Bay BitHack: Hacking, Learning & Community

Teams from across UCB (CS, EECS, iSchool, Haas) as well as two teams from Gunn High School convened at the Haas iLab for 36 straight hours of hacking, learning and community.

All participants shared an enthusiasm for the potential of both BitCoin and the underlying blockchain technologies to impact industries beyond finance. For now, though, a common theme for the demos and prototypes was that of making it easier to integrate BitCoin into daily life. One speaker’s vision is to “make sending money as fast and cheap as sending an email.”

Several student teams focused on this mission of BitCoin integration, such as spending (while being rewarded) at local businesses (El Dorado). Others focused on turning regular coins into BitCoins via a specialized coin sorter (Coins for BitCoin) and another provided a solution for using BitCoin anywhere Paypal is accepted.

Social impact played a role for several of the teams as they sought to leverage blockchain technologies underlying BitCoin and other cryptocurrencies.

BitCoin for Good focused on abstracting away the complexity of receiving and spending BitCoin so that charities can accept/use the currency easily and seamlessly. As the team pointed out, this is very handy in times of natural disasters or in remote parts of the world lacking banking infrastructure.

Two other social impact teams focused on enabling BitCoin as a payment system for underserved populations, both geographically and structurally. This solves the problem for customers living in remote parts of Africa where banks do not find it financially feasible to open. With BitCoin, however, payments and even loans can be made, over the phone.

Bitcoin Umbrella (with MBA 16 Chadwick Strange) is developing a product to decentralize insurance. The goal is to provide farmers, home owners and others in Africa a way to join together for a common fund to cheaply and equitably crowdfund insurance. Another team, Bit Credit, aims to eliminate pay day loans by empowering groups of friends and families to build credit unions amongst themselves and conduct transactions such as short term loans.

The weekend ended on a high note as teams congratulated each other and talked about what’s next. Team El Dorado said it best, “We envision a world in which the streets are paved not in gold, but in BitCoin!”