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Insights Hackathon #versusvirus

Samyr Mezzour was part of the hackathon VersusVirus as a mentor. He gives you insight how the experience was.

1) What was the hackathon versusvirus all about?

VersusVirus is a 48h online Hackathon with the objective to “hack” and fight the Coronavirus with innovative ideas. These ideas could be spread across 14 categories, from Support & Solidarity to Hospital & Medical Care via Crime Reduction.

The developed prototypes were aimed at helping Switzerland to cope with the pandemic crisis and its aftermath.

Here you see all the 14 categories 👇

2) How was HITS involved in the hackathon?

In two ways: 1) HITS was a sponsor of the event - Generali Switzerland was as well -, and 2) I was a mentor for the category “After the Crisis”.

3) How did you take part in the hackathon?

As digitally as it can be. I have never been this connected on an initiative in my whole life! I was simultaneously getting information by email, while getting onboarding help on the Slack channel, getting briefings and communicating with the teams via Zoom, Skype or Teams, then evaluating the teams’ ideas online on Google Sheet at the same time as 50 other mentors on Sunday night, aligning on WhatsApp with mentors from my category “After the Crisis”, to finally watch a Livestream on YouTube of the Closing Ceremony.

See how I was evaluating the ideas from the challenge “After the Crisis” on Sunday late at night (in my pyjamas!) 👇

4) Are you happy with the result of your category?

For 48h of hacking? Two days? Overall, very pleased with the results! Ditto for my category “After the Crisis” with the four winners. But I must say that there were dozens of brilliant ideas in that category that were not selected, unfortunately only four could be selected.

Here an overview with interesting numbers 👇

5) What are the highlights of this hackathon overall?

Three highlights in three words: organization, solidarity and digital.

First, organization: the organisers have managed to do a tremendous job in setting up such an event in few days (I believe the largest online event in Switzerland) with thousands of participants, almost 200 organisations, and 24 Swiss public officials, including the former President of Switzerland Alain Berset – now Head of the Department of Home Affairs. Just impressive!

Second, solidarity: it was beautiful to see with which selflessness 5’000+ people participated into the hackathon to contribute fighting this virus in any means possible… during a sunny weekend! Even there were a lot of hiccups along the way, no one complained, everyone was patient, helpful and entrepreneurial enough to find a workaround to move forward.

Finally, digital: if there is one silver lining in the pandemic, is that all “technology illiterates” were forced to take a crash course in getting digital. The grandma that uses her smartphone only for calls, now masters videoconferencing with the whole family and sends funny GIFs on chats.

During the hackathon, you could see that a multitude of initiatives were about getting digital: traditional offline businesses (e.g. farmers, furniture shops) and paper-heavy administrative activities (e.g. “Kurzarbeit-formulare” or short-time work forms) rethinking their obsolete processes to more efficient digital ones.

6) What are the next steps?

An interdisciplinary jury has narrowed down 42 projects, which each will receive CHF 1'000 as a grant. Now, all submitted projects have the chance to be financed from a "project implementation grant fund" amounting over CHF 200'000, as well as access to free services worth CHF 250'000. So stay tuned to see which projects will reach the next level!


Dr. Samyr Mezzour

Chief Innovation Officer at HITS


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