HackFit: The Healthiest Hackathon Ever

This event will bring Boston's engineers and entrepreneurs together to workout while they build companies.


Mendelson hopes to break away from the traditional hacker stereotype. Hacker image via Shutterstock.

When you think of hackers and coders, you probably think of pasty computer geeks who chug Red Bull and eat pizza all night in a basement. But Justin Mendelson, the founder of HackFit, a health-based startup weekend which will be the opposite of a typical “hackathon”, wants to change that. Instead of allowing participants to crank code for 48 hours straight without sleep or food, HackFit will include ample sleep time, a variety of workout classes, healthy foods, and sessions dedicated strictly to coding and company building.

“I came up with the idea of HackFit because I’m a runner and an athlete,” Mendelson says. “I’ve participated in a lot of other startup weekends because of previous ideas that I had for fitness-related startups, and I learned that the best teammates were often the ones who were runners themselves. However, I felt like any time I attended one of those startup events, I’d aged a year when the event was over. I wanted to create an active, healthy startup event system since none currently exist.”

HackFit will take place in Cambridge from September 20th to 22nd and participants will be led away from their computers every few hours for exercise classes like CrossFit, yoga, and indoor climbing. There will also be a running group that will head out into the city of Boston throughout the weekend. HackFit will be partnering with Boston-based companies who will provide treadmill desks and medicine balls, too, which will be used in the office spaces provided to participants.

“Like a typical start up event schedule, people will first pitch ideas that pertain to the fitness tech space,” Mendelson says, explaining the weekend schedule. “But instead of people just coming up to you after your pitch and asking to join you, we’ll have a physical exercise ice breaker that will help people meet each other. Then people will form teams and go home for the night to sleep.”

After making pitches together on Friday, participants will head out to the weekend locations on Saturday and Sunday, which will include Brooklyn Boulders, a Somerville climbing gym with shared office space, and Microsoft’s New England Research and Development (NERD) Center. Participants will code and work on business ideas on Saturday and Sunday, sporadically taking breaks to attend workout classes and breathe.

“This will be the epitome of an active work environment,” Mendelson says. “We want to completely shatter the stereotype of traditional coders and hackers who are overweight, drinking Red Bull, and eating unhealthy foods. We are athletic coders, designers, and engineers who want to build healthy companies.”

On the final day of the event, an expert panel will evaluate the fitness and health-oriented demos or prototypes that each team has produced over the course of the weekend. Participants will win prizes from Boston and Cambridge companies, like gym memberships and sponsorships. “We’re just as invested in technology as we are in physicality,” Mendelson says. He hopes that by helping participants to be active, they will learn about balancing health and work together.

“Eventually, I hope that HackFit will be a series of events in cities all over the country, not just Cambridge,” he says. “My mission is to bring the startup community together in a new, interesting, and creative way. In the long term, I’d like to build something that could help employees everywhere be more creative and balanced. We help startups become better because our participants believe in a healthy balance of work, play, and activity, which is so important.”

Interested in attending the first HackFit event in Cambridge? Find more information and register at hack-fit.com.