The dirty secret of web3 hackathons is that they use web2 models, collecting the data of users (devs) to sell to advertisers (sponsors). But that creates a major opportunity to create genuine web3 hackathons... as sports.

What would this enable? Well:

1) Massively valuable reputation-building for devs

2) Equally valuable onchain intel for protocols

3) Huge rewards to draw the top-tier devs to projects none of which are easy to come by today.

Let me explain.


Hackathons have a problem today. Sponsors pay huge sums of money to get devs to build weekend projects, knowing full well that the worst projects will be fairly useless while the best will just be prototypes for bigger endeavors that could take months to complete.

So why participate? What are these sponsors paying for? Marketing, of course. But particularly, marketing data. Hackathons collect *tons* of user data that they silo off chain and sell to sponsors—who now have the contact info for devs in their ecosystem. And of course, this data lets sponsors find and even hire builders for future projects while continuing to market their project. But what they’re *not* paying for is great devs to build cool things—this is just a perk of a particularly good hackathon, not a given.

Thing, however, are changing.

First, we’re arguably entering an age of the Cowboy-Dev, the dev who just builds weeklong projects that they can monetize for life. The most devilish example is a hacker (as well as its angelic counterpart, the freelance auditor), but companies like OpenAI and Uniswap are *actively* building for nicer cowboy-devs to ride into town, deploy a plug-in or hook at the proverbial saloon, and ride out at dusk to wherever they’re needed next. Cowboy-devs thrive in hackathons and could make entire careers out of them—if only the incentives were good enough.

Second, web3 enables, and lemme put this in caps for emphasis, Internet-Native Monetization and Reputation that just wasn’t possible in web2. You can put up rewards for winners fully onchain without incurring any app store fees, credit card fees, or wild trust assumptions! And you can let these winners earn reputation that they can leverage across the internet! Exclamation marks!!!

Let’s be clear: onchain reputation is a major opportunity for aspiring devs. if @vitalikbuterin votes for you in a hackathon, it doesn’t matter if you lose. That’s an onchain attestation you can take with you across the internet to win access, prestige, and maybe even airdrops too.

But once we codify that onchain reputation? Well that’s where things get interesting. That’s where we can start building sports leagues.

At the simplest level, we might just offer onchain medals as NFTs (badges, basically). At a more complex level, though, we could offer points for winners depending on their rank in the contest and the difficulty of the contest itself. Winners at the amateur level might earn just a few onchain points that they could accumulate to give them entry to more higher-level professional tournaments with more challenging competition and higher stakes.

Better yet, communities of devs could form to work together as teams, each assembling to compete against each other and win votes from each others’ fans. And over the course of a year, the top devs and dev communities would scale the ranks to compete against each other in major tournaments that the whole space could watch. imagine the NBA for devs.

The world cup for devs! Exclamation marks!!! That’s what onchain hackathons enable.


And see what happens here? We’ve solved the chicken-egg problem of web2 hackathons—that great devs don’t want to compete for small prizes, and great projects don’t want to offer big prizes without a guarantee of great devs. But when you gamify hackathons with ranks, tournaments, and spectatorship? Suddenly you’ve created a model where projects have incentives to put in big money for big devs.

And of course sponsors get their beloved data too: data about these devs’ onchain interests, background, and reputation that they can reward in the future with job opportunities, airdrops, and the like. Onchain hackathons improve *projects’* ability to put power in the hands of the most valuable people in their ecosystem.

Oh and notice—this little gamified hackathon company you just built? You’re able to monetize it *far better* than your web2 counterparts. First of all, of course, you’ve created the best model for the best devs—so no web2 model can compete with you.

But more importantly, you’re able to bring in far more money for your hackathons and take a cut onchain. You can charge participants to compete for bigger prizes, and you can charge sponsors to fund the hackathons in exchange for getting devs to build in their ecosystem. You no longer need to monetize off one-off data because you’ve actually built a viable business that people like and are eager to participate in. That’s the difference between web2 and web3.

I'd personally love to see the wonderful team at EthGlobal adopt a model like this, and i’d be very glad to work with them personally. I’ll give myself away here: *this entire business* can be built on JokeRace, and in fact, onchain hackathons have been one of the major use cases for contests there. Newcoin threw a massively successful contest a few months ago, and I got notes from participants that they were waking up every hour to check the results on our site. Mode has bootstrapped with a major hackathon on our site as well.

But I think this is just the start. What if these were live-streamed as a show like Shark Tank for builders to pitch judges publicly? What if the actual voters weren’t even the judges themselves but thousands of spectators watching at home to help guide the development of the tech ecosystem? And how much would sponsors be willing to pay for *that coverage* at that point? This is just one idea for a business model that I think can be built on us, and I’ll be sharing more over the next few months. If you’re interested in building this, I’d love to personally support, and please reach out to me on twitter at


With special thanks to David Sneider, Andrew Hong, and my wonderful cofounder Sean McCaffery for feedback.