Cover photo

How To Win A Hackathon

Communication, Coordination, and Determination Win the Prize

Article by Mashal Waqar | Edited by WinVerse and trewkat | Cover Art by trewkat

Web3 sometimes feels like an events industry, and for good reason. Nearly every day, somewhere around the world, there’s a crypto or web3 event taking place — showcasing the latest tech, getting builders together, and creating a sense of community. Hackathons are a crucial part of these events, bringing in a mix of intensity, experimentation, and use cases for blockchain.

As part of our commitment to highlight builders in this space, Bankless Publishing is excited to launch a new series that will feature interviews with hackathon winners who have turned challenges into opportunities, transforming their ideas into award-winning projects.

We’re kicking off with prize winners from the Ethereum Singapore hackathon — which saw 120 hackathon project submissions. Let’s meet the team that built two winning projects: Dandelion and Web3Assembly.

Dandelion, a visual assistant for tracing cryptocurrency fund flows, won two awards:

  • 1st Prize: Taiko #3 Ethereum Public Goods

  • 2nd Runner-up: Use of Airstack APIs

Source: Taiko on X

Web3Assembly, an onchain knowledge map for the community, also won two awards:

  • 2nd Prize: Taiko #3 Ethereum Public Goods

  • 3rd Prize: Best UX (Mantle)

Source: Taiko on X

What Are Your Three Key Tips for Hackathon Success?

1. From Problem to Solution

Finding a niche in the real world makes it much easier to succeed. We found that many crypto users are seeking a new visualization tool to monitor and analyze cryptocurrency flows efficiently for alpha catching. So, we built Dandelion. With this tool, users can trace and analyze the multi-tier flow of cryptocurrency funds with customized clustering and polymorphic visualization. Thus, users can gain insights into targeted crypto whales’ statuses, manage transaction destinations, and assess alpha-catching needs.

We have also noticed a recurring pattern of redundant tutorials and shared experiences being created, almost like reinventing the wheel, rather than addressing the gaps in knowledge, especially in web3. Many tutorials lack an incremental, GitHub-style approach to iteration. Plus, there’s a disconnect between the needs of learners and creators. While some web2 platforms fail to provide meaningful incentives to creators, certain web3 platforms focus on creator incentives, but the utility of tokens often doesn’t achieve supply-demand equilibrium. This is what inspired the Web3Assembly initiative.

Image from Web3 Assembly Demo

2. Conforming to the Latest Trend? Leading the Trend!

Certainly, adhering to the latest trends may give the impression of staying in sync with the market, but merely following the lead of a successful precedent, like, can have unintended consequences. In doing so, you risk limiting your product’s potential audience and missing out on fulfilling genuine market needs.

While mirroring a successful model may seem like a shortcut, it often shackles your innovation and hinders your product from truly resonating with the diverse spectrum of users and their evolving demands.

It’s not about just conforming to a trend; true success lies in pioneering and shaping the trends yourself. By doing so, you position your product as a trailblazer, one that captures the imagination of a broader user base and addresses their actual requirements in unique and compelling ways.

3. The Idea is Worth Spreading

For web3 hackathons, preaching is equally important as developing; advocating for your concept is just as crucial as the development itself. Engaging in meaningful conversations with various individuals can be a profound source of enlightenment, helping you identify opportunities to enhance your product’s use case and market fit.

What Did You Learn from the Hackathon?

1. The role of a product manager is crucial

The foremost takeaway from this hackathon is recognition of the pivotal role played by a product manager in steering the project effectively. They bring not only expertise but also the ability to assess the various stages of product creation and the associated workload costs. A skilled product manager is adept at allocating tasks to suit team members’ strengths, monitoring the progress of the entire team, promptly adapting to unforeseen variables, and — an important skill — boosting the team’s morale.

2. Prioritise effective communication with diverse stakeholders

Effective communication emerged as another crucial learning point. Engaging with individuals from diverse backgrounds, all of whom had varying skill sets and perspectives, proved instrumental in gaining fresh insights. Such interactions helped in identifying areas for improvement and refining the project.

How Many People Were in Your Team?

Most of our team members are from Tsinghua University, and are members of the Tsinghua University Blockchain Association (THUBA). We built the two products: Dandelion and Web3Assembly, with a six-person team.

Source: EudemoniaCC on X

We had three developers as the main force: Calif Tian, Albert Xie, and Jeremy Zhang. EudemoniaCC is a Twitter KOL [key opinion leader] who is also good at business development and is the product manager of Dandelion. Shina Foo is a good UX designer with business development resources overseas. Jason Zhao is a smart contract developer and product manager of Web3Assembly.

What Was Your Hackathon Action Plan?

During ETH Singapore, we confirmed the final function idea of the product demo with the given topic and also discussed with sponsors. Then we started front-end development, back-end development, and UX design together for two days. The product manager spent time communicating with sponsors for advice or expectations, and with developers to adjust the requirement fulfillment.

