Best practice for participating in web3 hackathons

Arsenii Pechenkin
5 min readFeb 13, 2023

Who am I?

My name is Arsenii Pechenkin — DevRel From Gnosis.

I have been working as a developer for the last 10 years.
I’m participating in hackathons since 2012 and got prize places in 15 hacks last year.
During my career, I’m coaching different teams, especially for hackathons, worked as a mentor and judge, and also organized hackathons.

Last 5 years, my project was related to crypto. For this reason, there are will be more about web3 events but it also could useful to any other hackathons.

If you have something to add, feel free to leave a comment.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pe4enable
Web site: https://pe4en.me

Goals

There are a few possible goals to attend hackathons (could be a few at the same time)
- add an achievement to CV (doesn’t work)
- reputation
- earn money (bounty hunting style)
- creating MVP of product for investment or grant (usually a goal of sponsors of hackathons)
- improving network
- find a job (doesn’t work)
- learn new technology (works partially)

Preparation

Where to find

I use the next sources
- https://cyberacademy.dev/events?state=all
- https://ethglobal.com/events
- https://www.encode.club/hack (decent experience)
- https://devpost.com/
- https://gitcoin.co/hackathons (bad experience)
- https://taikai.network/hackathons (bad experience)
- https://devfolio.co/hackathons
- emails (not often)
- telegram groups (not often)
- Facebook ads (very rear)

Understanding rules and processes

  • Read the rules and understand what will be on the venue
  • Fill out all required forms, make RSVP, and stake money if it is necessary. (ethGlobal request stake a little amount to secure your slot on the hackathon) (the most convenient is devpost)
  • Add calendar with events (best was from Alchemist Accelerator as a separate google calendar. Not spam with emails, easy to turn on and off in the calendar app)
  • Add to groups in telegram or discord/slack (discord is better, because you can set up a notification, and information is better organized. Best example EthGlobal: separate channels for information, flood, and sponsors support (not shown on screenshot), but at the same time too many emails with events)
  • If required find a team (take a part in team formation events like from ethGlobal (never participated), using a special group or channel (usually doesn’t work))
  • Check and select bounties
    (one of the best organizations of information on the ethGlobal platform. All in one place
    - list of sponsors
    - descriptions of sponsors
    - bounty’s description and criteria
    - link to the documentation
    - schedule of workshops and office hours
    but these pages are filled by the sponsor and the quality is not the same
    couldn’t be opened in a separate tab)
  • Choose a strategy
    - learning — just making something for understanding technology
    - chill — just for fun
    - bounty hunt — covering the maximum count of bounties without any meaningful project
    - MVP — focusing on your idea

Technical moments

If you take part to learn something new it’s not necessary but it will save you a lot of nerves.

  1. Check and learn technologies required for bounties
  • set up local environments (if have a problem text tech specialists from sponsors. All of this has devrels)
  • try to launch tutorial
  • make a template of the project for the hackathon (it is better to create a docker-compose with all required staff)

2. buy a domain

3. rent and set up a server for a demo

Product moments

Nobody of the organizers doesn’t provide sessions with a product expert who can help with
- finding a market fit,
- turning projects into products,
- market research
- customer development
- validate business model
- find possible partners
But it’s the weakest point of most developers’ teams.
Most ecosystems don’t provide a list of problems (bounties) in general or on hackathons (sometimes I successfully get the list of ideas from sponsors on hackathons).

Find a market problem and try to prepare a solution for it
- Do market research
- Do customer development
- Prepare business model
- Prepare a list of questions to sponsors and organizers for effectively using the network on the venue

Participating

If you participate offline

  • Make preregistration if possible. It saves you time, sometimes it gives tickets to side events.
  • If you want swag, arrive at the beginning of the venue
  • Occupy the most silent place with an electrical outlet
  • Check where the zone for sleeping exists
  • Check that the schedule has not changed

Common things

  • After start — validate your idea with bounty owner, mentors, and organizers
  • Based on feedback make changes to your ideas
  • Coding
  • Sometimes shows the intermediate results
  • Don’t forget to make commits (it could be checked)
  • Prepare documentation for the repository
  • Prepare a pitch that answers questions according to the criteria from the rules.
  • Usually, enough typical investors pitch deck
    - problem
    - solution
    - market size
    - competitors
    - business model
    - team
    - demo (links to live and video)
    - roadmap
  • Record a video demo (the internet on hackathons usually is bad)
  • See notifications in chats about food, submissions, office hours, etc
  • Submit in advance (at the last minutes the platform usually doesn’t work)
  • Usually, organizers ask the next questions during submissions
    - logo
    - short description
    - long description
    - banner for the project’s page in the showcase
    - screenshots
    - what challenges your went throw
    - what technologies did you use
    - what bounties have you tried to solve (ethGlobsl asks to mention the line of code where you use the sponsor’s technology and for which purposes)
    - link to video demo
    - link to source code
    - link to pitch deck
  • better make less but all work, than a lot but not working (organize your works in sprints)
  • better sleep and don’t play the hero. After sleeping your work better

Judging

  • Don’t miss judge time)
  • get in line for the main judging and the sponsor’s judging
  • Better to be first (judges are fresh and ready to listen)
  • Not pitches more than 3 minutes
  • Use jokes to break the ice
  • If you did not catch attention in the first 30 sec, change the pitch technic
  • wow effect is one of the most important things
  • Use your deck
    - give the link to the live demo at the begging
    - more schemes, charts, and tables, fewer words
    - video demo saves you from bad internet
  • Сollect feedback
  • Relax and wait for the results

Getting prizes and other benefits

Usually, prizes are distributed a month after hackathons. Don’t forget to check the email which was used during registration. Don’t lose access to the wallet which was used during registration.

Ask about grants, connections with VC, and other support for your project if you are going to continue working on it.

Most of the hackathon’s organizers only make Twitter with winners and that’s all.

If you were promised a grant, remind yourself of your sponsors

Conclusion

I hope this article was usful not only for devs.
Don’t afread of participating if you haven’t experience. The most important is making new friends, connection and be open to new experience.

Good luck in you next hackathon.

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Arsenii Pechenkin

Web3 DevRel ar gnosis | Alchemist Accelerator alumn | Winner menthor of hackathons all around the world | Evangelist, lecturer and tech-couch | pe4en.me