Four teams stood out at the August GAS Station held in Bangalore during the APAC Hackathon tour. This in-person event, which took place Aug. 26 and 27, was the third of five stops leading up to the final showcase in Hong Kong. The two Excellence Prize winners from Bangalore will participate in the finale for a share of the prize pool, which boasts approximately US $1 million in rewards and support.

The Excellence Prize winners were NeoCast and NeoPay, who earned $5,000 in GAS and $1,000 travel grants for the Hong Kong event. Two projects also won sponsored awards – Kooka won an AWS Choice award, taking home $5,000 in prizes; Omniport won $2,500 from QuillAudits.

The grand finale, christened Neo Era, is set to unfold at CyberPort in Hong Kong on Oct. 27 and 28. Participants at the event can showcase their projects across five categories, each offering a chance to win $10,000 along with incubation support. These categories span DeFi and Payment; NFT and Gaming; AI, Social, and DAO; Infrastructure and Tooling; and General.

For those unable to make it to an in-person event, there’s an opportunity to enter projects online and still stand a chance to win the grand prize. The deadline for online submissions is Oct. 20.

Excellence Winner: NeoCast

NeoCast is an innovative open communication middleware for Neo, designed to bridge the gap between on-chain and off-chain worlds by offering cross-chain notifications and messaging for dApps, wallets, and services. The primary goal is simplifying communication for dApps and DAOs, ensuring they can interface within and outside their ecosystem. With the aid of this protocol, any entity, be it a smart contract, dApp, or backend service, can communicate on-chain and off-chain using wallet addresses. The system is designed to be open, feeless, multichain, and platform-agnostic.

The Chennai-based NeoCast team comprises Fabian Ferno, blockchain and backend engineer, and Daniel Mark, full-stack engineer. With a history that traces back to their college days and a subsequent professional stint at a startup, the duo identified a gap in Neo’s offerings: the absence of a push notification service tailored for dApps.

Established during their participation in the hackathon, NeoCast was conceived to fulfill this very need. While similar services exist on the EVM, the team saw an opportunity to bring a more versatile communication middleware to the Neo landscape that integrates with N3’s native features. The platform’s current capabilities extend to webhooks, integrations akin to IFTTT, and much more.

NeoCast’s MVP currently boasts comprehensive communication features, from creating a topic for a dApp, subscribing to topics for broadcasted messages, and integrating with third-party services like Discord. They also offer a fully documented REST API.

Speaking with NNT, Fabian Ferno elaborated on the team’s experience building on Neo. “The fact that Neo had almost every utility feature built natively on its N3 chain was surprising to me. Most chains heavily rely on third-party services to enable such primitive features on their chain. The developers of Neo have really put a lot of thought into providing the best developer experience for the blockchain.”

Ferno also expressed appreciation for the flexibility of the Neo system. He stated, “Furthermore, the ability to develop smart contracts in the language of our choice is an additional feature that caught our eye.” 

As the team looks to the future, NeoCast is aimed at becoming the go-to solution for Web3 communication. By acting as a bridge between dApps, DAOs, and the World Wide Web, Ferno and Mark hope to usher in a new era where decentralized solutions can seamlessly integrate with conventional web services.

With eyes set on the Hong Kong finale, the NeoCast team plans to refine and expand its existing product, intending to position it as an indispensable tool in the Neo ecosystem.

Excellence Winner: NeoPay

NeoPay is the brainchild of a passionate team from Hyderabad and Pune. Frontend developer Rohan Reddy, blockchain developer Vijay Ankith, and full-stack developer Siv Ram Shastri all hail from Hyderabad, collaborating with Pune-based blockchain developer Chaitanya Joshi. The team came to the hackathon with relationships already formed through the Hyderabad DAO community.

NeoPay seeks to simplify token exchanges between users. In the current scenario, when someone wishes to send X tokens to an individual who prefers Y tokens, it demands a process involving third-party decentralized exchanges. NeoPay challenges this method. By integrating their wallets with NeoPay, users can select their desired tokens for transactions and execute them all in one smooth exchange without working through third-party intermediaries. The team built its product on the NeoEVM that was spun up for developers to use at the hackathon, and transactions are made via scanning a QR code in the dApp.

