Hackathon 2018: Blockchain Technology Meets Social Responsibility
With hindsight comes 20/20 vision and looking back on our very first Hackathon, Hatch 2017, we realized where we could make some tweaks to help step up our game and make Hatch 2018 even bigger, better and more badass!
What went down at #Hatch2018?
Hatch 2018 saw the creation of six new businesses – ranging from ones forecasted to become hugely profitable, to smaller NPOs with a foreseeable significant social impact. This year, SovTech’s hackathon theme was to ‘Build a business that would helpsolve a uniquely African problem’,and the solutions that came out of this certainly tackled a wide variety of problems faced across the continent, ranging from transport solutions and medical assistance, to educational support and community operations.
#Hatch2018 saw Team SovTech seriously up its game on the tech front with mind-blowing solutions and hot new tech innovations. While rumours often claim that there’s a digital divide between Africa and the rest of the world, #Hatch2018 proved that the possibilities available for notable business tech development and software applications are truly Shark Tankworthy. Some of the solutions created included WhatsApp bots, an educational application to serve HIV and chronic illness patients, a blockchain donation solution and more (we don’t want to spill all our ideas to the public, but if you’re interested in learning more around the results of our Hackathon.
The solutions generated made use of world class frameworks and languages such as Sequence, React Native, Node.js, Graph QL and a range of other globally recognised tech stacks – in just 24hrs the teams proved that there really is no great divide between African tech hubs and Silicon Valley.
Wait, what’s a Hackathon?
If you’re not too sure what a hackathon is, you can read all about Hatch 2017 here to get a better feel of how it works. In short, it’s a single sprint of 24 consecutive hours to create a working minimum viable product (MVP) technology solution. We take this a step further and present the business case around the product to be built too, including a go-to-market plan and forecasted revenue and profit opportunities. Needless to say, it’s one of the most intense and exhilarating 24 hours.
The day’s events
After much planning and preparation for the event the big day finally arrived! For many SovTechians, it was their first hackathon (the company’s grown rapidly in the past year), and given the buzz amongst the ‘experienced hackers’, the excitement was palpable.
With a very early Friday morning start, 7am to be exact, six ambitious crews set out to develop software solutions that could successfully solve an issue in Africa. The mission was to complete and present a case and product by 7am the next morning. Each crew was made up of a range of front and backend developers, project managers, business strategists and marketers from across the organisation, mixing up pods that don’t usually get to work together in order to maximise creativity. We even had contributions from a few of our remote developers, who streamed in from Zimbabwe, Kenya and Zambia.
Ready. Set. Go!
The day started off with the ideation phase; which is possibly the most important and the most difficult time of the hackathon to get through. Whittling down all the ideas until there is one that everyone agrees on, and then having to decide on the business case around the product too.
After the first informal check-in, noses were put to the grindstone. For many of us, we knew just how short 24 hours was, and just how much detail was required, only this time around we had to do more. The checklist:
Project plan – Must include PME grid and all user stories.
Sales forecast – Needs to be for the next 12 to 24 months, minimum.
Financial plan – Must include a solid idea of getting this business off the ground and how to stay afloat until break-even.
The day was progressing fast. Progress check-ins were appearing out of almost nowhere. It would only be a matter of time before the faint echoes of stress would begin to set in and the later it got in the day, the riskier it became to pivot and change products and businesses.
As the afternoon progressed, the teams started to settle into their grooves. Work started to get churned out and teams started to get creative; guerrilla advertising campaign ideas started to decorate the offices and the budding businesses started building real-time online presences. Naturally, there were a couple hiccups – domain name propagation issues, scrambling on the PME grids and user stories, tech solutions breaking and not working as expected; but it’s all part of the fun in a 24hr hackathon!
Daytime seemed to fly by as the long-haul night session kicked off with a sudden rush. The tricky thing about a hackathon is balancing work and play in order to successfully keep up the energy and productivity levels. As a result our 24hr sprint was peppered with invigorating pit stops such as foosball games, dinner breaks catered by the fantastic street food truck Good Thyme, a midnight hour dance and dress up session, and of course lots of coffee breaks.
By the time 3am rolled around voices were croakier than ever and eyelids were dropping, there were even a few makeshift sleep pods laid out beneath the desks and in the dark corners of the office space. With each check-in came even more scrutiny from our examiner, business plan alterations, tech considerations, financials miscalculations to amend. The reality of our ideas coming to reality was settling in on us all, and despite our sheer exhaustion the teams continued to push on until the end.
As the morning light came through and with a couple minutes left to spare, the teams scrambled to get the last pieces of their presentations together and as quick as a flash time was up and Hackathon 2018 was over. In the days that followed, the teams met with external judges from varying sectors and roles, such as business analysts, venture capitalists, economists and marketers. The teams were subjected to a gruelling interrogation to support and prove how their product would successfully break through the market, make an impact and generate revenue. Ultimately one team was chosen as having the best overall plan and product, one which we’ll look into building out in 2019.