The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) Youth and Young Adults (YAYA) hosted the first Church-led hackathon in Nigeria between November 1 and 3, 2018.
The theme of the hackathon was Eradicating poverty and Redistributing wealth using Technology. It took place at the massive RCCG Youth Centre, Redemption Camp along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, somewhere on the outskirts of Lagos. Not to worry, they handled accommodation, feeding and transportation for the camping “hackers”.
We were so excited about the "movement" that we registered for the event and had one of our correspondents, Donaldson Okoye, actually participate in the event. Below is a report of the order of events from Benjamin and Donaldson as they witnessed it.
Benjamin: On October 31, the Kingdom hack organising team sent out emails to the selected participants, advising on the arrival date, transportation plans and contact persons for the event. The email was immediately followed up with an SMS. I do not recall fully but I think I also received a call confirming whether I would be attending or not, but I told them NO.
Donaldson: Every participant that qualified to attend the Kingdom Hack was expected to be at the event venue by 3 pm. I arrived an hour earlier with some other participants (they organised a bus to convey those of us staying in Lagos to the place). We were ushered to the hall (Youth Centre) where we ate lunch.
As an aside, I must say that I enjoyed the meal!
Afterwards, they provided a bus to convey us to where we would sleep (let’s say siesta). We were expected to return to the hall by 7 pm.
The hackathon started officially by 7 pm with an opening speech from the organisers. Later on, a guest speaker for the event, charged us on the topic “Eradicating poverty using technology”, making reference to how some organisations are currently using technology to eradicate poverty.
Immediately after his talk, we were instructed to split into groups of six by the time the grouping was done, nine teams emerged.
The names of the nine teams were Wagro (agritech), 4kaid (fintech), Link Up (gig-economy based solution), Credital (fintech), Trace Up (gig-economy based solution), Work dey (gig-economy based solution), Earn X (gig-economy based solution), Growstack (gig-economy based solution) and one other team whose name I can't recall. I joined team Growstack, an Andela for unskilled people.
In essence, there was one Agritech team, two fintech teams, five teams focused on the gig-economy and one miscellaneous.
A mentor was assigned to each team, one of which was the famous ForLoop founder, Ridwan Olalere.
The first day (Nov. 1) was strictly for grouping, brainstorming and ideation.
The second day which was a Friday, each team was expected to be at the event hall for 8 am to begin working on the solution build plus carry out market validations.
Mentors challenged the thinking of teams, identifying loopholes in solution logic and advise on best practices. In the evening, each group was made to do a mock pitch to their mentors (who acted as the judges).
By the end of the day, they emailed participants a list of resources that could help them prepare for the D-day.
The email contained access to free credits on Google Cloud Platform for Developers, and information on the judging criteria.
The judging criteria were split into three key areas: Validation (is their solution an answer to an existing problem?), Execution and Design (how are they going about solving the problem), and Business model (how will they make money?).
But nothing in the criteria speaks directly to alignment with the theme of the hackathon, more on this in the concluding paragraph.
On Saturday, the D-Day, most teams came in late because they had spent the night (some were awake up until 4 am) fine-tuning their idea, as the pitching event was set for noon.
By 12 pm, the judges were around to kick-off the demo and pitch day.
Although I could not gather much information on the names of the Judges, I was able to spot the son of the General Overseer of the RCCG, Pastor Dare Adeboye.
By 6 pm that day, the result was compiled and it was time to announce the winners.
Team Credital emerged the winner, followed by Team Link Up and Team Wagro. They were given prizes of 1 million naira, 750,000 naira and 500,000 naira respectively.
Benjamin and Donaldson: Although there were lapses in the actual organisation of the event flow, the logistics and communication showed that effort was put into the planning.
For a 3-day event, we would have expected that there would be coaching sessions on vital entrepreneurial topics like business plan development, minimum viable product development and product-market fit. As it stands, a lot of the teams would most likely dump their idea and wait for the next hackathon for a chance to win a monetary reward when they could be actively thinking about starting a business from their hackathon idea and experience.
Team Wagro is a platform that gives farmers useful insights like a potential date of harvest and then links the farmers to buyers. Nothing in their pitch showed that they were aware of the logistics and warehousing issues currently plaguing the agricultural system in Nigeria. Yet, their solution emerged the third most preferred at the hackathon, which speaks to the quality of solutions pitched.
Also, it felt like the theme of the hackathon “eradicating poverty” was relegated to the back-burner when it came time to judge the solutions. For instance, Credital is a peer to peer financial services platform that encourages borrowing and saving.
But how do you expect people living below $1 to repay a loan or even save, in the first instance? Nothing in their pitch made mention of that, yet their solution emerged as the first position.
Perhaps, other aspects of their pitch like “Execution and Design” impressed the judges over validation and business model. We would advise that a premium is placed on the question of whether a pitched solution is addressing the theme of the hackathon.
A weighted-average scoring formula could be used to grade pitches, where business model and alignment with the hackathon theme would weigh more.
The hackathon (“Kingdom Hack”) is a welcomed initiative that could be adopted by other churches and religious institutions as an entry point to birth a change in the country.
Disclaimer: We agree that we might be expecting too much from a 3-day hackathon. The feedback here could apply for hackathons with longer duration. Also, you do not have to implement all of the suggestions here. Thanks for reading our piece!