Blockchain hackathons are a chance for developers in the industry to network, find a team, or to merely have fun. Teams and individuals can earn prizes, such as cash rewards by event sponsors.
According to Major League Hacking, a hackathon is defined as an “invention marathon.” At their core, these events are an opportunity for programmers, designers, managers, and anyone in the space to collaborate determinedly on software projects.
Hackathons generally last 48 hours, during which participants pitch an idea, convince others to work with them, and try to develop something before the time runs out. The best ideas receive cash rewards and sometimes the attention of angel investors.
In 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto (creator of Bitcoin) helped drive attention to Blockchain technology and Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs). These, previously obscure, systems allow for quick processing and distribution of digital information. All while also protecting it from fraudulent or malicious actors.
The first Hackathons began in the late 1990’s, and were private, in-company events. The hackathons we see today, however, did not rise in popularity until 2013.
Prior to the late 90’s, building “tech” projects in a sprint-like hackathon was difficult. Server speeds were slower and full stack web development tools were lacking. It’s no surprise, then, that 48 hours proved too short to make anything significant.
Thankfully, technology improved, making hackathons possible. Now, faster internet speeds and robust development tools allow for the creation of applications in shorter time frames.
Today, blockchain hackathons involve many big players who sponsor events and give out rewards to the winners. Binance, Coinbase, Ethereum, EOS, and Matic Network, to name a few, are very active in the Hackathon space. Companies that develop blockchain infrastructure use hackathons to incentivize building on top of their systems.
Often, blockchain hackathons have planned “tracks” where they showcase a problem and the participants work in teams to solve that problem. Cash rewards are very common for track winners. Further, if winners or teams showcase a potential use case, sponsors follow up with an opportunity to award a grant and continue developing their concept.
For example, both Binance and EOS have programs such as Binance Fellows and EOS VC, with both contributing $15K and $50K respectively and not taking equity. They benefit from more people building on their infrastructure. Ultimately, they are working to generate wider adoption of their own technology.
Having a team with well-rounded skill sets is important for making an impact at one of these events. Ideally, there are 5 skills that make up a complete team:
A backend developer handles the “behind the scenes” functionality of applications. This has to do with building the core application logic, managing how data is stored and used, or implementing Application Program Interfaces (API’s), which are then used to connect to the frontends of other applications.
Front End Development:
This is the practice of taking the backend logic and converting it into something clean and easy for users to visually work with.
The “decentralized part of the backend.” This data is not stored on a server hosted and controlled by the application. Instead, it is stored on the blockchain so it can not be changed or manipulated. This allows users to own, store, and transact with digital assets.
A UI designer develops mockups of the screens that users will interact with on the frontend of the application. Some designers are given the freedom to bake UX (user experience) into the designs. Other designers merely create beautiful visualizations based on the wireframes created by the product manager or founder.
Lastly, every team must have a business-minded person who can figure out how to make money from it. Unfortunately, business development and marketing skills are severely overlooked in blockchain hackathons. Nevertheless, these skills help teams to better organize and showcase their project.
A famous quote by Woody Allen helps sum it up, “80% of success is showing up.” This is true, especially in the case of developers showing up to a blockchain hackathon. Not only can these events be fun but they can also help sponsors discover talented people or teams.
The search for talent is always ongoing, whether for hiring or investing in a team. Investors are looking to network, and hackathons are a great way for individuals and teams to showcase their skills.