Hackathons – quick prototyping events to create technical innovations for perceived challenges – have become an important means to foster innovation, entrepreneurship and the start-up economy in smart cities. Typically such events are organized by companies working in partnership with city administrations, and are predominately attended by technically literate participants who work in the tech sector. In this paper, we consider and critique the rationalities and practices of commercially-oriented hackathons. Drawing on Gabriel Tarde and recent re-engagement of his ideas, we analyse the spatiotemporal practices that modulate the passion and imitation in and around hackathons. We document how hackathon schedules and spaces are arranged in ways to extend but also exploit participants’ passions for digital innovation and entrepreneurship, act as sites of upskilling and career progression, but also reproduce neoliberal and entrepreneurial labour and urban development. We argue that hackathons interpellate by attracting participants to desire and believe in entrepreneurial life and technocratic rationality to the effect of furthering the precarity of work and life and intensifying the corporatisation of cities. As such, hackathons reinforce the neoliberal underpinnings and ethos of entrepreneurial and smart urbanism.