HackerRank, a new social platform for coders, is launching at TechCrunch Disrupt today. The Y Combinator-backed company, which was founded by the same team as job site InterviewStreet, wants to create a community of hackers based around puzzles, game bots and real-world challenges. HackerRank, as the name implies, will also offer leaderboards and other competitive elements.
As the company’s co-founder Vivek Ravisankar told me last week, the original idea of the site was to provide prospective employers leads for hiring coders and charge fees for every successful referral. Over time, however, this model shifted and at this point, the idea is to get established companies to sponsor challenges and maybe even have the community work out real-world problems the company currently faces. If the company then decides to hire some of the best coders, that’s a bonus.
There will also be more puzzle-like problems on the site that the company plans to source from leading figures in the various programming language communities, but as Ravisankar told me, the team believes that coders are mostly interested in solving real-world problems. Currently, for example, Quora is featuring a machine-learning problem on the site. The winner will get to spent time with Quora CEO and co-founder Adam D’Angelo.
For the HackerRank team, this new venture is a natural evolution of its InterviewStreet product. InterviewStreet, after all, organized CodeSprint, a very successful coding challenge in Silicon Valley earlier this year. The companies that participated in this event were looking to hire, and included the likes of Facebook, Skype, Airbnb, Box and Amazon.
One interesting aspect of the site is its ranking system. Problems aren’t categorized by level when they are posted. Instead, the ranking is always relative and levels from 1-10 are assigned to problems after that fact and based on how many people managed to solve the problem. Some challenges, Ravisankar noted, won’t really have a solution and are more about making existing algorithms more efficient.
Ravisankar also told me that the site is mostly meant to attract coders who are already well-versed in their respective languages and won’t target learners. The solutions to the challenges will be posted online, however, and HackerRank hopes that this will help coders learn new techniques.
To market its product, HackerRank has just launched a series of challenges for college students and also plans to host an inter-collegiate hackathon later this month.
Through its previous incarnation as InterviewStreet, HackerRank raised a $3 million Series A round led by Khosla Ventures in 2011 and the company obviously also received funding through its participation in the Y Combinator program.Disrupt Q&A:
Q: What is the business model?
A: If we can get engaged users and a company puts up a challenge, then we can charge for this as the companies want these problems solved.
Q: I buy the premise that people like to compete, but how do you intend to build a business here? Recruiting? Accreditation?
A: We want to connect hackers and real-world problems. Before focusing too much on the business model, we want to attract a large number of engaged hackers.