Nexmo Runs Online Hackathon Series Using Devpost to Grow Developer Ecosystem and Improve Platform Performance

“I can spend a few days working with Devpost and run a monthly hackathon in a fraction of the time it would take to organize and manage it on our own. Our company doesn’t have to do that type of work every month. It frees up my time so I can focus on identifying and helping developers instead.”

Tim Lytle - Developer Evangelist, Nexmo

Challenges

Nexmo has been growing dramatically and early on, like many API-based companies, recognized how critical an engaged developer ecosystem is for their long-term success.

Drive New Use Cases: One of the primary goals for their developer relations team was to have a consistent stream of interesting apps and use cases to help get developers interested in their technology. While communication APIs and SDKs are critical for all different types of businesses, the use cases and examples can get very similar and become less effective over time.

Get Feedback Early & Often: Nexmo also needed to get direct feedback from developers, especially as they released new beta APIs and SDKs. Rapid feedback on product design and usability would allow them to improve their developer experience across their entire customer base. It was much more difficult to get this feedback directly from existing enterprise customers.

Identify Advocates: An additional challenge Nexmo experienced was identifying the power users (the most engaged and passionate developers) in their community. This was a struggle with tens of thousands of accounts and traffic patterns not being a clear indicator of engagement.

While the developer relations team knew attending and sponsoring in-person hackathons could potentially help them reach their objectives, they realized the quantity of physical events they could reasonably attend wouldn’t be enough to deliver the results they were seeking. “It’s difficult to do a ton of in-person events,” said Nexmo’s Developer Evangelist, Tim Lytle. “It’s hard to make the travel work when you’re the only person. I could only do 1-2 events per month at most, but then I’d be traveling all of the time. So, I had to figure out another way to reach those developers.” The high-growth environment and very small developer relations team meant they needed to engage with developers online.

Solution

Tim was familiar with the idea of running online hackathons to engage a developer community, and had managed them himself using basic tools like Google Sheets when Nexmo was significantly smaller -- at just 4 people. As Nexmo continued to grow, he didn't want to tie up the internal resources needed to scale this strategy.

“I can spend a few days working with Devpost and run a monthly hackathon in a fraction of the time it would take to organize and manage it on our own,” said Lytle. “Our company doesn’t have to do that type of work every month. It frees up my time so I can focus on identifying and helping developers instead.”

Nexmo has now run 8 successful online hackathons using the Devpost platform. Each online hackathon was open for 30 days, with a different theme and cool gadgets for prizes. They also partnered with companies like PubNub and Concur for cross-promotion. Tim sets the challenges up himself and only spends about 3-4 days of his month to manage them. Most of that time is spent creating the intro video, reviewing submissions and judging.

“The promotion just from being listed on the Devpost site and mentioned in the newsletters is really helpful. Without it, I think it would have been a struggle to even get it known outside of our existing network.”

Results

Nexmo has had 40 new high quality apps submitted across their online hackathons with nearly 300 developer participants in total. They were happy to see a steady increase in participation and a consistent stream of unique use cases. Nexmo has plans to showcase participants in both current and future marketing efforts. Nine of the submissions are now open-source projects that can be used by other new developers.

Nexmo has also been able to leverage the new relationships with developers to get valuable feedback about their APIs. Tim has used his extra bandwidth to focus on building stronger relationships with Nexmo developers.

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Nexmo

Nexmo provides communication APIs and SDKs to applications and enterprises globally. Founded in 2010, they have quickly grown to over 90,000 customers such as Alibaba, Airbnb and Viber who send millions of messages per month using Nexmo APIs.

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