A free platform for budding software engineers to learn programming in a fun and engaging manner, and a service for recruiters to judge the performance of prospective coders for their companies, HackerRank, was started by Vivek Ravishankar and Harishankaran Karunanidhi in 2009. In the summer of 2011, they created history when HackerRank became the first Indian company to join YCombinator, a top-rated (by Forbes) business accelerator based in the US. Subsequently HackerRank went on to raise $12.4 million (over `70 crore) in two rounds of funding from investors like Khosla Ventures and Battery Ventures.
The startup helps software engineers learn programming by developing bots, solving algorithmic challenges, deploying functional program abstractions, and using machine learning for predictive modelling. HackerRank’s online community is currently more than 50,000 strong. The enterprise version is used by more than 1,000 companies, including Adobe, Amazon, Citrix, EA Sports, Evernote, Quora, Facebook, Twitter, Walmart, Yahoo! and Zynga for recruitments.
Recruiters post programming challenges to this community of ‘hackers’ (slang for people who enjoy computer software problems), which significantly reduces the time wasted in interviewing unqualified candidates. The CodePair tool allows the technical interviewer to compile code in 16 programming languages, and assess the candidate’s approach to coding and problem solving in real time. Companies purchase the service on a subscription model, with prices starting from $199 (`12,000 approx) per user per month.
Vivek and Hari met at NIT, Tiruchy, where they both graduated with a BTech in Computer Science and Engineering in 2008. Before starting HackerRank in 2009, Vivek was with the Kindle team of Amazon in Chennai, and Hari worked with IBM. HackerRank started off as a platform for mock interviews, connecting students with professionals to help them prepare for professional interactions. They quickly pivoted to a model of helping, students prepare for their Masters by connecting them with others who were already studying at select schools. After this model also failed to gain market traction, they finally built a product that screens programmers using coding challenges, which was a much needed service for most companies, and thus went on to become a success.
This idea expanded into an even larger opportunity of building a community of programmers in different domains of computer science, some of which participate on HackerRank for fun and some for employment opportunities.
“We wanted to effect a positive change in the global tech community by connecting the best programmers with the most innovative companies,” explains Vivek. “Our users are a diverse group with varying skill levels, nationalities, academic credentials and employment backgrounds, and our target market includes anyone who is interested to improve their competitive programming ability. The majority of our users are from the US or India.”
HackerRank recently conducted the finale of its Hackathon, CodeSprint India 2014, where more than 15,000 coders, both students and professionals from different parts of India participated. In this competition, hackers were presented with interesting challenges to solve, and companies use the opportunity to find skilled coders. “With 8,416 participant teams, profiles of the top 500 teams from the contest have been shared with sponsor corporates like Plantir, Quora and RocketFuel. Information regarding placement of candidates will be available by the end of the month,” says Hari.
When asked about how women fared in coding, he says there were only four girls among the top 40 programmers. HackerRank has seen as many as 100 companies recruit from CodeSprint in 2011. “We adopt both B2B and B2C revenue models. Companies like Adobe, Quora and Flipkart use our platform for internal coding contests. There are CodeSprints just for interns, start-ups and even for IITs, just to see how well they can code.
To start ‘hacking’, check out www.hackerrank.com.