It’s the Final Countdown

As the judging begins, we look back on Saturday night and the final hours of coding here at the Odyssey hackathon.

Saturday Night Fever

As the countdown dropped below the 10 hour mark last night, the intensity of the work steadily increased. Teams remained in good spirits, determined to reach their end goals through the trials, tribulations, and tiredness. With the end growing nearer, every little set back, every little pesky error-message, began to frustrate teams more and more.

With judging day looming, many teams send their lead presenters home to get some rest before it is their time to shine; meanwhile the rest of the team stays on the grid to make sure the presenter will have something to talk about at all. All puzzle pieces must come together, from back-end to front-end, in order to neatly demonstrate the solution they have created.

One of the teams decided that they would continue working in the hotel, thinking that a quick shower would keep them sharp. Working on the Rethink Retirement track, they are using the same principle advertisers use when applying information in target marketing, except that instead of trying to convince consumers to spend money on a product to use now, they are trying to convince consumers to save for retirement.

At the Crisis and Disaster Management track, one brave lonesome soul is testing the hardware modules. By keeping track of live truck data, a system checks for irregular behaviour from the truck. Multiple monitoring systems on the truck, as well as the driver, can give an indication that an accident is about to occur, and avert it from occurring in the first place. But a good proof of concept will require sensors with a working connection, hence at least someone on the team has to pull an all-nighter.

Around the six hour mark, there were around 75 people remaining, scattered around the grid. The canvasses, that the teams use to present their solutions, are becoming more organised and in some cases even beautiful.

The Winner(s) Takes It All

It’s the final countdown — and Odyssey’s 100 teams are finalising their preparations as they gear up to pitch to the jury. Earlier this weekend, Rutger van Zuidam, Founder and CEO of Odyssey told us, “The jury will definitely favour the open protocols, as they are looking for the most interconnected solutions.”

So what exactly are the jury members looking for? Scott Nelson, Sweetbridge CEO and jury member, says he is looking for a team that is cohesive, collaborative, and has the right mix of talent. In particular, Scott emphasises the importance of teams’ having a use case that has a way of being deployed into a real business. He says teams need to think beyond the 48-hour pressure cooker of the hackathon and look at how their solution might work long-term.

“Is there a business model? How is it going to support itself? I’ve talked to a lot of people here that really haven’t thought so far about how they are going to turn what they’re doing into something that’s actually going to pay for them to continue working on it.”

This is the second year in a row for Scott as a jury member. When asked how this year compares to last year, he replies, “There is a higher diversity of participants, age is more diverse, and there’s a lot more people that have experience with some of the problems we are trying to solve, which I think is critical to success.”

Paul Snow, CEO of Factom and another jury member, said that he would be looking for security. He said, “I believe that managing security requires that you have a network of parties that can attest to the user’s identity and that identity should be managed by the user. It needs safety nets, so that when you lose your identity, you can recover it.”

Paul expanded on this, mentioning the recent QuadrigaCX crisis, where the death of the CEO resulted in enormous financial loss for exchange users. “We need to have digital security that manages these cases… we need backups to recover identity.” For Paul, a successful team will bring forward a solution that offers winning security and a plan for identity management.

He’ll be looking at how well teams can address this problem. “One of the things that I look for in all these projects is how they’re building the proper asymmetry. If there is a great deal of cryptographic proof of a transaction and a very easy way to validate it before you accept it, that’s a system that can’t be hacked.”

Overall, the juries are looking for solutions that exceed expectations, going above and beyond to showcase next-level thinking on how the solution might thrive in a real-world marketplace, and including safeguards for security issues. Winning teams will have presented not only a solution to their challenge, but a viable project, ready for investment.

Odyssey: Fuelling Growth, Empowering Futures

Familiar faces are a common sight as you stroll around the hackathon grid. Many people who were here last year to spend three days hacking, collaborating, and exploring new solutions, have returned this year, either as Jedi, team captains, or track mayors, ready to share their knowledge and expertise with new teams.

This type of dynamic shows us that the collaboration we witness at the Odyssey hackathon extends far beyond one weekend in April. This is the third time the event is being held in Groningen, and we can clearly see a broader community taking shape. Relationships built here last beyond the pressure cooker of 48-hour madness.

We caught up with Michiel Klinge, CEO and Founder at Lemon Care — a blockchain-based solution that enables a seamless exchange of patient data for better healthcare.

A team captain in 2018, Michiel worked on one of the health tracks and was also selected for the acceleration program after the hackathon. This led him to establish Lemon Care and this year he’s back as a Jedi.

Reflecting on his experience as a participant last year, he says, “I had never expected that this would happen, so just be open to it and let yourself be surprised by what’s going to happen. If this is what you like then go for it!”

Asked to sum up how the past 12 months have been for him, Michiel says the hackathon opened new doors for him and “a lot of things have changed in life.”

He adds, “I thought, if we have to take this seriously, I have to go for it and I just have to quit my job! So that is what I did in August!”

Right now at Odyssey, the juries are moving around the hackathon grid, and team after team are presenting their ideas to be in with a chance of being crowned winners. The results will be announced shortly — keep an eye on the Odyssey Hackathon 2019 Medium and Twitter to find out who has risen to the top!

Acknowledgements: Thank you to all those who contributed to this Odyssey Daily Digest: Wouter Constant, Michiel Klinge, Scott Nelson, Paul Snow.