For Sachin Gupta, Co-founder and CEO of HackerEarth, quitting a cushy job at Google to build a business from scratch was not easy. For Gupta, who always dreamed of being an entrepreneur, it was important to find a problem that one could relate to and also enjoy building the solution.
The motivation for him to start HackerEarth dates back to his college days. “We were sitting in our campus placements and one of our friends, who was among the best students in the class was not hired by any of the top companies. This came as a shock to us, because he was definitely one of the best programmers in our batch and the kind of person any top company would jump to hire. We realised that the problem was not with this candidate but in the evaluation process of the hiring companies,” Gupta said.
There is a lack of objectivity in the hiring process, and work experience continues to be a proxy for skills because of which many good candidates do not end up getting hired. This incident led Gupta to build HackerEarth years later — the startup aims to democratise the process of technical hiring.
The Bangalore-based product company provides technical recruitment solutions for talent sourcing and skill assessment. It allows recruiters to identify and hire right candidates from its community of developers.
Slashing hiring time
Typically, companies spend up to two months in hiring programmers for a single position. They review at least 40 resumes and conduct up to five rounds of interview per candidate to find one suitable hire. But the result is not necessarily desirable as many developers/coders are not great at presenting themselves during job interviews despite being talented.
To solve this problem, HackerEarth uses AWS to develop a Software-as-a-Service platform that enables organisations to log on at any time to find out the type of candidates that match their profiles and expectations. HackerEarth’s skill-based cloud application matches developers’ skills against job opportunities or projects and cuts downtime for companies.
“We chose technical recruitment as a problem to focus on and our aim was to find a suitable solution for both employers and job seekers. We were just a couple of curious kids back in college, trying to solve a problem that we thought existed. From there building a team of over 25 people, to serving some of the biggest names in the tech industry, it has been a phenomenal journey,” he added.
How does HackerEarth work?
A developer has to create a profile on HackerEarth. He then gets to participate in challenges and receive offers from tech companies. Every developer on HackerEarth’s community is ranked and scored by its ranking system. The ranking system uses the following two tools to identify a developer’s skill-sets:
Online programming challenges — Programmers from around the world participate in online programming challenges. They compete against each other and get ranked based on their coding abilities.
Developer profile — HackerEarth uses its proprietary algorithm and data science to assess a programmer’s skill set by analysing their publicly available coding data from sources such as Github and Stack Overflow. Combined with a candidate’s past work experience and education history, it provides a measure of candidate’s proficiency to the recruiter. “There are about 30 different data points that we analyse for a particular person. Initially, this posed a great challenge to us because we needed to store significant data and draw analysis on top of it. Amazon Redshift solves this problem for us by providing an efficient data warehouse,” Gupta added.
Apart from the assessment tool, HackerEarth Recruit, it has also launched two new products. One is a cloud-based Hackathon management tool, HackerEarth Sprint, which is designed for conducting hackathons with minimum effort and time. It allows participants to create teams, provides an online collaborative environment, allows them to showcase their products/submissions, enables the admins to track progress of the teams, and has a feature to facilitate peer review, along with getting votes from the general public.
It provides an interface to the judges to evaluate submissions and see the demo online, and finally creates a leaderboard for all the submissions that gets updated in real-time and can be seen by anyone.
In India, most of the engineering colleges use HackerEarth in their programming club. It also has a campus ambassador programme, where students get to organise not only programming contests, but also interact with software developers and product managers of top companies. It currently has over 250 campus ambassadors in India.
“With regard to companies, we have serviced over 100 clients with our sourcing solution and over 1000 clients with our assessment,” Gupta explained. The startup has so far raised US$120,000 in pre-seed round from GSF accelerator and US$500,000 in seed round from Angelprime.
The startup’s assessment products are sold on a pay-as-you-go model. “One of our biggest strengths is our vibrant community of programmers and developers who are looking for jobs. We make money through a recruiting fee by sourcing the correct candidate based on their skills for technology companies,” he said.
It will be launching a video interview tool by the end of this year as well.
There are a few players operating in this space to facilitate the hiring of quality programmers. Y Combinator-backed Interviewstreet, now called as HackerRank, is a platform that is used by programmers to hone their skills and by companies to recruit great tech talent.
Challenges faced in India
Gupta feels that recruiting and retaining top talent is a crucial challenge. It is also difficult to raise funds and scale business in India.
“As HackerEarth’s community grew, we started facing a challenge. We were generating a lot of data from each of our user, but because of the limited capabilities of a traditional relational database, we were not able to draw any analytics out of it. For this, we used Amazon Redshift because it levels the playing field for a startup like ours to be able to use a data warehouse,” he said.
He pointed out the difference between India and Silicon Valley as an environment for developers. According to him, India is a very job-oriented market, and most developers in India learn programming in lieu of getting a job. This is not to say that finding a job is not a major motivation in the Valley too. But because of the support system in the US, developers have a lot more freedom to experiment and work on their own ideas.
The startup is looking to expand its solutions to North America and Southeast Asia in the near future. “We have already started making inroads into these geographies. Southeast Asia is a thriving developer community and the focus in the coming months will be to increase the developer count from these geographies,” he added.