Innovation is at the core of everything we do at Craft. And while our product team is constantly coming up with new and exciting ideas, we think it's important to make space for our teams to think outside of the box. This is especially crucial in the busy day-to-day environment of an ever-growing startup.
That's why, to celebrate the opening of Craft's new office in Krausz Palace in Budapest, our Director of Engineering Marin Dimitrov planned a two-day long hackathon where the whole team came together to build innovative new tools with the future of AI and machine learning in mind.
We had a few goals in mind when shaping up the hackathon. We wanted the event to be exciting & engaging for all participants — and for team members to build new, cross-functional relationships, that are both inclusive and engaging even for non-engineering teammates, and finally, we wanted it to be a learning opportunity for everyone.
— Marin Dimitrov, Director of Engineering at Craft
Harnessing AI to build the products of the future
At Craft we've always seen the incredible potential of AI technologies, — in fact, we were the first writing tool to introduce an AI assistant. So, it's no surprise that for our first Craftathon, teams were asked to come up with new ways to harness the power of AI and machine learning to solve a problem for our customers or introduce a helpful new feature or workflow.
The goal was to give our entire international team an opportunity to come together, think outside the box, and drive creativity and innovation forward in a fun, collaborative environment.
Despite the fact that a lot of the Craft team works remotely from all over Europe, the majority of the company was able to participate in the Craftathon and most of us made it to Budapest to hack together in real life.
Unlike other hackathons, the Craftathon wasn't exclusive to engineers. A huge number of team members were from other departments across the company and many had never had the chance to participate in a hackathon before. This meant we formed some truly cross-functional teams, which led to lots of exciting and innovative ideas, as each team could bring their unique set of skills and perspectives.
I was seriously surprised by the whole vibe around the hackathon. I have been on a few of them before but this one felt different — people weren’t determined to just win and get the money, they wanted to create something interesting and valuable! Everybody was so happy to help each other, which was super heartwarming.
– Bartek Legięć, Senior Product Engineer at Craft
The Craftathon gave us all a chance to collaborate with colleagues from other departments whom we don't usually work with on a daily basis. It was both an incredible social experience and an opportunity to build new relationships.
When you can break free from the constraints of day-to-day work and production-ready solutions, it’s much easier to bring bold ideas to life.
— Moritz Rübner, Product Growth Manager at Craft
Working in these large, cross-functional groups took a bit of getting used to but the teams were quickly collaborating, delegating, and having fun — so much fun in fact that some teams stayed in the office as late as 10 p.m. Fortunately, the coffee machine in Krausz Palace makes excellent espresso! ☕️
In just two days, the Craftathon teams were able to come up with some spectacular concepts and prototypes — from auto-generated podcasts with updates for busy teams to AI-powered customer onboarding.
On day three, it was time to pitch and emotions ran high. The pressure was on as there were three cash prizes for the winners. Technical issues and nerves aside, every team presented their ideas well — so well, in fact, that the deliberations had to take a lot longer than planned.
The quality of thinking and innovation on show was phenomenal. Every team built a working feature and even factored in things like handling data efficiently, cost calculations, and user experience. And they still had time to create hilarious or awe-inducing videos.
The 2023 Craftathon was the best hackathon I've seen in my career. In terms of engagement — almost 80% of Craft employees participated, and inclusivity — every single function was represented including Engineering, Product, Design, Marketing, Customer Support, and People & Recruitment. And the same goes for the quality of the prototypes, which were solving real customer problems and were covering end-to-end workflows, from data ingestion & backend processing, to integrations with the web or the mobile Craft apps. It was really amazing to see the excitement, buzz, and energy in the office throughout these two and a half days of the Craftathon — now everyone is asking when the next Craftathon will take place. 🚀
— Marin Dimitrov, Director of Engineering at Craft
Teams pitched to a panel of judges including three of Craft's executives and special guests Piero Sierra, CPO at Skyscanner, Filip Filipov, Founder of Moment, and Gergely Orosz, author of The Pragmatic Engineer. The judges were impressed with the variety of ideas and the quality of the prototypes.
For all CEOs and CTOs spending weeks pondering how to integrate AI into your product: Host a proper AI hackathon at your company. You will get inspiration and prototypes. The turnout was ~80% of all staff (about 50% of staff are devs: huge number of non-devs also turned up). 100% of teams produced usable stuff!
— Gergely Orosz, author of The Pragmatic Engineer (via X)
Celebrating our move to Krausz Palace
The hackathon, or in our case Craftathon, took place in a whole new setting for our team as we've recently moved into a new office space. As we continue to make Craft better, our team needs room to grow. It was time to move out of our old office building and into a new, inspiring office space that also prepares us for what lies ahead.
Craftathon concluded with the office opening party — the foyer of Krausz Palace was a perfect spot for a celebration — but no party would be complete without four roundtable panels. 😉
The discussions were moderated by our CEO and Founder Bálint Orosz, our Director of Engineering Marin Dimitrov, and Head of Product Design, Artom Konovalov. The guests discussed topics around innovation, technology, and the future of AI and machine learning.
Our CEO Bálint Orosz welcomes the team.
Roberto Bonanzinga and Graham O'Keeffe, two of Craft's investors shared their thoughts about the future of funding for startups and the current VC landscape. And what's even more exciting — we learned what made them invest in Craft in the first place.
Roberto Bonanzinga and Graham O'Keeffe discuss the startup landscape.
Marin welcomed Ross McNairn, CPTO at TravelPerk, and Gergely Orosz, author of The Pragmatic Engineer, on stage to discuss engineering in startups. The conversation touched on how engineering teams and functions might change and evolve in the next ten years.
Ross McNairn and Gergely Orosz discuss engineering in startups.
And finally, Craft's Artom Konovalov chaired a discussion on the blending of growth and product featuring speakers Craft Advisor, Katya Skorobogatova and Skyscanner CPO, Piero Sierra.
Katya Skorobogatova and Piero Sierra discuss the blending of growth and product.
When the discussions concluded, it was time to announce the winners of the Craftathon. Although it was close, the judges felt the winning teams proposed the most useful, innovative, and best-presented concepts. The winning teams got up on stage for a photo op and to receive their giant check.
Cocktails and craft beers were served as the team enjoyed hors d'oeuvres and live music from two members of our own team! Afterward, the party continued upstairs. Even those with an early flight home on Friday took the chance to enjoy each other's company in person and partied into the night.
Daniel Duke, our Head of Content, and Mikey Casalaina, our Engineering Manager, gave a performance together during the celebrations.
It was an intense few days but the Craftathon was an unforgettable experience that brought the team together like never before. The spirit of competition got our creative juices flowing and helped us bond in a unique way — so we can all confidently say we are looking forward to doing it all again next year.
And with that, we'll leave you with some last thoughts from one of our winners:
It was nice to work on a branch that I knew I wouldn't need to merge.
— Wojtek Mandrysz, Senior Product Engineer at Craft