The inspiration for NeoPay emerged when the team members recognized the convoluted processes required for what they felt should be straightforward token exchanges. Identifying an opportunity, they envisaged a platform that could simplify these steps, offering both the sender and recipient a hassle-free solution.

At this juncture, NeoPay’s foundational features are available for users on its landing page. Wallet integration is streamlined, setting the stage for upcoming transactional procedures. However, the team has grand visions for NeoPay’s future and is in the process of creating dedicated mobile applications for iOS and Android platforms.

Furthermore, NeoPay is expanding beyond the current scan-and-pay feature, venturing into the realm of tap-and-pay. This innovative approach will enable users with NFC-enabled devices to complete payments even more easily, underlining the team’s commitment to setting new standards in token transactions.

The team’s development journey on the Neo platform was marked by pleasant surprises, particularly the native features and capabilities the Neo blockchain offered. As Shastri pointed out, the most welcome surprise was “the amazing features of Neo blockchain, which natively supports a lot of features, which other L1’s are not supporting at the moment.”

The ultimate vision for NeoPay transcends just being another payment system in the blockchain space. Its ambition is to redefine the way payments are made. Through its intuitive scan-and-pay and tap-and-pay features, NeoPay aims to streamline the transition to the Neo blockchain, providing a more enriching and seamless experience, potentially for the next billion users of Web3.

As winners of a Neo Excellence Award, the team is preparing for the final event in Hong Kong, where plans include refining and expanding NeoPay. The goal is to introduce robust new features and perfect a user-friendly mobile application. 

AWS Choice Winner: Kooka

Founded by Jason Dsouza, Kooka emerges as an innovative solution addressing a longstanding challenge in the world of blockchain: interoperability. The project, which began its journey under Dsouza’s leadership, is aimed at creating a scalable and secure protocol for Web3. It emphasizes permissionless cross-chain messaging and data transfer across various blockchain networks, including EVM, Solana, Cosmos, and others.

Kooka stands out with its approach to interoperability. Dsouza elaborates, “You can effectively interact with smart contracts on chain B from chain A without ever having to leave chain A. We designed Kooka to provide a decentralized and cost-effective message-passing environment.” This approach promises use cases that range from permissionless bridges to omnichain money markets.

The inspiration behind Kooka stems from Dsouza’s long-standing involvement in the crypto space since 2017. Reflecting on the project’s inception, he shared, “Interoperability has always been at the top of our minds because it’s the natural way to evolve the next wave in this space.” He expressed concern over the trade-offs other solutions made between speed and security, pointing out that Kooka seeks to offer both without compromise.

A significant portion of Kooka’s protocol is ready for testing and integration. Looking ahead, the team’s focus remains on bringing in projects from Neo and other blockchain platforms to explore the potential of cross-chain messaging. When asked about his experience working with Neo, Dsouza remarked, “The developer ecosystem was way better than I’d previously expected. Lots of cool projects are being built here.”

QuillAudits Winner: Omniport

Md Mohsin Siddiqui’s Omniport project is aimed at simplifying the process of blockchain migration. OmniPort’s promise is compelling: migrating projects from one blockchain to another in a mere 15 minutes, a dramatic reduction from the typical timeframe. 

Siddiqui’s inspiration for Omniport came from a tangible industry challenge. He remarked, “The idea came from when Degods, which is a well-known project, took almost six months to migrate from Solana to Ethereum.” Such lengthy transitions present a clear pain point in the blockchain sector, and Siddiqui seeks to address this head-on.

Detailing the current status and plans for Omniport, Siddiqui explained, “In order to migrate a complete project from one chain to another, the founders should use the creator portal to deploy collection contracts on both the chains, and later users can just use the user portal to migrate easily. Later on, I will be working on the creator portal for projects to deploy across any chains with a few clicks.”

Siddiqui built on the prototype NeoEVM that was spun up for the hackathon, allowing him to use his several years of EVM development experience. One element of the Neo platform that particularly impressed him was “its finality, just one block confirmation, no other blockchain offers that.”