The Hedera20 Hackathon Guide by Hashing Systems
Apr 28, 2020
by The Hashing Systems Team

A lot has changed since Hedera18: the Hedera mainnet is live, thousands of people have joined the ecosystem, and over a million transactions have been processed. Development resources are also above and beyond what they were in 2018.

Now, we’re all preparing for Hedera20, using what we’ve learned to put together a guide for making the most of this virtual hackathon!

Benefits of participating in Hedera20

Spur your innovation

Hackathons stimulate your creativity and foster problem-solving and risk-taking in a casual environment. The time crunch makes for a uniquely productive atmosphere that forces participants to materialize their visions into actionable solutions. This hackathon could be the breeding ground of the next big idea that becomes a startup.

Become a part of the Hedera community

This is a great opportunity to participate in the Hedera community. A chance to stay current and connected to other makers and entrepreneurs building on the network. People are more willing to connect with each other during a hackathon because networking is one major objective of these events.

During Hedera20, you’ll have the chance to meet innovators from varying fields like fintech and healthcare, all working on Hedera Hashgraph. There are certain people you definitely want to reach out to like Paul Madsen, Hedera’s technical lead, and Jordan Fried, SVP of business development at Hedera.

Develop technical skills and become a Blockchain Developer

Wouldn’t it be great to learn a new technical skill for free? That’s exactly what you can do at a hackathon. At Hedera20, you’ll find the environment, the tools, and the mentors to guide you.

We’ll be hosting webinars and AMAs geared toward developing your skills and answering your questions so stay tuned for updates on the insights page and Hedera’s Twitter. You will also have a great set of advocates to help you succeed: Greg Scullard (lead developer advocate), Cooper Kunz (developer evangelist), and Ken Anderson (lead developer advocate) are good people to reach out to when building your project during and after the hackathon for expert advice. I’ve linked their twitter accounts but you can also find them on the Hedera Discord channel.

Enhance your soft skills

The hackathon isn't just for tech skills. The environment is an ideal place to foster soft skills. Over a short period of time, you’ll be expected to collaborate effectively under pressure with a team, perhaps made up of strangers. You have to figure out your team members’ strengths and divide up work: who’s going to design the user experience, code the backend, and present on demo day? These are questions that test your ability to read people and come to consensus in a group, invaluable skills in any field.

Get recognition and win prizes

Of course, if you’re successful at Hedera20, you could win awards. Aside from a financial benefit, these prizes are great to showcase on your resume. If you do well at the hackathon, your ideas and projects could attract the attention of major players in the startup space. Venture capital firms, angel investors, and corporate partners are always on the lookout for rising stars. Catching their eye could mean turning your competition idea into a successful business.

What you need to know before you go

Join Hedera

Since you’ll be building on Hedera, you probably want to have your Hedera account set up before the hackathon. There are two ways the Hashing System's team recommends you do this: Composer and Hedera Portal. Composer is Hashing Systems' web extension wallet that allows you to create Hedera accounts using your Google account. You can also use Hedera Portal by inputting your citizenship information and email. Check out this detailed tutorial or this quick tutorial for instructions on making a Hedera account.

Choose a wallet

Now that you have a mainnet account, you need to get a wallet to manage that account. You can use the Composer web extension as your wallet. Your keys are not stored in Composer’s servers, they’re stored in your computer, which is an important step to keeping them safe. Other options include Ledger (hardware wallet), Atomic wallet (desktop wallet), and the Hedera wallet mobile app.

Get testnet HBAR

The Hedera testnet provides a free development environment, using fake or test hbar to build your project. It doesn’t have any monetary value but will allow you to make transactions and test your code.

To receive testnet hbar you can create an account through the Hedera Portal without a full identity check. You can also receive some testnet hbars by creating an account with Hashing Systems.

Getting HBAR and transferring it to your wallet

While you don't need hbar to build in development, you will once you're live on the mainnet. You can use exchanges to buy actual hbar. While we don't endorse any exchange, you can see a list of those that support hbar. You can then transfer hbars via the same exchange to your Hedera account by withdrawing the amount from your exchange account. Check out our step-by-step tutorial on DailyStamp.

Building on Hedera

Download your tools, like a Hedera SDK, and ensure that you have everything set up before you get to the hackathon. You don’t want to spend hackathon time on housekeeping items.

