Award Nomination
Blockchain Hackathon – #hackthefuture a Disruptive success story

Imagine, no really imagine, you are a business owner and have an idea (or even several) and in order do something with it, you want to get the best collective minds in one room, to work together to provide not just one solution but a variety of solutions that can potentially take your idea to market as a go live! Can you imagine what that would feel like?

On the weekend of the 22nd and 23rd April, this is exactly what Larson Digital (part of the Larson Group) presented to our client. Welcome to the London Blockchain Hackathon #hackthefuture event.

Some weeks before our client approached us, looking for ways they could potentially test and develop some innovative and disruptive Blockchain solutions.  Our consultation started and together we mulled over a number of different solutions that could address their needs and it soon became apparent that what they truly needed was to incubate their ideas and create a number of solutions in order to find the best way forward to meet their business needs! From that point the London Blockchain Hackathon #hackthefuture had legs.

Following several discussions our client was left dreaming about the brightest technical Blockchain minds, all sat in one room, working on a number of pre-set Blockchain challenges in order to put his visions into reality, little could he truly image what was about to unfold.

So eager was the client to runs this that they set a date, which meant we only had 3 weeks to pull together the London Blockchain Hackathon #hackthefuture. 3 weeks to go from concept to reality over the Easter period, the half term holidays which meant we had to run the event on the London Marathon weekend, but if there is one thing my team thrives on, then it’s a challenge, so the Hackathon now had legs and was up and running.

The first point of call, was to secure the services of a Blockchain expert, fortunately, we had already secured one such person and embedded them into our team, he helped during the pitch to the client and was instrumental in shaping the things to come. Next a venue, but not just a normal venue, one that could hold up to 100 hackers, one that has the technical capabilities to facilitate such an event and one that wasn’t booked! Venue found and secured, technology capabilities still be confirmed, all that was left was to fill the place with technical Blockchain geniuses, feed them, provide them with well scripted challenges, provide merchandise, market the event, vet the candidates, produce presentations, source judges with Blockchain knowledge, and well, the list just appeared to be as long and challenging as organising the London Marathon that was to being run on the same weekend!

So running shoes on, jobs divided and delegated, ideas pooled, ideas changed, questions asked, ideas changed, challenges changed, friction, more friction, ideas changed, marketing, attendees growing by the minute, merchandise issues, merchandise solutions, more changes to the challenges, more marketing, coordination, deadlines re-set, technology lastminute.com in place, merchandise lost in transit, marketing, delegates vetted, challenges confirmed and re-written, more friction, judges secured, judging criteria set, drop outs, merchandise found, more vetting and before we knew it, it was 7.00pm Friday 21st April and the London Blockchain #hackthefuture was off and running.

#Collaboration, because at the end of the day in order to get things done sometimes you need to break eggs, but the end goal was always the focal point with all parties, driving tenaciously to that point, because when you have to attract the best collective Blockchain minds in London, and then  have them all sitting together in one room, they need to see the top of the swan regally swimming in all its glory and not the webbed feet underneath kicking like mad to create traction, and let me tell you, the traction created from the moment those doors opened to them closing again, was simply something to behold.

The hackers arrived as individuals and teams, with different skill sets and ideas about what was to be expected of them, which now gave some relief as all our hard work and planning was starting to have an effect with early indicators of the quality of entrants that solutions would be created. With our Blockchain expert at the heart of the proceedings, he began to orchestrate the room as if he was conducting the Philharmonic Orchestra. The Challenges were explained and set, having pre-vetted all the attendees skills, individual hackers pitched to gain skills required and teams were beginning to be created, timescales set and with less than 12 hours to go all the hackers had everything they needed in order to hit the ground running when the doors opened up again on Saturday morning.

12 hours to go, the PR machine kicked off, twitter was tweeting, LinkedIn was singing to the same tune and people from the Blockchain hacking community around the globe were joining the party. A very small percentage of hackers dropped out last minute when they realised their skills were ‘left field’ to the challenges set but others were calling on the dark recesses of the London Blockchain market to bring reinforcements in and the evening concluded, with all the teams in place. We made our way to the local pub for last orders, imbibing a well-deserved drink whilst wondering what the morning would bring?

As the mist rolled back from the Thames, figures started to appear carrying a variety of equipment, their faces clearly showing that their minds were buzzing with anticipation and eagerness to get stuck into the challenges. Our host called the shots, the countdown began 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and they were off, fragmented around our venue with teams setting up shop all over the venue, wall charts up (spot the agile approach), laptops, tablets, phones, an array of equipment all plugged into the technology on show, then the conversations and debates started. Ideas pooled, cross team #collaboration began (I was not expecting that, especially with $20,000 first prize up for grabs), culminating in our host moving from team to team helping them shape, formulate and bring their ideas to life. Bringing all the attendees together in one mass of Blockchain expertise, #hackthefuture now not only had legs but had started to sprout wings.

