfect mixture of collaboration and competitive banter. During the event, walking around the office, teams would side-eye each other, and ask “are you packing your bags for the trip already,”

One of the participants not-so-subtly put the Danish flag (as a hint to their confidence to win the Copenhagen prize) as their Zoom background so everyone could see it when the presentation was displayed on the big screen.

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The competitive banter was light and fun, which allowed the whole event to really stay in line with Choco’s core values of team spirit and ownership. If we are to tackle this food waste problem, it’s about all of us being accountable, focused, and collaborative.

The awesomely inspired projects

Each of the projects had fun names, different solutions, and certain energy to them that was palpable as they presented their ideas.

  • Choco Trace was a project geared towards transparency in the supply chain, allowing full traceability and quality control to give buyers choice and quality assurance.
  • iCarbon was a project which aligned buyers with “Chococlimate” subscriptions. This would allow Choco users to choose different levels of offsetting the carbon footprint of their food transport system.
  • Team Infinidash explored how data for restaurants and suppliers can be leveraged and accessed in a more personalized way to make informed decisions on their purchases.
  • Shake & Shout (a lively team that literally asked everyone to stand up and shake out their bodies) brought another valuable idea focused on unlocking tech’s ability to listen and engage with users. They advocated for in-app enhancements for bug reporting and gaining feedback.

There were more inspired projects, but for now, we know you’re on the edge of your seats wondering who the winners were…

Without further ado, it was Team Choco Dealz that took the prize.

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This project aspires to fight food waste by leveraging technology to enable suppliers to maximize their communications with clients with automated integrations and manual input of goods that will expire shortly.

It was a well-researched, clear idea that had valuable applications for suppliers and buyers, plus, the software was developed in such a way that was easy to implement.

The team, which consisted of Ildi, Andrew, Nemanja, Ese, Sid, Julius, Sachin, and Anthony, was over the moon to be the winners of the first ChocoHack event.

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Autonomy meets collaboration

Collaboration at Choco is vital. The last few years, with many of us working from home, haven’t been easy. It’s events like this that humanize the team. It sparks the collaborative nature of creation and innovation, which brings forth insight and ideas that may otherwise not have happened.

As Gab mentions, this hackathon reminded us what it’s like to be in a team, to bounce ideas off one another, and to “lift each other up.”

It’s important to give space for a business to innovate, as so much time and energy can be spent on the systems and projects already in place, which keeps the business running, but not developing.

In all, the first Choco hackathon was wildly successful.

“Someone I was speaking to recently said that Choco is at the intersection between autonomy and collaboration. And I think that that's exactly what this hackathon was. You're giving someone the complete freedom to work with others and create something great and that's exactly what it turned out to be.”

So when is the next ChocoHack? Sooner than you might think!

The fruits of this event were very clear. It injected the business with enthusiasm and excitement for what this company can do for the world, connecting the team with the overarching vision. Eventually, Gab suspects that we could have a ChocoHack once every quarter.

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Gab shares how impressed management really was, “There was so much love and heart into the projects that you really saw it translate in the detail and the execution of it…

Choco lives off of high energy and this is what we saw in the presentations.”

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Interested in joining #TeamChoco and taking part in (winning) the next ChocoHack?
Check out our open roles here.

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Ready to combine your love of tech with your passion for a healthy planet? Now's your chance. Join our mission!

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