What I learned in a 48h Hackathon:

Adding some context

This past weekend I went to a hackathon called Pixelscamp. Even though it’s only their second year running, being known as the successor to Codebits, Pixelscamp is now the biggest hackathon in Portugal.
Pixelscamp last year’s edition was good, but they stepped up their game this time.

They came up with something that completely changed the way the event works. They implemented a currency called Exposure running on a blockchain-network. Every participant was able to create a wallet and raised EXP (short for Exposure) by collecting badges spread around the venue. While this might not seem that much of a game changer, they introduced something to add onto that.

“making every participant not only a developer, but also an investor”

With a page similar to Kickstarter to showcase the products, winner projects would be selected by the amount EXP they had raised. Participants could pledge their own projects and/or their competitors — Even though this might seem unbalanced, since people could have just supported their own projects, the results showed otherwise, or at least I’m pretty ok with the top10 winners — making every participant not only a developer, but also an investor. And while the organisation said there was no jury, there were Angels flying around, that as the name suggests had more cash to invest and ultimately would have a lot of impact in the end results.

This changed everything. Capitalism and greed entered the game, and don’t get me wrong, it was amazing. We got to see it all: scams, gambling, people mounting VC “companies” to help grow funding. My team and I went full sell-out and created something similar to milliondollarpage and /r/place and sold pixels for 48h - every participant had 15 pixels per minute to draw anything in the canvas, this way creating a community masterpiece.

Pixelsplace — The final result of the wall.

What I learned in those 48hours

This is my 5th Hackathon - whenever I have opportunity to go to one, I do. I think it’s a great experience, and always a good place to learn. Everyone there has the same hunger to build & create something cool, and that’s awesome. This year I tried to be the product/hustler guy of the team. The economy addition forced me to talk to sponsors, investors and participants so that I could grow some funding. While the environment is a more chill/fun vibe compared to the real business world, it was my first experience trying hard to sell something, and I can already look back and see some things I did wrong — I was super soft and got low-balled when negotiating prices with brands for advertisement in our page.

I also had to do a 90 second presentation to a 1000+ crowd, which was probably one of the scariest experiences in my life but that at the same time felt amazing to do. Sadly my team and I fell short and ended up not cracking the top10 this year, but ultimately was an awesome learning experience for everyone and we ended up with a cool little project! 
And while the event wasn’t perfect — events of this magnitude always have their flaws — I’m already looking forward for next year, and if you’re in Portugal and like this kind of stuff, so should you.