The chat over lunch was mind boggling, ideas after idea, chatter and some funny but constructive banter, input and then more input, everyone pooling innovative and disruptive ideas off each other, a living and breathing pool of expertise creating Blockchain life right there in front of us, it was incredible.  Stood in the middle our Host, with baton in hand, leading his orchestra this way and that, shaping and helping the creative juices flow as if he was conducting at the Royal Albert Hall.

The afternoon showed no signs of a slowdown, with ideas now truly taking shape the teams were going from paper concepts to something more tangible, more technical and given the short lead time amazingly something more real! The energy was catching fire and the collective brain power in the room ignited into an explosion of Blockchain genius. All the time, stood quietly watching, the client’s advisors were in awe of what was unfolding before them, dreaming of the ROI that could unfold after the following day’s Team pitches. It was now becoming very apparent that there was so much talent in the 11 teams that the judges were going to have an incredibly difficult job deciding the winners.

The spring night drew in cold, as the Hackers finally left the venue late into the evening, some went home to rest with others getting home and incredibly learning a whole new skillset for the following day. A few took this further by carrying on developing their idea into the early hours, all demonstrating that the power of creativity is truly infectious and this is what drives the Blockchain market. All in all an incredible first day, expectations not only met but surpassed, vision and reality now becoming blurred and the anticipation of the following day would keep all of the team, the delegates and the clients awake mulling over the potential solutions being created.

As Blackheath filled with runners for the start of the 37th London Marathon, they were all stretching their legs and taking plenty of water on board to get their bodies past the inevitable pain barriers on route and onto and over the finish line, meanwhile our hackers were travelling back to the venue, fingers getting stretched, minds sharpened and bodies fuelled ready to create Blockchain solutions for the next 12 hours. When you put this much creative power into one room, even the BBC commentator Brendan Foster would struggle to find words to describe the incredible atmosphere. Inspiring, rousing, awesome with clear innovative disruption in the making and breath-taking does not do justice to the electric atmosphere as the teams went to work, developing, honing, designing, redesigning their solutions get them ready to pitch the judges that very afternoon.

Lunch came and went as most worked straight through it and as the tension grew the twitter followers cheered their teams on. The teams drew lots to decide the order of the pitches, and the teams hustled and bustled to get their pitches perfect for the judges. As the first team stepped up to the stage a hush fell around the room, the suspense and anticipation grew to fever pitch. As the presentations started to flow, so did the chatter, as the solutions were pitched, the room came to life and hummed with amazement, questions, and gasps as it became apparent the quality of the solutions now being revealed were in a word “awesome”. A look across at the judge’s faces, where you could see the internal debate going on in their minds, as to how they were going to score each team and who had hit the mark! The judges were also challenging in their debate over how much consideration had been given to certain aspects of the solutions.

The pitches done, a deathly silence fell quickly as the judges rose and adjourned to their inner sanctum. The doors closed and the room exploded into chatter, as everyone started asking question after question on their products, hackers everywhere sharing disruptive ideas and technical knowhow with one eye on the prize money and the other one clearly focused on the expansion of their technical mindset. Evolution and creativity coming together in order to produce the most inspired Blockchain solutions. Hackers from all over the globe had gathered together at our venue, central London aping the comradery of the marathon runners over the other side of town all in the name of innovation.

The judges door opened and the 6 sentinels viewed the waiting throng, who quietly sat in nervous anticipation were the following teams Blockwise, Hash ID, Mauve, Trust Me, Blocktunes, Proof of Donation Distribution, Routemaster, Musketeer, Sequoia-ID, Bsure and Royalty, possibly best described as “all sat like the nervous contestants in the penultimate episode of the Apprentice”, waiting for the judges to deliver their critique before the winners would be announced.

You could hear a bitcoin drop, the collective tension gathering at pace as the judges passed comments on what they had been impressed by most, congratulating all entrants and thanking all their hard work. Moving swiftly to the winners, “In 5th place”, what in 5th there are only 3 winners “In 5th place, due to the quality of the solutions presented we have extended the prize fund to the top 5 teams” now the whole room, open-mouthed stood listening, waiting for their name to be called. “In 5th Mauve” cue the applauses and strangely the relief that it was not your team name. “In 4th place Blocktunes” now it’s getting tense. “In 3rd place and taking home $5,000 team Blockwise”, boom the room instantaneously burst into applause “in 2nd place and taking home $10,000 team Routemaster” boom boom shake the room, people now standing on their feet back slapping each other with 6 teams still in the game.

“And the winner of the London Blockchain Hackathon (#hackthefuture) is……………. Proof of Donation Distribution with their Blockchain solution to the charity sector”, sonic boom, everyone on their feet, PODD jumping for joy from the stage elated and well-deserved winners.  As always with these types of events, yes PODD took home the spoils but Blockchain advanced in technical capabilities, great friends and allies were formed and further proof that Blockchain will change the way the world works was once again confirmed.

#Collaboration comes to mind from us the event organisers, the sponsors for creating the opportunity, the host for making the event come to life but most of all, each and every Hacker who attended and contributed to the weekend, which shows why London is the worldwide technical hub and full of some of the most incredibly talented Blockchain disruptive hacker known.

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