Since Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed interest in Ethereum at his meeting with Vitalik Buterin at the World Economic Forum held in St. Petersburg, the blockchain industry in Russia has been quick to heat up. The Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference in Saint Petersburg was held in June, followed immediately by a blockchain-focused hackathon called BlockchainHack in Moscow, with 150 people in attendance competing for $100,000 worth of cryptocurrency.
The hackathon took place at the Paveletsky Art Center, a massive building in downtown Moscow that has become the de facto hub for blockchain technology in Russia, with an increasing number of blockchain developers and enthusiasts who work out of it. The event was jointly organized by BTC Media, Qtum, Zerion, Waves, the Token Fund and Blockchain School, with additional support from the community in Russia.
The teams presented ambitious demos with winning topics including a mobile application to track and invest into ICOs; an arbitration service based on smart contracts and a reputation system; facial recognition software to determine what ICOs and blockchain projects a blockchain developer has been involved in and is currently active with; among others.
The winning team, Wafer, presented a demo and vision of creating a distributed Wi-Fi network using blockchain technology. They effectively allow routers to sell traffic without being tied to a particular software on the device. It uses smart contracts to ensure that users all pay for their traffic and that a user is guaranteed to get access to the internet after payment.
Qtum was the largest sponsor of the hackathon, and with members of the Qtum Foundation in attendance, many of the developers deployed their applications to Ethereum as well as Qtum. Qtum is a hybrid blockchain that merges the UTXO transaction model of Bitcoin with the EVM on Ethereum. It began as a fork of Bitcoin and the team added in an abstraction layer to integrate the EVM, ultimately allowing any developer tool built for Ethereum to also be available on Qtum, including Solidity smart contracts and Web3. Because of this, many of the decentralized applications presented were built on Ethereum as well as deployed to the Qtum testnet.
Prize money was awarded in Qtum tokens, Waves tokens and ether (ETH): as the grand prize winner, Wafer took home 5,000 Qtum tokens, valued at over $50,000. Qtum also awarded two other teams with 2,500 and 1,000 tokens for second and third prize.
Waves awarded their top three picks with 500 Waves, 300 Waves and 100 Waves, respectively. The winning Waves team developed a platform that uses facial recognition software for investors to quickly determine which ICO projects a person has been involved in.
The winning project in the Ethereum category, as selected by Zerion, created an interface for investors to quickly invest in multiple ICOs, and was awarded 10 ETH.
Patrick Dai, the cofounder of the Qtum project, said to Bitcoin Magazine, “We can see why this was the largest blockchain hackathon in Russia. Lots of developers brought new ideas to the table. We want to promote these projects that can bring the world closer together and spur innovation. We think that’s the purpose of blockchain technology, and it’s our purpose at Qtum.”
Alex Bash, one of the cofounders of Zerion, told Bitcoin Magazine, “I personally was really inspired by the idea of Wafer, a team that implemented a protocol that allows users and routers to share internet [access]. Their idea is based on smart contracts that guarantee the fair prices and conditions for both parties. Also the Lapti team who developed a product that processes various cryptocurrencies, generates a hot wallet for each user and aggregates their payments to a single wallet after collection of statistics and analytics.”
Every one of the 25 teams that participated presented a demo of the software they had created over the weekend.
“Overall, I think it’s a good result for the hackathon, that most of the teams not only came up with interesting ideas, but developed real products and solutions during the weekend,” said Bash.
Rodion Mikhalev, the director of the Blockchain Education Network in Russia, attended both the conference in Saint Petersburg and the hackathon in Moscow. He said that he expects the community in Russia will continue to grow very quickly.
“The Russian Government approved the entire concept of cryptocurrencies a few weeks ago, and a new industry in Russia has been unleashed surrounding blockchain technology,” Mikhalev told Bitcoin Magazine. “At the hackathon, we witnessed something new and extraordinary: a combination of smarts and digital innovation and a sense that through the evolution of blockchain technology, we will see Russia quickly rise as a powerhouse in the tech world. There will be a lot of positive products and services adapted to blockchain technology at a rapid pace.”
What happens next in regard to blockchain development in Russia remains to be seen, as there are still few blockchain companies that operate in the country. One thing we can be certain of though is that the technology is now high on their radar.
Michael Gord is a blockchain developer at TD and the founder of Bitcoin Canada and the McGill Cryptocurrency Club. While at McGill, Michael organized the Bitcoin Airdrop events where he gave hundreds of students their first bitcoin.