Hedera Development Framework

If you plan to use smart contracts you should make sure that you download and set up your smart contract development framework. We created Console to help us with the repetitiveness of deployments. It’s useful for building and managing the resources within a project. It also helps you interact with them while testing. You also get a graphic interface where you can click to create a Consensus topic or upload a file.

After deploying the files, topics, and contracts you want to use with your application. You can begin building a user interface for your platform, your front end.

Console makes this easy by exporting a javascript file with all the functions to interact with what you’ve deployed on Hedera.

How to connect your front end to Hedera.

In order to read/write data to Hedera, you need to have either Hash-SDK or Hedera-SDK. We built Hash-SDK to have the same functions as a Hedera SDK, but combine some functions to save time.

For example, uploading a contract usually means uploading it 4 megabyte splits, but with hash-sdk, you call the “upload” function and it will batch that for you. It also provides a secure layer to store user’s keys, so now you can connect to Composer, or provide a UI input for mnemonic/private keys, by simply calling the setProvider function. Check out these demo projects to get started!

This demo project for express-based applications is available here.

Connecting It All: Double-check Your Environment

Familiarize yourself with your new development environment and tools. Even though this hackathon last weeks, it’s not advisable to have the first time you use these tools be the same day of the hackathon. Check out the different functions and don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions.

Getting information

When building on Hedera, know that there’s a community of people cheering you on. Take advantage of the variety of knowledge channels in Hedera to gather information, as opposed to just googling it. Hedera’s Discord channel and the conversations page for the hackathon are good official spaces to speak to other members of the Hedera community. You can also speak directly with startups building on Hedera. Reach out to us on Twitter @hashingsystems if you have any questions.

Our goal is to help people build on Hedera, so we welcome anyone innovating on the platform. There are also several tutorials on DailyStamp, our Medium blog, and Hedera’s website that you can reference for any questions you may have. If you want one-on-one help, reach out to the Hedera20 mentors through the hackathon website.

Your Team

Great startups and superhero movies have one thing in common. They both have great teams. It’s always the hero with a killer team that saves the day. You can have a great idea, but unless you work efficiently with your team you won’t come out on top.

As with anything, you should (1) start looking for teammates early. Aside from friends and family, you can reach out to the developer community for others looking for teammates. Hedera’s Telegram chat is a good place to start. You can also check out sites like Stack Exchange, Stack Overflow, and Quora.

(2) Find people with skills that complement yours. The point of having a team is to have a wider range of abilities in your toolset. This makes for holistic projects. Design and presentation skills are sometimes lacking in teams, for example.

You don’t want to spend your limited time at the hackathon deciding what to build. These competitions go by quickly, so (3) think through what you want to build before the hackathon starts. This will give you valuable time to use hacking.

Hedera will enable individual project pages in the hackathon website for participants to manage their teams and scout for new talent. You’ll be able to specify the skills you’re looking for and the ones you’re bringing to the table. Make sure to have your team members all join the team on the Hedera hackathon website. This will allow judges to see the teams that they’re reviewing and will facilitate the awarding of prizes.

During the hackathon

Keep it light

As you prepare for the hackathon, think about Internet connectivity and the challenges that might mean for you. You should have already downloaded and installed all your tools, but if for some reason you need to redownload and install tools like Hash-SDK using npm, it will not be a huge issue. We’ve recommended tools and setups that are lightweight and let you focus on building efficiently. However, every option has a cost in terms of time to install and ease of use, so think through your situation and how the tools that you use could impact what you make.

Keep docs close

For whatever tools you choose to build with, keep the documentation open on a tab on your web browser. You might need to reference them during your hacking, and you don’t want to waste time searching for them.

Keep it simple

Hackathon winners are often able to limit themselves to a scope. The time crunch means that you won’t be able to sort out every detail or fix every bug. The simpler you keep the scope of your project, the more likely that you will be able to bring a version of it to life. Remember, for most hackathons, your app does not have to exactly be ready to deploy.


If you choose to grow your project after the hackathon, consider applying to Hedera Boost. You could get $3,000 USD and access to exclusive mentorship opportunities and information channels by joining this program!

Ultimately, a hackathon will be what you make it. They're a great chance to meet people, learn something new, and even win prizes. We hope to see you competing at the Hedera20 hackathon.