Break the Block hackathon

My first hackathon, ever!

A little birdie told me:

I heard about Break The Block hackathon from my network, and it was about time I step out my comfort zone, and try something new, which was going to a hackathon.

With their encouragement, I applied and joined a team. I found another team member, Rozi from my network, and Caroline decided to join us after introducing ourselves at the Friday networking evening. A name for team was born from a random team name generator, Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies.

Working hard

The organisers went over the definition of commercial insurance, and the rules of project submission for the hackathon, which were:

  1. It must be related to insurance and blockchain technology
  2. There must be more than one person on the team

That seems simple enough, but to pitch ideas to the rest of the attendees and winning them over to join your vision, it’s no easy feat. Many came with an idea, but struggled to win hearts.

As for our team, we believe that as long as we have a cross-functional team (Rozi was our business expert, myself and Caroline were developers who can deliver a full stack solution), we will be able to create a product the insurance consumers would love, whilst making the best use of the blockchain technology.

Idea creation

This reminds me of scenes of a TV show, Mad Men. The creative team would spent days, weeks to find the ultimate slogan or media advert. Great ideas may not happen in one night, which was true to our case.

Caroline was our Don, she kept asking what is it that our ideas were trying to do or solve, and every time we think we cracked it, it never sat right with us. In fact it didn’t actually occur until Saturday lunchtime that we knew exactly what we wanted to build.

All things come to those who wait

or in our case, it came to those who came up with a lot of ideas and managed to found a golden egg before time is up


I present to you, My Claim Dossier

We saw a problem in the medical/health insurance market, where if you were with Company A a number of years, they have insight to your medical/claim history and background. They may offer you some relatively small benefits to keep you on as a customer, because there is no incentives driven by other companies for the customer to switch, as new companies aren’t able to offer a competitive product without the customer history.

With the regulation passed on bank account switching policy, we can assume that insurance market will be following suit sooner or later. We can harness the power of blockchain to store claim history, and the prospective insurance providers can utilise the claim data (with the customer’s permission) to their best price to their potential customers. This can drive a healthy competition in the insurance market, and even levelling the playing field for the smaller insurance providers.

In summary, the solution brought by My Claim Dossier means that customers get the best price as the insurance companies are able to assess their potential new customers, from the customer’s complete medical claim history on the blockchain. The smart contract element of the solution makes the claim process a lot easier for both parties as well, which can cut cost for insurance companies that came aboard with My Claim Dossier.
If regulation that passed for bank account switching policy in the UK also happened in insurance market, all insurance companies may be required to participate, and we believe blockchain is the answer for that.
My Claim Dossier’s architecture — we didn’t have time to implement IPFS

Let’s get some work done

Before getting stuck into building our product, there were some interesting and useful workshops with technology such as IoT, smart contracts, and 3rd Party integration APIs. Many of the developers, including myself, were not familiar with the blockchain technology and frameworks, so Saturday morning was crucial to get us up to speed with the tools so we can build our product.

Whilst Caroline was busy getting stuck in writing the Ethereum smart contract with the help of a mentor, Marco from Oraclize, I looked after the front end platform of our proof of concept, where there are two app interface, one for the customers, and one for the insurance company. Customer can use the app to enter their medical claim/history which will be written onto the block. Once the claim is submitted, their current insurance provider will utilise the app interface to approve or decline their claim.

App interface (left for customers, right for insurance providers)

Rozi was amazing at researching and crafting our presentation. She tirelessly interviewed the organisers to validate our idea, and design the visual assets for our slide deck.

The final countdown

On Sunday morning, we realised there was still one major part of the build we needed to complete, which is to make sure the frontend platform I’ve built is integrated with the smart contract, all wrapped in the Truffle framework.

This is where we had, not just pair programming, but mob programming with 3 developers. Quynh, our mentor from Crypto Compare was familiar with Truffle framework, Caroline knew what exactly the functions to be called on the smart contract, and I was managing the front end layout of the build.

I was the driver of the final sprint, to make sure that all input from everyone was accounted for. I didn’t think I had it in me, but I managed to write up the app platform whilst two other developers were navigating me and bring my expertise onto the table.

Presentation time

I was exhausted and excited by this point of Sunday afternoon. We gave it our all at presenting My Claim Dossier to a panel of judges and fellow attendees. The amount of research Rozi completed during the hackathon allowed us to be able to take judge’s questions with grace and it was great to watch the other teams present.

We won two runner up prizes! 🏆

I never thought we would walk away, not one, but two prizes with My Claim Dossier. We won, Best Blockhain and Best Concept which I am so proud of all the hard work we put in over the weekend. It was astonishing that we built a product as proof of concept within a short amount of time, and it was a pleasure working with talented individuals. Check out a press release! 💪

The team after the presentation

Thank yous

SimplyBusiness did a great job finding mentors, sponsors and influential members of the blockchain communities, so thank you, especially Makoto Inoue for all his organising and PR effort! 💖

A few things I love about this hackathon:

  1. Door closes at 10pm and opens at 9am, which means I get my 8 hours of sleep! 🛌
  2. A good range of nutritious food (not just pizza) meant I didn’t have to run to the nearest shop. 🍏
  3. Good work spaces in the building, meant my team can find a comfortable space to collaborate 👯 👯

Last but not least, I wanted to thank you Crypto Compare for their kindness, on mentoring and sponsoring my expenses to the hackathon. It was lovely to meet Vlad from Crypto Compare, and supporting us at our presentation.

Check out our project’s code repository and presentation slides