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Why hackathons are an important part of Coinbase culture

By Author


, September 6, 2018

, 4 min read time

Great engineers love building creative solutions to important problems. That’s certainly true for us here at Coinbase. While it’s easy to get caught up in the daily tasks and to-dos, we strongly believe in giving ourselves the space to experiment with creative ideas — even if they aren’t directly related to the company’s near-term goals.

At Coinbase, hackathons are an opportunity to have fun and forge new friendships, to try new things we’re not sure will work, and to learn new skills or platforms. It’s a chance to explore big ideas and to build prototypes we wouldn’t otherwise build. Building an open financial system for the world is no easy task, and it’s one that requires us to always explore, innovate, build, and rebuild. That’s why we hack.

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We proudly hosted our most successful hackathon to date: Vision Hack 2028.

While Coinbase has hosted a hackathon every year, this one was set to be the biggest yet. It needed a big name and vision to match. This is where Vision Hack 2028 was born — a five day, all-company hackathon that took place last week. The goal was to build ideas that would reshape what an open financial system could look like in 10 years.


These Vision Hack posters were hung all over Coinbase’s San Francisco office

During Vision Hack 2028, we issued no specific guidance and few constraints. New features, product improvements, even standalone experiments, and apps were all fair game. The week was all about building and trying new things in a space where it was okay to fail. It was about enabling the potential of crypto and blockchain, about bringing us closer to the open financial system. The bigger and more futuristic the idea, the more excitement there is to take it on.

This year more than 150 ideas were submitted from across the company — new engineers, managers, executive assistants, recruiters, and even our CEO, Brian, spent some time planning, designing or coding. Over the course of the week, the hack teams spent time together brainstorming, coding, testing and bringing their idea to life and, on Friday, judges determined winners and handed out prizes based on various categories such as —

The Hard Fork Award (a project that solved the most technical debt), The Proof of People Award (a project voted the favorite by all employees), The Values Award (a project that best embodied our 4 values of clear communication, positive energy, continuous learning and efficient execution), The Satoshi Award (a project with best use of Crypto), and The Vision Hack Award (the best overall project) to name a few.


One fun project encouraged participants to draw the infamous founder of Bitcoin

Lots of projects got us excited, but here are just a few highlights:

Project Spend Less Money: Like many fast-growing startups, we’re no stranger to scaling challenges, and it’s something we actively work to get ahead of every day. For hack week, some of our infrastructure team set out to use site reliability engineering principles to determine the saturation points of our most expensive services and implement auto-scaling solutions. By the end of the hack week, they surpassed their initial goal and the solutions developed were projected to reduce backend overhead costs significantly. To top it off, they were proud winners of the Vision Hack Award for the best overall project.

Crypto Point of Sale: As the easiest and most secure crypto wallet and browser, Coinbase Wallet is your gateway to the decentralized web. At the Vision hack, the wallet team and commerce team partnered together to work on Crypto Point of Sale. The idea was “How might we enable anyone anywhere in the world to start accepting cryptocurrency at brick and mortar locations?” This team made it happen with an app that seamlessly links to Coinbase Commerce and allows merchants to accept cryptocurrency on one or more devices.

The PWNed Watch: Security at Coinbase is a top priority and that includes helping protect our employees’ personal information. This is a prototype for an optional tool for Coinbase employees to register their personal information to help monitor and alert both the employee and the security team for signs of security breaches, like SIM swaps, password dumps or phone porting attacks.

Octopus: Octopus is the internal code name for the dynamic configuration management tool that provides a streamlined solution for managing configuration style data. It rapidly enables or disables individual features and updates configurations for experiments on all services without a code push, while providing robust version control and rollback functionality. Having the right infrastructure for development and product lifecycle management is essential to moving fast with quality. This project raises the bar!

Web Animations: This project focused on improving the user experience on Coinbase by enhancing selected interfaces with animations, and engaging with the users in delightful ways.

While most of these ideas are just prototypes at this stage, we’re excited to explore ways to incorporate them into our vision of building an open financial system for the world. Be sure to stay tuned.

We believe in giving our people the space to bring their own creative ideas to life — and Vision Hack is just one fun example. If you enjoy working in a fun, high energy environment and want to join our next hackathon, check out our open positions on our careers page. We’d love to hear from you.

Unless otherwise indicated, all images and video provided herein are by Coinbase.

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