Mashery acquires alumni-run Hacker League


The University’s developer community celebrated this past week after TechCrunch broke the news that Hacker League was acquired by Mashery, Inc., an Intel Corporation company. Hacker League was created by three Rutgers students and launched at the fall 2011 “HackNY” hackathon.

Mike Swift, founder of Hacker League, said it provides a set of tools and basic functionality that organizers would typically need to host a hackathon.

This includes features such as the ability to design a landing page that provides relevant information — like schedules and lists of sponsors —before, during and after an event. Organizers can also capture extra information and resumes from registrants, as well as send them messages.

Hacker League powers almost 100 events per quarter, said Swift, a 2012 University alumnus. At its peak, Hacker League supported 17 hackathons in a single weekend. The company started generating revenue at the beginning of 2013 by white-labeling its platform and providing consulting for private corporate events.

Mashery acquired intellectual property, the platform and other assets associated with Hacker League, but not the founding team, which includes Swift, alumnus Ian Jennings and alumnus Abe Stanway. Jennings and Stanway initially formulated the idea of a hackathon management platform at a Y Combinator event in New York City.

“We decided to build Hacker League because we love hackathons,” said Swift, the Commissioner of Major League Hacking.

While many entrepreneurs pour all their time and resources into their ventures, Hacker League was never more than a side project for Swift, Jennings and Stanway, who all worked full-time jobs while maintaining Hacker League after they graduated.

“The thing you’ve got to remember is that Hacker League is not just us three,” Swift said. “The site is driven by the community, by the people who use it and write about it. It’s the hacks after the event that live on. What really happened is that we helped grow this ecosystem.”

The acquisition is a victory for believers of the notion that entrepreneurship can thrive in a university setting, despite the time constraints of balancing a startup with coursework.

“The truth is that in college, you have the time to punctuate your life with so many different things,” Swift said. “In college, the community is there to have your back. Everyone should take note of that, accepting and reciprocating that support.”

Jennings, who was responsible for branding and designing the front-end of Hacker League, talked about his experience building a company while completing an undergraduate degree.

“I purposefully majored in information technology instead of computer science so I didn’t have to waste time doing problem sets,” Jennings said. “I had already taught myself how to program before I got to college. Also, I was terrible at math.”

Jennings recently published a blog post sharing an email thread between him and a past professor. In the first email, dated Nov. 26, 2011, Jennings asked for an extension for a project, because he has “been very busy starting a company.”

More than two years later, Jennings emailed that same professor a short but sweet update.

“Thanks for cutting me some slack a couple years ago. The company I mentioned above sold to Intel today,” the email read.

Details of the acquisition are somewhat limited.

Amit Jotwani, developer advocate at Mashery, a provider of API technology and services, commented in an email interview.

“We realized that Mashery’s need to run and manage developer events is growing every month,” Jotwani said in the email. “With Hacker League, Mashery can now deliver the best-in-class tool for developers and hackathon organizers.”

Jotwani assured that Hacker League would remain focused first and foremost on developer interests. He said Swift would help them transition and integrate Hacker League into Mashery over the course of the next year.

“We thought about taking funding and doing this full-time,” Swift said. “But funding wouldn’t really do us anything — the site was growing organically at a pretty amazing rate.”

Swift said he, Jennings and Stanway all aspire to be huge players in the developer scene and didn’t want to take on the responsibilities that come with accepting venture funding.

“But I do think the potential for this platform is completely untapped,” Swift said. “Right now though, it needs a team of people who can focus on all the nuances and take this to the next level. We just didn’t have the bandwidth, but I have faith that it’s in good hands.”

Tyler Gold is an intern at The Verge. You can follow him on Twitter @tylergold.

Nis Frome is the co-founder of Hublished.com. You can follow him on Twitter @nisfrome.


By Tyler Gold and Nis Frome

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