Well, I’ve been away at a hackathon. Not just any old hackathon, but the Grand Final of the MasterCard Masters of Code Hackathon series.

For the past ten months, the Masters of Code competition traversed the globe – from Singapore to New York to Tel Aviv – hosting regional weekend-long events that tasked the world’s top coders, developers, designers and entrepreneurs to create new consumer payments solutions featuring MasterCard APIs.

[From MasterCard Masters of Code Hackathon Series to Crown $100,000 Global Winner | Global Hub]

Naturally, I was flattered to be asked to be one of the judges for the final of the competition in San Francisco on December 4th-6th. The winning teams from each of the regional heats had been brought to San Francisco for a gruelling final weekend in which they were challenged to use MasterCard’s APIs to build a new app from scratch in 24 hours and then pitch it to the panel of judges. This is what the panel looked like from the teams point of view…

MasterCard Hackathon Judges

The other judges were

I couldn’t decide whether to be the Sepp Blatter or the Simon Cowell of the panel, so in the end I asked a few tough questions but wasn’t horrible to anyone and didn’t hit them up for massive bribes either. I can report from the judging room, without letting daylight in on the magic, that there were a few candidates for the top spot and it was genuinely enjoyable to be part of the discussions. I’m pretty sure that more than one of those teams will get VC funding anyway, whatever I thought about them, and I found it fascinating to hear the judges’ views, from very different perspectives, on which of the 24-hour apps would make it (and at least two of the apps that were presented already had real users onboarded before the final presentation!).

The teams had to build apps that used MasterCard APIs but of course they also drew on other APIs, and it was genuinely impressive (to an old guy CORAL-66 programmer like me) to see what they could do in such a sort time in this “amazonised” environment. The power of this approach is a clear message to share with our clients and I learned a lot from my old chum Sebastien Taveau, the Open API Chief Developer Evangelist at MasterCard, about how to engage with the developers and how to create an environment for them to flourish in.


The winners were Gwen Yi Wong and the team from Malaysia who had won the Singapore Hackathon. Their idea, for a service to help to manage payments for maids was appealing, I thought, on two counts: first it dealt with a specific and known problem in a plausible way (by focusing on helping the maid agencies to manage both paperwork and payments), and secondly it had the potential for social good beyond mere payment efficiency. They were worthy winners.

So, well done to MasterCard for creating the Masters of Code Global Hackathon, well done to all of the teams who took part and well done to the the winners, who came up with something great in a short time and against tough competition. I recorded a podcast with Seb and with Gwen and I’ll get it up on the Tomorrow’s Transactions podcast page in a week or so.

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