With Nationwide University Hackathon, General Catalyst Aims To Give Students Early Intro To Startup Life

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While organized hackathons and startup-building events have begun to sprout up across the globe thanks to companies like AngelHack and Startup Weekend, university-focused hackathons remain underrepresented. General Catalyst, the veteran venture capital firm based in Massachusetts and Palo Alto, wants to change that.

General Catalyst, in partnership with hacker event specialist Signalfire, has organized the University Hacker Olympics, an invitation-only competition that aims to be the largest university hackathon held to date. The competition began in October with “Qualifiers” at over 25 of the top engineering schools in the U.S., where students have been competing in coding challenges designed by Y Combinator alum HackerRank.

After the Qualifiers wrap up at Princeton later this month, the five students with the highest scores at each university are then invited to participate in an all-expenses-paid, three-day “finals” event in San Francisco that is set to take place the weekend of January 11th. Those 100-plus students will code alongside CTOs and top engineers from startups like Airbnb, Square, Stripe and over 30 others.

At the end of the Hackathon, the winning team will be taken to a VIP dinner with Silicon Valley notables. The final day will consist of a “Hacker Demo Day,” where more than 40 startups will pitch students on their businesses and offer networking opportunities and a chance to join their teams.

The University Hacker Olympics initially began as an open challenge in which students from all over the country could apply to participate — the only required criterion being a “.edu” email address. While many students are aware of Facebook, Twitter, Google and Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies, many of them have never had a chance to see them in person and interact with entrepreneurs, investors and engineers from the top tech startups. The organizers tell us that the inspiration for the event came from just that: wishing they’d had a similar opportunity when they were in college.

Though the list of 25 schools has been set (which you can see here), the organizers want the event to be open to all, so they’re hosting a “Wildcard Challenge” this Sunday, where any student from any school can apply to test their coding chops. The final qualifier will be held December 16th, after which the organizers and sponsors will be tallying the results and sending out invitations to the winners.

For students interested in participating, you can find more information here.

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