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Behind the Scenes at the Mitrais Innov-A-Thon

Some History

Mitrais has always been committed to encouraging creativity and innovation amongst its employees, which we feel makes for great teamwork and reinforces our vision that Mitrais should be a fun place to work.

As an organisation we love to uncover the many hidden talents of the people that work for us and give them an opportunity to show off their diverse backgrounds.

As Mitrais headquarters is based in Bali we have always been surrounded by the unique artistic culture here on the Isle of the Gods, where in the 2010 Census over 80% of the population in certain villages declare their primary occupation as Artist!

For many years the staff organised an Annual Party and everyone got together every year to produce a musical or theatrical extravaganza based on a unique theme.

Over the years the Annual Party idea spread out to the other offices around Indonesia, showcasing the diversity of the cultures in our other centres in Jakarta, Bandung and Yogyakarta.

The participants spent many evenings and weekends rehearsing their acts, preparing their costumes and ensuring all the lighting and sound systems would operate perfectly on the big night. Some of the performances were truly spectacular and, many of us believe, would have received rave reviews on the world’s best stages.

More recently with the advent of distributed teams and a younger, more “Millenial” demography, our staff started to ask us if we could organise “Hack-A-Thons” similar to those run by the big technology companies overseas like Google, Facebook and Yahoo.

So we listened to them and came up with the idea of an “Innov-A-Thon”.

What is an “Innov-A-Thon”?

innovathon mitrais

Most of us nowadays have heard of “Hack-A-Thons” where groups of developers get together to produce a product or prototype.

These events usually last from several hours to several days and the objective is to create some working software that will be useful either to the wider community or to the sponsor of the event.

Facebook’s Like button for example was created from an idea developed at a hack-a-thon.

Here at Mitrais we felt the term “Hack-A-Thon” was too restrictive and may put off our non-developer staff from participating, so we invented the term “Innov-A-Thon”.

The idea of the Innov-A-Thon is to encourage all of our employees to come up with innovative ideas and then present them to a panel of judges (known as The Dragons) to compete for prizes. The Dragons then assess the teams on teamwork, creativity (innovation), marketability and presentation.

In essence, an Innov-A-Thon is a contest to show off creative ideas. It is based on the concept of a Hack-A-Thon, but anyone can join – you don’t have to be a Hacker or a developer! The format of the event is based on the UK TV series Dragon’s Den.

Why does Mitrais run this event?

Mitrais sees enormous benefits in organising this annual event, but here are just some of the reasons that management support the idea:

  1. Foster the company core values of flexibility and ability by encouraging employees to be creative and innovative.
  2. Increase collaboration amongst cross-functional teams.
  3. Cultivate a company culture that promotes fun and friendly competition.
  4. Improve current products, operations and processes for increased business efficiency.
  5. Unleash as yet undiscovered talents in presentation skills, artistic creativity and mobile, IoT and Big Data technologies.
  6. f. A quality video to attract and retain creative and talented employees.

Phase 1: Matching Ideas and Teams

Unlike most such events, which are usually run in one evening or over a weekend, preparation for the event starts months in advance at Mitrais, preserving the spirit of the theatrical extravaganzas that we used to run in the past.

The preparation is done in 4 Phases :


All employees are encouraged to submit a brief description of their idea and to nominate team members. To encourage co-operation rather than competition, there is no limit to the number of Ideas that a team can submit, nor to the number of Teams that an individual can join.

In 2017 we received 96 Unique Idea submissions illustrating the amazing creativity amongst our employees, and the popularity of the competition.

Contestants are asked to form teams of 3-6, to encourage teamwork.

As we have 5 office bases some of our teams are distributed around the different locations and communicate via video conference.

To ensure that teams are balanced we recommend that each team consists of at least one of the following personality types:


Hackers are people who can develop code, make things or produce architectural solutions. There are plenty of Hackers to choose from at Mitrais! We therefore encourage developers with outgoing personalities to volunteer as a Hipster or a Hustler on other Teams with an interesting idea.


