An overview of Headstart Hackerspaces

Why Hackerspace? 

Currently in India, there are a very large number of talented developers working on mundane things in big services companies. They either lack the exposure to bleeding edge technologies or the confidence to create disruptive applications.
On the other hand we have geeks who are working like islands in startups and big tech product companies like Google inventing crazy stuff. In the valley, these guys would have been geek gods, but in India nobody knows them. They code to scratch their own itch, but are neither challenged nor inspired to change the world with their programming prowess.
The programming world at large sees India as a “low quality” services destination, suitable for doing “maintenance” work for cheap. As a country we don’t have disruptive technology startups, nor do we create globally adopted products.If no action is taken in this area, it is highly likely that we would continue to have a large number of super talented youngsters ending up being project managers because that’s the standard career decision for programmers in a country like ours. Even if they end up as architects, chances are they will never invent or innovate primarily because they have not been exposed to the process of “creation”. Invention happens at the edge of technology, not at the middle.
On the other side our geek gods will continue to be content within their small world, not being challenged by a market problem or inspired with a fan following.
For the world at large, India will continue to be a country with a large pool of assembly line workers who are not competent or capable of building disruptive products.
Now, if we are able to exponentially increase the number of world class product developers in India, the picture would be different. Many of these developers will create hundreds of startups that will impact millions around the world and add more than a billion dollars to the Indian economy within this decade. Many of these developers will push the edges of technology in R&D centers of large organizations. Open source contributions form India will go to a whole new level. The world will reckon India’s growing IT prowess.
One cannot innovate and invent being a mediocre. They need to be at the edge of technology to invent. To disrupt.
It takes time and consistency to reach there. Hackerspaces seek to build a culture of excellence by bringing together geeks who inspire each other in conquering new heights in technology.
What is Hackerspace?
A hackerspace is an event (not a location) that happens periodically at the same venue.
Here is what happens in an event:
  1. Qualified developers register for the event online.
  2. They check in at the venue and enter “What are they going to hack” in our system.
  3. They code either independently or in pairs of 2
  4. They discuss their problems/challenges with others and also help other out.
  5. Before the completion of the event everyone shares in 5 minute demos what they have built / created. This is entered in our system.
Hackerspaces are of two types:-

1. Generic:
Technology agnostic. Come hack, learn, contribute, present and leave.
Intention: Community building, Idea prototyping, Inspiring and getting inspired by peers
Host: Large organizations
Duration: 1 to 2 days
Frequency: Once a month
<< NOTE: There are a handful of events in this format and in the interest of creating a bigger impact we may choose not to do this format at all. Some benefits of this type of hackerspace are its generic nature and low barrier to entry. >>
2. Technology Specific: Everyone needs to work on the specified technology. Host company has experts in the domain.
Intention: Developing Mastery over a technology
Host: Startups / Teams in Large organizations
Duration: 5 hours – 1 day
Frequency:Weekly, Fortnightly
In the absence of original ideas, people will be encouraged to do the tech specific stuff for clearing up the to do list on well known open source projects like python or ruby itself or Django/Pyramid or Codeigniter/CakePhp or Rails etc? There would be a sense of achievement and instant recognition world wide. People can proudly claim that they’re a committer to a project. Also, the world would start noticing what is happening in India and some guys at the world level would step in to mentor. 

When are Hackerspaces Held?
Hackerspaces need to be held periodically.
These can be Monthly, Fortnightly or Weekly.

Where are Hackerspaces Held?
Hackerspaces are held at the host company’s location.

 How are are Hackerspaces Structured? 
1. Host Organisation: 

Event Lead: Logistics, Event promotion, Reaching out to qualified people, Coordinating with Event lead at Headstart
Mentors: Support people with problems

2. Headstart:
Event Lead: Entry of data into system, Event promotion, Reaching out to qualified people, Coordinating with Event Lead in host organization
Experts: Tech Talk if needed, support people with problems
Who organizes Hackerspace?
Hackerspaces are organized by Headstart Network in partnership with different Indian companies doing cutting edge work in software technologies. Headstart is a pan India not-for-profit organization committed to transforming the entrepreneurial ecosystem in India. Headstart has created the biggest grassroots early stage entrepreneur network in India. Albeit its entrepreneurial roots, Hackerspaces can be equally embraced by startups and large companies. Headstart recognizes the need of the hour is building mastery.
Hackerspaces are organized by host companies and are supported by a core team of Headstart volunteers.
Hackerspaces are advised by rockstar hackers, corporate bigwigs and startup leaders.
Responsibilities of Headstart:
  1. Create a structure for consistent organization of the event in the host location
  2. Coach the host organization on defining the shortlist criteria
  3. Reach out to developers in the said technology / domain
  4. Arrange for experts – nationally and internationally to come and participate.
  5. Ensure that every person’s progress gets measured
 Responsibilities of Host organization:
  1. Commit their top employees to act as mentors (they can participate too) in the hackerspace.
  2. Ensure that the event is hosted periodically, with sufficient WiFi, Power connections, Food etc.
  3. Reach out to developers in the said technology / domain

By Amit Singh

Amit Singh is the co-founder of Headstart - India's largest early stage startup community. He has a keen interest in startups, technology and design. He runs an award winning product engineering firm called Wow Labz in Bangalore, India. He has invested in multiple startups via Wow Labz as well. He has also cofounded Design Day - a pan India design community

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