8 Essential Tips on How to Prepare for a Web3 Hackathon
Often hosted by blockchains, like Ethereum or Solana, or focused around specific events, like EthDenver, web3 hackathons bring together a community of developers, designers, and blockchain enthusiasts to transform innovative web3 hackathon ideas into minimum viable products (MVPs) in a short period of time.
Because hackathons are good for beginners, it's important to prepare for the event to extract the most value from the experience. This article will highlight a few preparations you can take to make the most of your experience.
Preparing for a hackathon is important because the environment is often fast-paced, you will be using new technology, hackathons have specific judging criteria, and you will be competing against ambitious teams of builders.
Hackathons are great opportunities to learn new skills, showcase your work, and connect with other developers, but it is also competitive and often has an accelerated format. With large prize pools to incentivize participation, this environment can be difficult for beginners to adjust to.
For example, Solana Summer Camp is offering $5 million in prizes and seed funding for their hackathon happening from July 11th - August 16th, 2022, with 1000s of people participating around the world, and 100s of submissions that will be competing for top prizes.
First, understand the timeline of the hackathon. Many hackathons take place over the course of a weekend allowing people with full-time work schedules to participate, but some web3 hackathons last multiple weeks allowing for more substantial projects to be built.
Before you commit to a hackathon, make sure your schedule allows you to make an appropriate time and energy commitment. If you're schedule is clear, and you're determined to build something, here are the some important steps to complete in your hackathon preparation.
When you visit the hackathon website, you will usually see a number of resources to help developers prepare for the hackathon including tracks, prizes, ideas, as well as the two most important areas to study: the rules and judging criteria.
Before you do anything else, make sure you have a clear understanding of what kinds of projects the organizer is hoping to see during the hackathon, who will be judging them, and what they will be looking for.
If you're planning to focus on a specific track, research the nuances and align with that specific track's key priorities.
Coming up with innovative web3 hackathon ideas can be challenging, especially if this is your first time attending a web3 hackathon. During your hackathon prep, consider these strategies for brainstorming ideas before your hackathon starts:
- Build a solution to a problem you’ve observed personally
- Think about composable building blocks that unlocks new products
- Research lists of topics and ideas provided by the hackathon organizer
- Review the winners of other hackathons
- Find a web2 product or solution that would benefit from web3 technology
You don’t have to select which idea you’re going to build until you meet your team and start the hackathon, but these prompts can help you ideate projects before your hackathon begins.
Since hackathons can take place over a short period of time, you’ll want to make sure your web3 tech stack is prepared ahead of time. This would include actions like signing up for a web3 developer platform like Alchemy, downloading desktop clients, and getting familiar with the hackathon organizer's unique tools.
Here’s a shortlist we’ve prepared of what to get ready when you’re preparing your hackathon tools:
- Choose your Integrated Development Environment (IDE) such as Remix IDE
- Create a GitHub repository for your hackathon code so you and your teammates can collaborate effectively
- Signing up for a free blockchain node provider like Alchemy
- Look into different smart contract development frameworks such as OpenZeppelin
- Create a local testing environment such as Hardhat or Foundry
- Get testnet Goerli tokens for deploying smart contract on a testnet
Learn the hackathon organizer's tools
In addition to your standard tech stack, take time preparing by learning how to use. the tools the organizer wants builders to build with.
Organizers will often put together extensive documentation on the hackathon website to help people navigate the tools and information that would help new developers in the ecosystem.
Because hackathon organizers are trying to encourage building on their platforms, prioritize building applications that integrate their tools.
There are many ways of finding peers to work with on a hackathon project including working with organizers, accessing hackathon channels in Discord, in developer-centric DAOs, or communicating with builders talking about the event on social media.
You can also come to the hackathon with a group of people that you already know well. Since your team will be small, usually 3, 4 or 5 people, it’s best to have people who have different skill sets that will complement each other.
To submit a project to a hackathon, teams will typically need to produce a write-up, video, and/or presentation that demonstrates what their project does, how it works, and make a pitch to it's importance.
Because your team will be building up until the last minute, prepare a list of previous winning submissions, presentation templates, and write-ups that can be repurposed for your team's submission. By preparing templates for your app submission, you can make a strong case for your project, and put yourself in a good position to win.
Judges often like to see things like a clear problem statement and value proposition paired with a working demonstration of your project. It’s okay to start simple, and focus on the specific problem area you're trying to fix so you aren’t overwhelmed with having to build too many features at once.
While hackathons are generally friendly and safe places to build, take the proper security precautions before you arrive such as leaving hardware wallets at home, not traveling with seed phrases, and purchasing a privacy screen filter among other preparations.
Don't let a good learning opportunity like a hackathon turn into a liability.
If you’re going to participate in a weekend hackathon every minute counts, and preparing all the right gear will help you make the most of your time. Make sure you have your charger, backup chargers, phone chargers, a battery bank, extension cords, power strips, and anything else to keep your tools working.
Additionally, you can prepare snacks, drinks, and other personal items that will enable you to stay focused on your work like noise cancelling headphones, your favorite hoodie, and even your favorite mechanical keyword.
The last thing you need is to be sleep deprived and groggy when sprinting to turn an idea into a fundable web3 project. Get a good night’s sleep so you can be ready to enter the hackathon with a clear mind and good attitude.
At the end of the day, the goal of web3 hackathons is to learn, build something cool, and have fun. While there will be intense moments and it may get stressful, remember why you signed up and make the most of your experience.