What is the Future of Blockchain competition?

The Future of Blockchain (FoB) is a 3 month competition designed for those studying, researching or working at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, LSE, UCL and KCL. It starts in late November 2018 and ends with a finale at Oxford in late March 2019.

Background

FoB is an initiative of our fund, StakeZero Ventures. We are a European VC investing in blockchain. We originally came up with the idea for FoB whilst brainstorming how to:

A. Differentiate ourselves as investors in the space
B. Offer additional value to our network and portfolio companies

Originally, we wanted to do a road-trip for our teams at universities across Europe — organising meet-ups on their behalf. Then we started thinking about how we could best engage university participants (not just undergraduate students but also postgraduates, researchers, professors and alumni). Our conclusion was that we should offer them something to get involved with blockchain and what we were doing.

The means of engagement we kept coming back to was the hackathon. However, hackathons seemed to lack two things:

A. Projects being built that go on to be fully fledged applications and companies
B. Medium term engagement with participants (beyond just the hackathon itself)

So we decided to do a kind of long-form hackathon. However, no participant was ever going to be able to maintain the intensity of hackathon for more than a weekend. So, we eased the intensity and designed a 3-month competition instead. Why this format?

A. It allows for medium term engagement with participants
B. It allows something significant to be built
C. It allows for various levels of engagement with participants such as workshops, careers fairs, slack/discord chats, educational speaker events
D. It engages not just developers but non-developers with skills in analysis, marketing, business and other domains
E. Participants won’t get ‘burnt out’ and can work on their project as they see fit over the 3 months

Our new concept then had a few other consequences for us such as:

A. Access to new projects coming out of the competition to invest in
B. Accessing an untapped market for developers and top talent: university students who don’t know much about blockchain

Why the UK?

Given this is the first iteration of the competition, we decided to focus on one country. The UK was an easy choice for several reasons:

A. It has lots of leading universities
B. StakeZero has a London office
C. We already had a good contact base at UK universities

The format

The structure of the competition is that university participants have 3 months to build whatever they like involving blockchain. Specifically, they can either:

A. Build their own idea [“Creators”] 🔧
B. Answer a pre-set challenge. [“Challengers”] 💪

For Creators

This is for those with an idea already or who would prefer to think of an idea from scratch without any constraints. This idea can take the form of a business idea, startup, piece of software, research paper or anything innovative. It can also be something a participant has been working on in the months prior to the competition starting, so long as it has not received outside funding.

For Challengers

This is designed for those without an idea who also want a higher chance of winning a cash prize. We have teamed up with a number of partners to provide challenges for both developers and non-developers. These partners include Gnosis, Kyber, Liquidity Network, MakerDao, Nucypher, Santiment, Thundercore and Zilliqa.

We asked a few things of our Challenge Partners:

A. Design a challenge that could engage a broad range of students (not just developers) and be suitable for developers with little knowledge of blockchain
B. Engage with participants directly via our Launch Event, workshops and a dedicated messaging channel
C. Put up £6,000 cash towards three bounty prizes for participants to incentive them to enter the competition

We’ll announce what these challenges are on Medium on Monday 12th November. However, they will include things like:

  • For non-developers: building an investment portfolio or business strategies or UX design
  • For developers: building a game, answering technical challenges, building applications involving exchange, payment, prediction markets and much more

Prizes

We wanted to make sure that participants felt incentivised to enter the competition. The full list of prizes is as follows:

Overall Top Prize (available to all participants): £20,000 cash

As well as the above, up to 3 x £2,000 cash bounties are available per partner challenge.

Separate to the cash prizes, we at StakeZero would also like to find something we can invest in from our main fund! 😀

Timeline

The competition kicks off with three launch events in each of our university cities: Cambridge, Oxford and London. These are education events which allow potential participants to:

A. Hear more about the competition and how it works
B. Hear from our partners about their challenges
C. Meet potential teammates
D. Meet great blockchain companies looking to hire
E. Network with other people interested in blockchain

The launch events are:

Cambridge: 6.30pm Weds 21st November 2018 at the Engineering Department

Oxford: 6.30pm Thurs 22nd November 2018 at the Maths Institute

London: 6.30pm Fri 23rd November 2018 at Bush House, KCL

We’ll be opening the formal application window for the competition after the first launch event. Participants have until Sunday 9th December 2018 to enter, stating which challenge they’d like to do (don’t worry, participants can change later). Everyone who meets the eligibility criteria will be accepted.

We’ll host workshops every two weeks between January and March to help participants build their projects. These will take place in each university city (Cambridge, Oxford, London)

Participants submit their final project by Sunday 10th March 2019.

Participants will be informed if they have won a bounty prize by Sunday 17th March 2019 and whether they have been selected to pitch in the finale Demo Day on Tuesday 26th March 2019 at the University of Oxford. At the Demo Day, the top projects will compete for the grand prize of £20k and pitch in front of a panel of leading VCs.

Eligibility

Anyone studying, researching,working at or is an alumni of the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, LSE, UCL or KCL can enter.

For those not at one of these universities, you can still enter. However, you will need to be part of a team with one of those university members involved. You will also need to be based in Cambridge, Oxford or London.

Participants may enter as individuals or teams of up to 6. For individuals, you can choose to compete on your own or opt to be partnered with other team members at our speed-partnering sessions.

Participants can enter something they’ve already worked on before the competition starts. However, it cannot have received funding already

How do I get involved?

Attend a launch event:

21st Nov: Cambridge, 22nd Nov: Oxford, 23rd Nov: London

and/or

Register your interest

and/or

email at anthony@stakezero.com

Those who have helped us along the way…

The Future of Blockchain would not have been possible without those who have supported us. At each university, we have worked with and received help from numerous societies, departments, centres and individuals. In particular, we are grateful to:

Oxford Blockchain Society, Oxford Entrepreneurship Society, Oxford Women in Computer Science Society, The Oxford Foundry, Enterprising Oxford, Oxford University Innovation, Oxford Coding Society, Oxford Fintech and Smartlaw Society, Cambridge Blockchain Society, Cambridge University Technology and Enterprise Club, Cambridge Hackathon Society, Cambridge Computer Laboratory, Max Ge, Jinhua Wang, Michel Rauchs, Imperial Computing Society, Imperial Entrepreneurs Society, Imperial Centre for Cryptocurrency Research and Engineering, KCL Blockchain, UCL Entrepreneurs, UCL Centre for Blockchain Technologies, LSE Entrepreneurs.