Blog Banner: Protocols Can Ignore Hackathons at Their Own Peril

Protocols Can Ignore Hackathons at Their Own Peril

TL;DR: Hackathons fuel innovation and bring adoption to the Web3 space. In this post, we will outline why we initially ignored hackathons for the first two years of our history and then quickly pivoted to supporting hackathons through all venues. Hackathons are important to onboard developers from diverse backgrounds and help build the ecosystem. This blog post is a synthesis of our Twitter Spaces chat that we have every Wednesday at 10 am Pacific. Join us for the next one!

My biggest regret during the 2018-2019 bear market is not sponsoring/running more hackathons. This is why we now run 2-3 hackathons simultaneously. Bear/Bull. Doesn't matter. Won't stop.Join me at 10AM PT to hear my thoughts along with @hraisinghani.— Ganesh Swami (@gane5h) June 23, 2021<script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Hindsight is 20/20. Our biggest regret is not sponsoring/running hackathons during the 2018-2019 bear market. We didn't even participate in any though Covalent's genesis story was from a hackathon. Thinking back, you can attribute this decision to a couple of factors: a bootstrapped project without funds to sponsor or fly to hackathon venues, unclear addressable market prospects, lack of conviction on developers leading to high growth startups, etc.

Since the Summer of 2020, we’ve pivoted to making hackathons a core part of our growth and onboarding strategy.

Here’s why:

1. Hackathons Can Lead to Large Outcomes

Covalent itself started at a hackathon. Yes, we did grind through the multi-year bear market, but make no mistake today Covalent is a hyper-growth startup with a staff of 30 people, over 200 customers indexing 12 different blockchains and over 5000 developers building with us.

Covalent is not just an outlier, other successful projects like 1inch, Polygon, InstaDApp were all started at hackathons. If a team of developers are able to ideate, execute and potentially capture the attention of the community at a hackathon -- that is the only impetus required for them to pursue their project full time.

From our own backyard, Jennifer Tran from Mintgate shared her experience on how participating in EthGlobal’s NFTHacks (which Covalent sponsored) gave her the conviction to pursue Mintgate full time.

2. Hackathons Make Web3 Accessible

Any traditional Web2 developer who is inquisitive about Web3 doesn’t really know how to get started. All the tutorials and resources out there seem like a big commitment and a developer with a full-time job can’t really make this commitment. With hackathons, the ask is just a weekend -- a couple of days max and they not only get to scratch their intellectual itch if they have an idea, but they also get to see what the community experience is like.

3. Protocols Need to Use Hackathons as a Pathway to Success

For protocols to succeed, they need to intimately understand the needs of their user base. There is no other venue where a developer is under the time pressure to build something and wants to use the protocol as a significant lever for their hack -- and if your protocol doesn’t work or the on-boarding has a lot of friction -- this is an opportunity for the protocol to revisit their adoption strategy.

The route to success for a developer-focused product like Covalent is to capture the hearts and minds of developers today and eventually capture their wallets in the future with the success of the developers' projects on the protocol.

At Covalent, we treat hackathons as an extension of our research arm on what the market needs. Time and again we have seen hackathon projects exploring a seemingly trivial use-case with our API that in a few months turns out to be the mainstay. You could perhaps say that hackathons are how we focus on new feature development and not just improving existing features.

There are at least six projects built with Covalent at a hackathon that have matured to full-fledged, VC-funded projects pushing the Web3 space forward.

4. The War for Talent is Real

It’s no secret that Web3 developers are scarce. Every single tech company, not just limited to Web3, is aggressively hiring. For us at Covalent, we’ve had a lot of success using hackathons as a recruitment channel. It’s one of the reasons we've been able to grow from 2 to 30 people in less than a year.

At the moment, we are running multiple hackathons simultaneously:

Our hackathons are not exclusively for developers -- we are inclusive and have bounties for non-technical members as well. Get involved today! There's never been a better time.