What Challenges Did You Face During the Hackathon, and How Did You Overcome Them?

We believe the greatest challenge was to brainstorm a comprehensive project concept based on the given topic, especially under tight time constraints. In our group, two well-trained developers were participating in a hackathon for the first time, so they weren’t very familiar with the overall time management required. This resulted in a time crunch during the project implementation phase.

Another technical challenge was the deployment of our demo. We had to learn and implement a variety of new technologies within a short period of time. Figuring out how to quickly master a new tool and realizing the project as envisioned was crucial.

To address these challenges, we adopted a structured approach to brainstorming, ensuring that every team member had the opportunity to contribute their ideas. We also allocated specific roles based on each member’s strengths and experience, which helped streamline the implementation process. Additionally, we utilized online resources (ChatGPT was a really helpful tool) to quickly get up to speed with the new technologies required for our project.

Can You Share a Key Moment That Contributed to Your Success?

In the entire hackathon project, besides technology and product, we believe the presentation of our final demo was a key moment. Before the presentation, we rewrote a function in our demo for the AirStack award. However, during the final presentation, the function did not run as expected, leading to an unsuccessful demonstration. The three of us responsible for development tried continuously to fix the bug on the spot, but unfortunately, we couldn’t resolve it by the time the project representatives had to leave. At that moment, we explained to them that although we had used their API, some issues prevented it from being showcased properly.

Despite the setback, we did not give up. We continued to work on the issue even after the presentation and eventually figured out the solution. This experience taught us the importance of resilience and perseverance. We learned that success in a hackathon is not only determined by the technical skills and the product developed, but also by the ability to stay composed under pressure, work collaboratively, and communicate effectively even when things don’t go as planned.

Our determination to solve the problem, despite the initial failure, demonstrated our commitment and passion for the project. It also highlighted our team’s problem-solving skills and our willingness to learn from our mistakes. This, in the end, left a lasting impression on the organizers and the project representatives, contributing to our success in winning the prize.

This key moment was a turning point for our team. It not only resulted in a tangible reward but also instilled in us valuable lessons that we will carry forward in our future endeavors. It reinforced the belief that a strong team spirit and determined attitude can make a significant difference in overcoming challenges and achieving success.

What Are the Next Steps To Take Your Projects Forward?

Now that the hackathon is finished, we need to develop Dandelion iteratively to improve product functions and visualization fluency.

For Q4 2023, our primary objectives include publishing the whitepaper and concurrently working on the core operational modules and logic. This entails the development of crucial components such as the incentive module and the storage module, which will be implemented both on server infrastructure and on IPFS. Additionally, during this period, we plan to roll out a beta version for limited-scale testing to gather valuable user feedback.

Moving into Q1 2024, our main focus will shift towards creating foundational content. We intend to harness the collective expertise within our community to generate core knowledge, which will serve as the cornerstone for building more application-specific layers of information. To expedite this process, we will employ web scraping techniques to capture existing tutorial knowledge, automating the segmentation and categorization of this knowledge for seamless integration into our knowledge system.

In Q2 2024, our emphasis will be on enhancing the user experience. This will involve the development of a robust recommendation system designed to enhance user engagement and satisfaction. Additionally, we will work on providing a user-friendly SDK [software development kit] that third-party applications can integrate with, further expanding the reach and utility of our platform.

This comprehensive roadmap outlines our strategic vision for the Dandelion project’s evolution, encompassing research, community collaboration, user-centric enhancements, and potential partnerships to drive continued growth and success.

For Web3Assembly, we look forward to developing a personalized LLM [large language model].

Hackathons FTW!

Hackathons are excellent incubators for ideas in web3, and successful teams need people with a range of experience. If you’ve been avoiding hackathons because you think they’re only for people with technical skills, hopefully, you’re now inspired to get involved!

Author Bio

Mashal Waqar is Head of Partnerships & Growth at Bankless Publishing. She went from building in media and D2C to DAOing in web3 and exploring whatever project inspires her intellectually. Her recent projects include researching protocols and web3 grants programs.

Editor Bios

WinVerse is a writer and editor in BanklessDAO. He is interested in the web3 ecosystem and spreads the word through marketing and partnerships.

trewkat is a writer, editor, and designer at BanklessDAO. She’s interested in learning about applications for blockchain and NFTs, with a particular focus on how best to communicate this knowledge to others.

Designer Bio

trewkat is a writer, editor, and designer at BanklessDAO. She’s interested in learning about applications for blockchain and NFTs, with a particular focus on how best to communicate this knowledge to others.

BanklessDAO is an education and media engine dedicated to helping individuals achieve financial independence.

This post does not contain financial advice, only educational information. By reading this article, you agree and affirm the above, as well as that you are not being solicited to make a financial decision, and that you in no way are receiving any fiduciary projection, promise, or tacit inference of your ability to achieve financial gains.

Bankless Publishing is always accepting submissions for publication. We’d love to read your work, so please submit your article here!

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