Leading experts and blockchain enthusiasts gathered in Singapore this weekend to compete in a blockchain hackathon sponsored by DBS Bank, formerly known as the Development Bank of Singapore, and computer giant IBM.
More than 70 people partook in the competition, but Omnichain, a platform for investing in emerging market businesses, won first place and 15,000 Singapore dollars (roughly $11,300 USD).
The two-day hackathon, hosted by DBS Bank’s Chief Innovation Officer Neal Cross, had two challenges for participants: Either make a hack that would help the unbanked have greater access to financial services or make banking in the developed world easier and more enjoyable.
NuBank delivered on the goal to bank the unbanked and won second place. The team created a way to connect financial institutions with people living in remote or undeveloped villages using blockchain technology.
BlockIntel won third place with a program that visualizes the blockchain and uses know-your-customer controls to catch suspicious transactions. NuBank and BlockIntel won cash prizes as well, $10,000 SGD ($7,500 USD) and $8,000 SGD ($6,000 USD), respectively.
According to Ron Hose, CEO of Asian bitcoin exchange Coins.ph, the hackathon did a lot more than just build new products and services; it brought people from the digital currency and financial worlds together.
“I really feel like this event marked a milestone for blockchain tech in Asia,” Hose said. “Beyond emphasizing how valuable this technology is to solving banking problems and giving a platform for new ideas, the hackathon brought together great minds and industry influencers to think together about the future on blockchain and the banking industry as a whole.”
A bank-backed blockchain hackathon
The event was located at StartupBootcamp Fintech Singapore, an accelerator for financial startups, and was done in partnership with Singaporean Bitcoin company, Coin Republic. The event featured numerous executives and experts from the region’s finance and technology industries. The judges panel included IBM Executive Architect Tan Kah Seng and Sim Boon Kee Institute for Financial Economics Professor Dr. David Lee.
According to Adam Giles, co-founder and CEO of Neuroware, some of the hackathon participants weren’t familiar with blockchain or bitcoin at all but were interested in exploring the technology. Giles and his company spent the two days prior to the hackathon hosting workshops with the attendees and familiarizing them with the blockchain. Neuroware’s API Blockstrap, which allows developers to create apps for a number of digital currencies, along with Bitx’s and Colu’s API were used in the hackathon.
“Considering this was the first time a bank has ever so publicly backed blockchain technology it’s difficult to imagine how it could have gone better,” Giles said. “DBS were very well organized and made every effort to understand the technology and work with the developers. All teams got to keep the IP for their ideas, and DBS could be working with some in the future to see how they can support them. Startupbootcamp also provided a great venue and did a fantastic job on organizing the hack and looking after everyone involved.”