IDEO CoLab’s Startup Studio for Blockchain Entrepreneurs has largely been focused on in-person events and workshops in San Francisco. This hackathon with CoinList and our partners from Ethereum, NEAR, Oasis, Stellar, and Tezos, is our first foray into programming for early stage builders and entrepreneurs on a global basis. We are thrilled to have received 30 submissions expanding the usability and accessibility of crypto and blockchain applications from teams from all over the world.
The projects below each demonstrate a deep focus on expanding the users of crypto and blockchain applications by easing onboarding, reaching out to un-tapped markets, and creating compelling experiences that enable “ah-ha!” moments. Meet the winners:
Grand Prize ($10,000) — Dial Crypto
Dial Crypto is a digital currency wallet and payment system that allows people to transfer Bitcoin and ETH instantly between phone numbers by using the same technology as mobile money products (USSD). USSD is the dominant technology and interface used to make mobile payments in Africa. 90% of mobile money transactions were completed via USSD in Africa in 2018. Dial Crypto applies the familiar USSD interface to crypto, making BTC and ETH accessible via both feature phones and smartphones, even without internet access.
What we love: The Dial Crypto team is expanding the ways in which people can interact with crypto, targeting an interface that is widely used for mobile money systems across Africa and other parts of the world. While they aren’t the first team to try enabling access via feature phones in Africa, the thoughtful pairing between the web app and USSD interface shows promise for enabling access in underserved markets.
Runner-Up ($5,000) — Kame
Kame is a Twitch extension that allows streamers to mint ERC721 collectibles and send them to their viewers directly within Twitch. The UX is enhanced by use of a Quorum side chain for the base application, and a task-specific oracle batches ownership updates back to Ethereum mainnet (much like how iTunes batch processes credit card transactions to avoid fees).
What we love: While the idea of crypto-based gaming is intriguing, it’s very hard to build compelling games even before trying to work in a crypto component. We like that the Kame team is developing an experience that sits on top of a popular social platform at the heart of the esports ecosystem, representing a compelling onramp to reach new crypto users. The Kora treasures themselves are cute and feel very brandable, and the combination of a sidechain for initial issuance with ownership updates passed onto Ethereum in batches seems like a reasonable choice for this use case.
Ethereum Protocol Prize ($2,000) — White Label Wallet-Widget
Built by the LinkDrop team, the White Label Wallet-Widget is exactly what it sounds like: an Ethereum wallet widget (think Intercom, but for crypto wallets), which any dapp can easily customize and integrate natively. UX-focused features include Meta Transactions, Google Drive integration for non-custodial recovery, and ENS Logins for dapp interoperability.
What we love: LinkDrop was one of a handful of existing teams that submitted projects that are complementary to, but separate from, their existing products. Listening closely to feedback from current and potential users, they identified a pain point and iterated a solution which eases the process of onboarding new users to crypto.
NEAR Protocol Prize ($2,000) — Users United
Why should users have to #DeleteFacebook to protest Facebook’s behavior? Users United is a decentralized tool for users to protest the centralized companies they use on the internet without having to go nuclear, and delete their account. Inspired by models from organized labor, this first campaign quantifies the value of every day, every minute, every second of the boycott on Facebook.
What we love: Turning the tools of a centralized company against that company is a fun tactic. The visual representation and tracking of the value of participation are engaging ways of demonstrating traction and inspiring users to engage. While focusing on the use of the NEAR blockchain as a decentralized database, it highlights some of NEAR’s support for simple web app integrations.
Oasis Protocol Prize ($2,000) — Lovecrypto
Lovecrypto allows people to earn dollars (via a stablecoin) or their favorite crypto to perform tasks such as watching a video, sharing their contact information, answering a survey or giving feedback on a product. For businesses, it is a way to engage directly with their clients and only to pay for results.
What we love: While sharing many similarities to Earn.com, Lovecrypto enables both crypto and fiat payments and focuses on a broader set of use cases beyond early crypto adopters. They’re also looking to eventually utilize some of the privacy features of Oasis to create offerings around privately sharing medical data for research purposes. The team really took inspiration from the hackathon + adoptathon format and in addition to collecting user feedback, also collected commitments from businesses and politicians to trial their service and from investors to back them in building it out further.
Stellar Protocol Prize ($2,000) — VPN Bot
VPNbot allows users to preserve their privacy by securely provisioning Wireguard VPNs through a Keybase bot, and paying for them with Stellar. VPNbot onboards new users to crypto, by introducing privacy-conscious users to the Stellar + Keybase ecosystem. Their mission mission is to combine privacy, security, and distributed trust with a great user experience.
What we love: VPNbot meets users who care about privacy with a product and interaction that matches their expectations for the medium. Chat bots are an easy method of interaction and this product takes advantage of the native payment capabilities provided by Keybase’s Stellar integration. We also love that the team went the extra mile and put together a website to highlight other Keybase bots and support the ecosystem.
Tezos Protocol Prize ($2,000) — Ejara
Ejara is an investment and saving mobile platform that offers cryptocurrencies and eventually tokenized assets uniquely tailored for the African market. The West Africa-based team had already built a product with support for Bitcoin, but for the hackathon they designed a new UI, built a non-custodial Tezos wallet, and added a fiat onramp via mobile money.
What we love: While the idea of a non-custodial wallet/investment app is not new, most products we see in the market are created with a very general and broad idea of who their target users are. The Ejara team has been intentional about building their project focused specifically on a region and customer segments that they understand deeply and have thus far been underserved. The Ejara team also leaned into the “adoptathon” portion of the hackathon more than any other team, sharing insights from user interviews, how they evolved the product as a result of that feedback, and where they are looking to go next as a result.
Check out all 30 hackathon submissions here. If you’re an early-stage startup working on something cool related to crypto or blockchains, IDEO CoLab Ventures would love to hear from you! Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and don’t forget to check out our Startup Studio for upcoming programs and events.