Hipsters are people who are capable of thinking out of the box – typically designers, natural creatives, artists, musicians, writers, etc. These can come from any part of the organisation. These are the people who can help a presentation stand out from the crowd.


Hustlers are people who are capable of selling and promoting a team’s ideas – typically sales, marketing and consultants, but they can come from any part of the organisation. Basically anyone who is happy speaking in public.

We advise against a team made up of 100% Hackers as they may not be able to impress the Dragons with their presentation and creative skills!

Phase I is the period where all employees get to see the Ideas that other employees have posted and can contact them to join a team if they find the idea interesting.

Behind the scenes the organisers try and match individual with teams, trying to match Hustlers with Hackers, Hipsters with Hustlers etc..

We then ask all teams to create a short draft video briefly describing their Idea, and to book themselves a slot on a Saturday Surgery where they can get tips and tricks on how to improve.

Phase II: Saturday Surgeries

Saturday Surgeries are held throughout the month of July and this is the opportunity for Teams to show their draft video to the Organising Committee members and get some feedback.

The Committee engage in role play as if they were Dragons and probe the Teams with challenging questions about their Ideas, providing them with coaching and ideas on how they can improve their chances of success.

The teams then have a few weeks to submit their Final Videos for selection by the Dragons.

This is the most intensive time for the Teams and some have to drop out due to work or personal commitments. The keenest teams are often seen in the office late at night or at weekends working on their Video and developing the software and/or props that they will need for the Grand Finale.

The atmosphere is similar to rehearsals for a musical or theatre performance, where individuals start to bond with their team members, and get to work with people they would not normally hang around with socially, often from other locations.

In 2017 there were 51 unique Final Video entries representing over 200 employee team members.

Phase III: Run up to the Grand Finale

Once the deadline for submission of Final Videos is reached the Dragons and organising committee have the daunting task of viewing all of the videos and selecting the 6 winning Teams that will go through to the Grand Finale to compete for a first prize of up to IDR 35,000,000!

The decision is always difficult as the quality of the entries is so high and we recognise all of the hard work that goes into the preparation of the presentations.

There are of course additional prizes for those who do not quite make it through to the Grand Finale, and we encourage people to continue improving their presentations and resubmit their Idea the following year.

However, as the event only runs for a few hours we can only accept the best 6 final entries. The teams are notified and flights and hotels are booked for those team members outside of Bali to join us at HQ on the big day.

Phase IV: Grand Finale Day

On the morning of the Grand Finale the organising committee are busy setting up video communications, sound systems, lighting and planning camera angles.

Admin staff are running around checking that the venues are decorated, that there is enough food and drinks to go round and that there are seats for everyone. There is a buzz of excitement as everyone is keen to attend, and over 450 people start to gather for the event in all of our offices in Bali, Yogyakarta, Bandung, Jakarta and Hanoi (in Vietnam). We also provide video link ups for any staff who happen to be on client site or overseas on the day to ensure everyone gets involved.

The event proper kicks off after lunch and our MCs for the day are Abu and his Business Communications Team.

They keep the audience animated organising Team Activities and Games while the Finalists make last minute adjustments to their presentations, and the Dragons prepare themselves for the event.

At 3pm sharp the Finalists start their presentations. Each team gets a 20 minute slot, allowing time for them to explain to the Dragons why they should vote for them, and to answer any difficult questions raised by the hard-nosed Dragons.

At 5pm the Dragons retire to decide on the winners and Abu’s team continues the Fun and Games, each office putting on an impromptu dance and song routine !

Eventually the Winners are announced, prizes are handed out and there are plenty of photo opportunities for the winning teams to share with their friends and family. Meanwhile celebrations commence in earnest while everyone enjoys a well-earned feast and starts to think of a Killer App entry for next year !

If you are interested in organising a similar event in your organisation then feel free to drop me a line at Nigel.Jones@mitrais.com and I will be happy to share our experiences with you.

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