After Last Year's Debacle, Fixes Its $1 Million Hackathon

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Business Insider/Julie Bort CEO Marc Benioff

For the second year in a row, is hosting a hackathon that will dole out $1 million in prizes.


But after last year's disastrous contest, which wound up costing the company $2 million in cash and a red face, it has changed the rules.

And, sadly, the biggest prize in hackathon history is gone.

Instead of giving out one huge $1 million prize to a team like it did last year, Salesforce is divvying up the prize money among many winners.

That said, the grand prize winner can still win a hefty sum: $250,000.


Two more winners will win $100,000 apiece, three second-place winners will walk with $50,000, three third-place winners will get $35,000, and more than 20 others will win between $10,000 and $20,000.

All they have to do is build a spectacular mobile app using one or more of's cloud services, and follow a bunch of new rules.

A hackathon is a contest where developers write something new over a short period of time, often pouring their souls into the project and giving up sleep for days on end. It's a developer's idea of a really fun time.

This year's hackathon took place over the weekend, October 10-12. The judging is going on now as part of's huge annual customer conference in San Francisco. set off an uproar in the developer community last year when it awarded the massive $1 million grand prize to a team of developers accused of breaking the contest rules.


The winning team included former employees who had left only months before, and they had submitted an app that included code that was written long before the contest began.

Some developers also complained that didn't treat their projects with due respect, either. (One even wrote about a blog post she called "The Dirty Secret Behind the Salesforce $1M Hackathon.")

So many people were upset that CEO and cofounder Marc Benioff, who started his career as a teen developer, even weighed in on Twitter and promised to make things right.

After that, the company issued an apology, and then gave a second $1 million prize the runner-up team. It let the original winners keep their $1 million, too.

And it promised to do better this year.


So we checked and the rules have been changed. Former employees are not eligible to participate unless they've been gone from the company for over two years. Hackers have to be clear about what code they wrote during the contest and what, if any, they pulled from an existing open-source project. Most importantly, teams will get to show off their new creations to judges and get the feedback they crave.

It should all lead to a very happy ending this year, even if no one becomes an instant millionaire.