The second BSV Hackathon took place over the weekend of August 17-19, 2019, with entrants tasked with designing inventive ways for users to use the BSV blockchain to earn value through microtransactions. More than 200 developers participated in the competition, with 18 projects submitted for final judging.
In the end, Codugh, led by Shashank Singhal and Andrew Snow, walked away with the first-place prize of $20,000. Codugh’s solution to encouraging people to earn and use BSV was straightforward yet incredibly useful: an API marketplace where developers can post their APIs on a public platform and earn money when they are used.
Bitcoin Association spoke to Codugh Co-founder Shashank Singhal about his experience participating in the BSV Hackathon and how it has contributed to their business.
Bitcoin Association (BA): How much did you and Andrew know about Bitcoin and blockchain technology when you entered the BSV Hackathon in August 2019?
Shashank Singhal (SS): I’ve been involved with Bitcoin since around 2016 as I was interested in Bitcoin as a technology and investment. Although I tracked the community over time, I didn’t start to seriously build on Bitcoin until 2019. I’ve never worked as a professional developer, though I was involved in development and worked in the product management and cybersecurity spaces before building on Codugh. My co-founder, Andrew, is a full-time software engineer. So together we had more than enough development power to work through the BSV Hackathon and build Codugh.
BA: How did you come to participate in the BSV ecosystem?
SS: I’ve been following Bitcoin since 2016, and since then I’ve been watching the community. When it forked into Bitcoin Cash, I looked at the two arguments and I had a lot more respect for the opinion of the Bitcoin Cash side: scaling, building, and particularly to build to earn. When the Bitcoin SV fork took place, it was mostly the personalities that went towards BSV and their approach of maintaining a stable protocol that really appealed to me as a developer who builds products and businesses.
Andrew and I entered the first BSV hackathon, where we got a taste for building on BSV. We had a really good time, so we entered the second BSV Hackathon to see if we could pull it off. We built something we thought was amazing, and the judges ended up agreeing with us.
BA: How did you and your co-founder Andrew meet?
SS: Andrew and I have been really good friends since high school and we’ve had many discussions about Bitcoin and Bitcoin SV since. I can remember a time in 2016, when we sat around a table where we were supposed to be studying, and we ended up arguing for two hours over different Bitcoin protocols. Since then we’ve both been super involved with Bitcoin.
BA: When and how did you come up with the idea of Codugh?
SS: We came up with the idea for our project during the hackathon itself. The theme involved micropayments to earn and spend BSV, so we just sat there brainstorming for many, many hours. Obviously, both being developers, we had both used APIs and understood that it was difficult to monetise an API you’d built. That was the problem we wanted to solve, so we used micropayments to do that in building code as an API marketplace.
BA: The first BSV Hackathon took place over a period of 48 hours. Tell us about that experience.
SS: Because we’re Australian, the timing was tricky. The 48-hour period was scheduled to fall over a weekend, but on European time. When the theme was announced, it was already late in the day for us, so we discussed it a bit overnight, then in the morning and all of Saturday afternoon. We spent several hours brainstorming before we actually started building. Saturday night ended up becoming a late night and Sunday a long day.
By Monday morning (Sunday in Europe) we had to go to work again, so we had to wrap things up pretty quickly. I’d say we probably only had 36 hours to spend on the project. But by the end, we were happy. It was a fully functional MVP product. Although it might not have been secure, it worked. You could actually make API calls, transactions and bill users. We were really happy with what we managed to produce.
BA: Tell us more about what Codugh is and does, and how it came to be?
SS: When we were brainstorming project ideas, we made sure to start off with a business perspective. Like I said, I come from a product management background and Andrew is a software engineer with business experience. Our philosophy is that when you’re building a product, you have to think business first, tech second. That’s the only way you can build a successful product.
We tried to ideate a problem, and the one we came up with was that it’s really hard for developers to monetise the code they build. With this problem statement in mind, we could identify our market as software developers who had problems monetising their own code, and build a product based around their needs.
How Codugh works is that developers can build their APIs (an interface that allows other programmes to implement their code) then list it on the Codugh marketplace with a description of what it does. Other developers can then use their API and pay the code’s developers for usage in microtransactions.
BA: What was it like to win the hackathon and what did you do afterwards?
SS: We had to fly to Seoul to present our pitch at the CoinGeek conference. We talked to a lot of great builders and business minds in the BSV community and explained our product to them. People showed great interest and we realised we were onto something good. We were very nervous about presenting our pitch on stage, and it was extremely difficult at the time, but rewatching it, it doesn’t look like we’re nervous up there. And we ended up winning, which was pretty spectacular.
Once we finished at the conference, we went home and we said, ‘All right, let’s do something with this. Let’s make this a thing. We know that it’s a good product. We know people love it.’ We kept validating and ideating, and spent many months talking to prospective customers trying to figure out how to build the best product possible. Once we had a pretty clear idea, we started building, and we built and improved until we had the product we have now. We were in private beta for about a year. Recently we had a full public release and now we’re building stuff to allow users to have a better experience, like a microtransaction token that we’re currently working on.
BA: How did winning the hackathon influence your business and careers?
SS: For a start, the hackathon is great marketing as everyone in the community is watching it. So immediately afterwards, we were being approached by a lot of people who loved our idea and wanted to use it. We got a lot of useful user feedback just from exposure to a bunch of new people, especially those who had started their own businesses and had products ready to be deployed. Because of the hackathon’s exposure, we were able to build a much better product for a much wider audience than we could have otherwise done quickly.
BA: What do you think is lacking in the BSV ecosystem?
SS: BSV has many qualities that puts it ahead of other chains: scalability, a dedication to a stable protocol and low fees. And that’s the reason why we’re here.
But what BSV lacks is ease of development, specifically to do with tokens and smart contracts. While that’s something that’s being built right now, it’s in its infancy. If you go to Ethereum, you can launch NFTs and smart contracts in minutes. You don’t even need to be a developer. You can use frontend tools to do it. In BSV, it’s currently much more complicated, which means that it takes much more time to get a product up and running and you need to work with companies that deal with the legal side of things. These aren’t things you necessarily have to care about as much when you’re dealing with other blockchains. I do think these problems will be solved over time.
BA: What advice do you have for future BSV hackathon participants?
SS: I think the biggest obstacle for participants is when they take a tech-first approach. The most important thing when entering a hackathon is to approach it from a business-first approach, and then apply your technical knowledge afterwards. Think about a problem, a real problem that real users have. Think of a business idea that fixes that problem and then build an interesting technical solution that addresses your business problem. That’s the way to win a hackathon: proving that you have a market and that it’s a business that can make money.