Hackathons are popular with young developers.

Hackathons are gaining traction in Southeast Asia—appealing to Millennials’ entrepreneurial mindset and desire to make an impact—and shifting from a means for developers to socialize and collaborate into multidisciplinary events in which people with diverse skills build apps that address urban and social issues.

Singapore’s first UP (Urban Prototyping) Weekend, in June, saw people from various sectors team up using tech and Big Data to tackle urban challenges. The winner was Grandate, a mobile portal aimed at strengthening relationships between youth and senior citizens by crowdsourcing the best activities and venues for intergenerational bonding. Top projects were then showcased at the 2012 World Cities Summit in Singapore. Sponsors included Amazon Web Services, Diageo and Blackberry.

“Hackathons have now evolved into more structured events with an end goal in mind, and companies are latching on to this,” says Mohan Belani, co-founder of Asian tech site e27. Tech companies, encouraging developers to build on their platforms, are the prime sponsors of these events. RIM, for instance, ran apps hackathons in Jakarta and Bangkok last year; Nokia held one in Jakarta this June, and Microsoft Singapore sponsored four Hack Weekends in July and August to help developers and designers get started with Windows 8 development. And late last year Lenovo launched a virtual hackathon, The Do Network, in India, Russia and Indonesia. Challenges included “Design a classroom in a box for rural areas in need” and “Invent a new consumer product designed to make a positive impact.” Winning teams received $25,000 to bring their idea to life, along with mentoring. Cycle two is slated to begin soon. The competition, says Lenovo, taps into Asian Millennials’ desire to drive change, not just wait for it.