So what is a hackathon?

I dedicate this post to my mom who when I see her on Sunday will surely ask

So what is this hackathon all about?

Well, it starts with finding a team, and then getting an idea to hack at. The timing could not have been more perfect for accelerating the work that Paul Gambill and I had already agreed to pursue (and the reason for my move to Seattle in October). Paul and I had decided to build out on the Ethereum blockchain, so it was ideal that ConsenSys, a leading company in the development of decentralized applications on Etherum put together the Blockchain for Social Impact Hackathon, also known as the BSIC Decentralized Impact Accelerator. There are over 50 teams hacking away in four different categories each competing for a prize in the category: Financial Inclusion, Supply Chain, Identity & Vulnerable Peoples, Energy & Environment. Our idea relates to the energy and environment, specifically around making it easier for people to pay other people to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Between Paul and my connections we were able to entice Mike Carver, Zach Roth, Alexsandra Guerra, Jaycen Horton and Ross Kenyon to join. While larger teams create more complex dynamics, I’m extremely grateful for our rounded out perspectives and am positive that we’re starting it off right. Paul founded the Carbon Removal Seattle meet up group and brings a product management and software engineering background. Mike is a math/economics guy who spent several years on wall street before starting his own FinTech practice. Zach has a background in search engine optimization and was most recently a lead on the careers product team at LinkedIn, focused on building tools to help job seekers get hired across all platforms. Alexsandra and I met through her advisor and my boss Klaus Lackner and is currently an engineer at Southern California Edison. Jaycen has worked as a lead engineer at Dell and since 2010 has been building architecture on the different blockchain applications. Ross Kenyon is a blockchain strategist and token launch expert, with a background in academia, filmmaking, and business development.

We’re now more than half way through. There are four weeks, and each week we treat like a sprint. That means we figure out what we’re going to get done as a team, scope it out, and then execute. We have daily 15 minute stand up calls, and a weekly hour long review and planning call. We use a slack channel instead of email for coordination  Here are weekly checkpoints that guide us as a rubric.

The first week started with defining the problem and solution. Then we dove deeper into our business model and information about users. This week is an exciting one because we’re now creating the product. Last Friday we did a naming exercise that took us through the six clusters below from left to right: (map the competition, our guidelines, our personality traits, analogies/how should customers feel when they use our product, word associations or word that we’ve already gone over, second look)

Still not finalized on the name, but we will need one by the end of this week, and the hackathon is a wonderful forcing mechanism that not only makes us figure out what to call ourselves, but also launch a website, build a clickable prototype, and articulate the value proposition.

At the end of the day, the hackathon is exactly what we needed to emerge into the blockchain ecosystem. We will have a white paper, a team that has worked together, wire frames of our idea, and are moving a business concept with reversing climate change as the north star. There is still a lot of work ahead to dive deeper into customer discovery and get feedback on what we build…. stay tuned! Click here to listen to a recent podcast where Paul was a guest. It’s over an hour long, but he talks about the business we are building in the second half.


Also published on Medium.

1 thought on “So what is a hackathon?”

  1. Exciting! Looking forward to see what your team comes up with. Climate change & environmental are definitely a good challenge to tackle in DLT. Our team is also in the BSIC hackathon, focusing on financial inclusion within healthcare.

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