By Assunta Gaglione-Austin Oct 31, 2016

The second annual KKR Hackathon was held in London, New York and San Francisco in late September with 37 participants across 5 teams working 24 hours straight. This volunteer event was a way to celebrate the power of technology and teamwork, and also encourage innovation and entrepreneurship at KKR.

This year’s theme of “Innovation Knows No Bounds” is emblematic of KKR’s innovative culture, and emphasizes that diverse groups will solve problems better than homogeneous ones. Fittingly, the event objective was non-prescriptive: “Solve a problem at KKR with technology that was not already part of your plan this year,” allowing teams the white space to solve whatever problems they saw fit.

What is a hackathon?

A hackathon is a competitive event in which a large number of people engage in collaborative computer programming in a short period of time. Imagine a room full of programmers and business professionals competing to create prototypes that innovate on a theme or improve an existing process. The hackathon has become a regular part of how technology companies, and non-tech companies, do business. People work in teams to realize an idea and, at the end, one prototype is judged the winner.

Why hold a hackathon at KKR?

  • It is consistent with KKR’s objectives: it’s an innovative way to innovate
  • It is a way to be "willingly disruptive"
  • It gets different people together to help solve problems. Teams can include investment professionals, business operations and IT, supporting our objective to get all groups around the table.

Importantly, events like this have provided real solutions to identified or unidentified problems within our organization. Last year’s winning team created the “Credit Quarterback,” which our credit business agreed to incubate into a full-blown solution. It connected all the pieces of the KKR Credit platform, providing visibility all along the process, more consistent data throughout, and significant automation to the valuation workflow. Importantly, the winning team was an interdisciplinary team of credit executives and technologists.

This year’s winning team created the “CLO Co-Pilot,” a portfolio optimization tool for CLOs without taking incremental risk and within compliance guidelines. The winning team of five individuals will split a cash prize.

Having sponsored this event for two years now, I am grateful to work for a firm that was completely supportive of doing something so different. I am proud that these events provide an outlet for technologists to shine. I am also repeatedly amazed at how creative my colleagues are, and how much they can get done in 24 hours. The hackathon format forces everyone to focus on only the most important things. This is essentialism at its best. Designing and building a prototype, then crafting the right pitch for judging, is a tremendous achievement for 24 hours. It proves that when teams give themselves the time to focus, nothing is impossible.

We are already looking forward to next year’s event.