Hackdays at Voi- fostering innovation and creativity

May 20, 2022

One of the many great things that we at Voi pride ourselves on is our drive to be innovative. We are constantly working to push boundaries and challenge the status quo on our quest to transform the way people move around towns and cities. One of the many ways we foster creativity and out-of-the-box thinking is by hosting multiple hackathons throughout the year. At Voi we call them Hackdays.

Hackdays are a chance for Voi employees to put all their effort and creativity into a single project over the course of two days. We host these Hackdays once every quarter and anyone working at Voi is welcome to join.

The story and evolution of Hackdays

Hackdays started as a way to have a more bottom-up approach and give more employees a chance to drive projects that could help Voi to evolve and improve our service. As the company grew, so did Hackdays. In the beginning they were mostly attended by engineers, but it has now grown outside the engineering community and, on the most recent Hackday, it’s estimated that around one fifth of the company was involved in some way.

This growth of interest in Hackdays is thanks to Jonas Rundberg, VP of Software Engineering. Previously he had worked with scale-up companies within the gaming industry, and he had also run his own start-up in the hardware space. With Jonas’ experience in tech companies he knew the value hackathons have to a company’s product innovation and, since he joined, he has driven the Hackdays to reach the broader company.

We sat down with Jonas and Mehdi Dadashpour, Engineering Manager, to learn more about Hackdays.

Image: The last Hackdays demonstration session at Voi’s headquarters in Stockholm.

Hackdays – what are they?

Hackday is a two-day event hosted every quarter that allows everyone at Voi to come up with an idea that they feel would improve Voi’s service, relating to both software and hardware. Employees are encouraged to come up with projects themselves and find a group with the right skills necessary to develop the idea, be it iOS developers, UX designers, warehouse mechanics, policy experts or others.

The event is kicked off with a session where everyone gets to pitch their projects to each other, followed by two days of intense ‘hacking’ to develop and implement ideas they think are valuable for the company. When the 48 hours are up, the project groups should have developed a prototype or mock up that explains and makes the idea easy to understand, as well as making the project’s impact tangible. The ideas are demonstrated in front of the organisation on a global webinar and everyone gets to vote in two different categories.

Jonas Rundberg said: “We are trying to drive our culture and build the hackdays around ground-up ideas, right? So we put a lot of mandate into the audience, which is why everyone gets two votes at the end. They get to vote on their favourite project in terms of coolness, but they also get to vote on the project they believe we should just invest in and bring to fruition. That is one of the coolest parts of what we do at Hackdays- empowering the teams

The creativity and innovation of Hackdays

Both Medhi and Jonas want to stress that the level of creativity and the level of good ideas is really high.

There are both small and big projects that all are really impressive. During the years we have seen everything from people building a complete scooter from scratch, to integrating our service with Alexa voice, to people implanting NFC chips into their hands to be able to unlock the scooters. This year was one of the most impressive yet,” Jonas adds.

Mehdi supports this by saying, “An important thing to add. We don’t give the employees a set problem to solve, but rather let them find innovative ways to solve the problems or issues that they themselves might have caught in their day-to-day operations. Something that the leadership team might not even have noticed before.

An idea that started as a Hackday project, which many riders may have seen already, is the Impact Dashboard which was designed to show riders what impact they’re having on climate change and air pollution. It works by calculating the harmful emissions that have been avoided by choosing to ride Voi, so riders can understand the positive impact they are contributing to when they use our service or make other conscious mobility choices. Each rider gets a personal Dashboard based on how many Voi rides they’ve taken.

Image: One of the hackdays projects this year, VoiRox, a Voi metaverse world based on Roblox.

How does the future of Hackdays look?

As innovation is one of the cornerstones for Voi’s existence, the Hackdays are an elementary part in continuing to strive for more creative innovative solutions. Just as with everything at Voi, Hackdays will continue to evolve and grow. When Mehdi thinks about the future of Hackdays he would like to see that we could gather even more people in person, to work together on creative projects.

I would also love to see more collaboration between different business units and that all projects involve people with different kinds of expertise. Perhaps even host hackathons that are open for people outside of Voi to join.

We finished off by asking Jonas and Mehdi what they like most about Hackdays.

For me, it is working very closely in a team with a very timeboxed interval. You know you are working towards a deadline and you want to be able to solve an important problem in a very short time. But also in a very creative way, and there are no boundaries for how you do it” said Jonas.

Mehdi adds.“For me it’s the thrill of the whole thing. We want to have a great idea that impresses our colleagues and also want to solve a problem that will elevate Voi to have a better product. I really felt the Voi vibe in the office during those two days. In every corner there is a group of people trying different solutions and checking if their sensors are working or if their solution is working and it’s a fantastic feeling to see colleagues come together like that.

If you think that this sounds interesting and would like to join the Voi team, take a look at our open positions.

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