Amid developer drought, teams turning to hackathons to find talent

If there’s not enough developers to go around, why not train up some more?

Amid a bull market for decentralized finance (DeFi) that has teams developing new products at a breakneck pace, the demand for smart contract developers couldn’t be higher — but, unfortunately, the amount of available talent couldn’t be lower. 

Team members from multiple projects have taken to Twitter in recent weeks to gripe about the shallow hiring pool, including representatives from high-profile mainstays like Yearn.Finance and Sushiswap. The complaints come despite hefty incentive packages that include token allocations and generous salaries — but regardless of the carrots projects offer, there simply aren’t enough developers to go around.

Fuck, we’ve hit the “developer crunch” portion of the bull market

— I’m just a doggie boi (@fubuloubu) April 7, 2021

In the absence of established developers, multiple project have instead taken to nurturing new ones with an unusual, but in many ways ideal recruitment tool: hackathons. 

Last weekend multiservice venture capital outfit Delphi Digital and IDEO CoLab co-sponsored a weekend hackathon. Designed specifically to incubate promising young teams, successful projects from the hackathon were then invited to an 11-week mentorship program with the possibility of a full seed investment at the end.

“We found early on that hackathon style events are better at identifying talent than they are at surfacing investable ideas,” said Delphi’s José Macedo. “That’s mostly because getting to an investable idea in a few days is really hard, but it’s also because we’re simulating what it’s like to work with folks and see things like their bias to action and how they work with others. People stand out pretty quickly based on their actual behaviors which allows us to identify and work with talent based on merit.”

Macedo referred to hackathons as “one of the main channels” the organization uses for hiring and identifying investment-worthy early projects.

Likewise, Chainlink is currently running a virtual hackathon set to conclude on April 11th. According to community manager Keenan Olsen, the $130,000 prize pool brought in over 300 project submissions. Fostering and developing talent was baked into the process from the get-go, with multiple workshops scheduled throughout the event.

Synthetic asset platform Synthetix also has a close eye on the Chainlink hackathon as well, as the project’s Grants DAO voted to co-sponsor the event. 15 different projects are building on top of the protocol as a result, and the DAO may considering funding them for further development after the event concludes. 

According to Stephen Fluin, the head of developer relations at Chainlink Labs, hackathons are a great way for young talent to get noticed.

“We actively hire both from our community and people we meet at events and hackathons. Hackathons are a great way to showcase your ability to our team, who are often following the event, teams, and projects closely,” he said.

In a Tweet today, Macedo revealed that the Delphi team is bullish enough on hackathons that they’re running yet another, just one month after one concluded:

Capital is abundant rn but talent is scarce @Delphi_Digital is a squad of 30+ researchers, investors & builders. Our goal is help build and fund the products that take crypto mainstream

That’s why we’re launching the #deficonnected hackathonhttps://t.co/brDOpiWjqP

— José Maria Macedo (@ZeMariaMacedo) April 9, 2021

It’s a talent pipeline Delphi hopes to formalize in the coming months. 

“Our goal is to create a repeatable process that allows us to source and identify great talent, build strong teams and use our experience to help guide them to solve some of the most important problems in the space.”

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