“Worst audience ever!” That’s how Groningen’s newly appointed Chief Digital Officer and Big Building Head Honcho Nick Stevens jokingly characterizes the applause he receives as he walks up on stage to kick off the Dutch Blockchain Hackathon. It’s exactly 1 pm, and the biggest blockchain hackathon in the world runs on a tight schedule, because there’s plenty of work to be done in the span of just one short weekend.
The work doesn’t stop after this weekend however, because the jam packed hall on the ground floor of the building is filled with people who want to see their blockchain ideas and prototypes become an actual product. There are 5 different tracks and 50 teams working on ways to radically change the way we do things today. Identity, energy, reinventing government, international trade & entrepreneurship and the future of pensions can be vastly improved by both blockchain and the hard work of the guys and girls here this weekend.
“It’s funny when you think about the fact that this used to be the building the Postal Service was housed in”, Nick Stevens says, after warming up the crowd. “The Postal Service was a trusted party, they would handle your mail and in the UK you would pick up your drivers license there. They would centrally manage and control things for all of us.”
“And they’ve moved out of this building and we moved in”, he continues. “Much in the way blockchain takes over the role of traditional trusted parties, it’s up to us to make great things here.”
Huge & amazing
Vice Mayor Joost van Keulen admits he based his entire speech on a guy he saw wearing a red baseball cap that reads “Make blockchain great again!”. In true Trump style, with more than frequent use of superlatives and based on a lot of ‘alternative facts’: “There are currently 400.000 people gathered here, from 10.000 different countries, it’s amazing. This is huge!”
Van Keulen continues with a couple of actual facts: “Groningen is really the ideal place for this hackathon. According to the EU, we are the most creative and innovative city in Europe. And, normally, government is not that welcoming of new technology, or change for that matter, but I’m proud that we’ve already have one blockchain based project here, the city voucher card for minimum income families here in Groningen, called the ‘Stadjerspas’.
Fulltime hustle mode
Hackathon initiator Rutger van Zuidam is a little overwhelmed by the applause. “We’ve been working on this for months, and now that I’m standing here in front of all you people: it’s fucking amazing! This is it right here. Instead of talking about blockchain, we’re building something here, together, solving big problems. There are people here all the way from Hong Kong and Singapore, that’s so incredible!”
After a couple of logistical announcements and a short tour of the hall, Rutger points out that if anything should go wrong, the teams shouldn’t be worried. “Embrace crisis. If something breaks down, come to us and we’ll do everything in our power to help you fix it. We’re in full time hustle mode once the clock starts ticking.”
Riding the crest of the blockchain wave
Before the big red button can be pushed to start the ticking clock and officially kick off the hackathon, Startup Delta Special Envoy Prince Constantijn stresses the importance of what’s happening here in the Big Building this weekend: “Blockchain has so much potential. We are desperately looking for trust in this world, because trust has been eroded. And blockchain has the potential to fill that void and create new trust, not just between machines, but also between people.”
“This is the first step in building a community, create actual solutions for societal problems”, Prince Constantijn continues. “We’re here together to work, we’re here together to share what we know, to lift the floor and raise the ceiling. We’re taking little steps here to shape the future, so think big and also allow failure, because failure is also just another relevant step in the process. We’re riding the crest of the blockchain wave here.”
Constantijn stresses the fact that this hackathon is not a real competition, but that two teams will be showcased during the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas this year. And when the big red button is finally pushed by Constantijn, Rutger, Nick and Joost, and the countdown from 10 finally starts, everyone there is Rick Rolled, enjoying 15 seconds of Never Gonna Give You Up, before the work officially begins.
PHOTO CREDITS: Knelis