Written by Ronald Poon I 3 min read


At Onova, we firmly believe that the most impactful ideas often emerge outside a traditional office environment. That's why cottage sprints have become a cornerstone of our company culture. Now in its third iteration, this unique retreat has evolved into an indispensable part of our strategic planning process and internal innovation initiatives.

From the evolution of our very own hackathon management platform Earth, to the integration of new AI tools in our marketing strategies, cottage sprints have had a pivotal impact on the productivity and growth of our startup. But what exactly is a Cottage Sprint, and what makes these team retreats so special?

Cottage Sprints in a Nutshell

Situated in a spacious Airbnb amidst tranquil landscapes, our Cottage Sprint has become more than just a company retreat. It's an intensive three-day internal hackathon designed to condense months of innovation and team-building into a single, concentrated fun-fuelled experience.

Each sprint is guided by two core objectives:

  1. Optimizing Productivity: As a predominantly remote team, we aim to maximize our in-person time by focusing our efforts on high-impact work.
  2. Deepening Team Bonds: We're not just colleagues; we're a cohesive, mission-driven team. That's why we intentionally carve out time for fun activities that help us form deeper bonds and connect on a deeper, more personal level.

Balancing these objectives is a nuanced challenge — one we've been honing over time. While our first sprint skewed too much toward leisure and the second was work-intensive, this third iteration struck a harmonious balance between productivity and meaningful engagement.

What We Accomplished at Cottage Sprint 3.0

Innovation Sprint

  • We ran an innovation sprint (a timeboxed working session, designed to develop, test, and implement solutions) across three days and three specific focus areas. During this cottage sprint, our teams focused on improving internal processes and strategies, as well as redesigning features within our two technology products (Earth and PokerGPT) to improve the overall user experience and reduce load times.

Cottage Olympics

  • We spiced up our traditional Cottage Olympics — which is our mini-series of competitive and creative games where team members compete for physical prizes (such as a Polaroid or Air Fryer) — with new games, such as our cartwheel race and modified version of extreme poker. These events not only added a fun, interactive element, but also fostered a sense of camaraderie and friendly competition.

Deep and Meaningful Moments

  • True to our objective of team bonding, we engaged in late-night D&Ms (deep and meaningful conversations) and even revisited everyone’s initial Onova job application videos! (which was more fun for some…). This nostalgic journey had us reflecting on everyone’s personal growth, as well as our growth collectively as a team. There were definitely many funny, bizarre and core memory worthy moments that will be cherished by everyone for years to come.

Progress Across Domains

During this latest Cottage Sprint, we made significant strides in several key areas, each contributing to the overall growth of Onova:

  • Earth Platform: Our hackathon management tool saw comprehensive updates, including a more intuitive admin dashboard and enhanced participant and team tables. These improvements are aimed at providing a seamless user experience for both organizers and participants.
  • PokerGPT: Our AI poker coach, underwent rigorous internal testing, leading to marked improvements in both accuracy, speed and load time. We also began exploring additional features that could further elevate the end-user experience.
  • Marketing Initiatives: The marketing team successfully integrated AI tools into our existing processes, optimizing for impact, quality and engagement. We also refined our content plan for the upcoming season and narrowed our industry focus.

Each of these advancements not only furthers our immediate goals but also lays the groundwork for future improvements and developments, ensuring that Onova remains at the forefront of delivering high-quality business services and technical solutions.

Conclusion: Reflecting on a Milestone Retreat

Our third Cottage Sprint stands as a testament to the evolving maturity of Onova's unique company culture. We've come closer than ever to harmonizing productivity and team bonding, a balance that seemed elusive in earlier iterations. The progress made across multiple domains reaffirms our commitment to internal innovation and sets a promising course for the future.

As we look forward to the 2024 financial year, anticipation for our next Cottage Sprint, slated for winter, is already building. We're excited to onboard and include our new interns, who we are currently recruiting and who will join us in January 2024!

If you're intrigued by our company culture, we invite you to explore job opportunities on our careers page. For those interested in our Cottage Sprint process, feel free to email us at hello@onova.io for the Google Spreadsheet template we use to manage these enriching retreats!

Interested in seeing how we can support you and your business in your innovation initiatives? Book an introductory call with Victor Li, Founder & CEO of Onova.
Share on socials