Blockchain hackathon: an overdue Irish look at cryptocurrency?

19 Oct 2015

Cryptocurrency, the financial word of choice that best confuses the masses. But it doesn’t have to be that way, with Blockchain Hackathon set to shake up the industry.

When you hear the word cryptocurrency you probably think bitcoin. It’s the best-known variant and, to be fair, sets the scene quite well.

But why has so little in Ireland been done to capture an industry that is, rather infamously, changing the way we deal with money?

That’s what Kevin Loaec thought when setting up Blockchain Hackathon, his attempt to make Irish businesses and, more importantly, the Irish Government stand up and take notice.

Set to be hosted in DCU next month and backed by the likes of Deloitte and Fidelity Investments, the 150-competitor hackathon, which will be the largest held in Europe, has €10,000 on offer for the best blockchain products built from scratch.

There are 50 hours set aside for people to get to work, with pitching leading to teams and, ultimately, products.

“We wanted to do something big, to show that, despite the lack of visibility so far, Ireland is definitely one of the leading countries for blockchain research and development,” says Loaec, the MD of Chainsmiths, which is running the event.

“Most people look at blockchain as something ‘dodgy’,” he tells me, “but what I want to show is this is not the case.

“The industry is moving towards this technology. Look at the likes of Citi, its biggest blockchan lab is in Dublin.

“In fact, most – if not all – banks are working on blockchain research and some will release products in a few years, maybe even months.”

To be held from 6 to 8 November, Loaec is hoping to attract a broad spectrum of entrants, with people from all over the world already lining up to take part. As it’s happening just after the Web Summit closes, there won’t be a shortage of clever minds knocking around the city, either.

Competitors will own what they produce, although Loaec explains that he will offer advice on what should be done.

“They don’t have to open source it, but we recommend that. You can still own the rights after you open source. We will explain all this to the participants.”

The event, Loaec hopes, will eventually see an active participation from the Irish Government. “The Government isn’t supporting blockchain just yet,” he says, “whereas in the UK the opposite is true.”

Indeed, it does seem that people are taking notice, with Simon Harris, Minister of State with Responsibility for International Financial Services, already backing the event.

“From my extensive consultations leading up to the publication of the Government’s International Financial Services’ Strategy, IFS2020, it was immediately apparent that financial innovation and technologies had to be a priority,” he said.

“Similarly blockchain is emerging as a cutting-edge development in this sphere.”


Fintech Focus is a week of fresh fintech-focused content hosted on from 19 to 23 October. Stay up to date with the latest stories by subscribing to our news alerts, or follow the hashtag #FintechFocus from @siliconrepublic on Twitter.

Main image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic