As more Indonesian tech startups are born, and older companies make the leap to digital, the country’s demand for skilled software engineers continues to grow. Hiring the right talent, however, isn’t always easy. Even IT graduates may lack practical programming skills and experience. At the same time, resume screening processes sometimes overlook great talent from non-IT backgrounds.
Local startup Algobash offers a SaaS with a remote testing platform to help employers quickly find competent coders from applicants. Candidates applying for developer jobs solve coding problems remotely on the platform. Answers are automatically checked and scored, reducing the time needed to evaluate each applicant manually and making the hiring process more efficient, fairer and more inclusive.
Founded late last year by former IT consultants Elfino Sitompul and Melinda Wardiman, Algobash was inspired by HackerRank, a platform providing technical pre-employment screening for prospective software developers in the US.
“We noticed that the recruitment process in Indonesia is often biased. For example, [potential employers] would [only] check which universities and courses the applicants are coming from,” Wardiman told CompassList in an interview. Sitompul added: “We want to send the message that anyone who has the ability, regardless of their physical condition, educational background or experience, can apply.”
The young startup has made a promising start. Although it began marketing its services only in April, it has attracted a talent pool of 2,000 users. More than 40 companies, including startups like agritech player eFishery and edtech platform Gredu, have subscribed to Algobash and used it to search for prospective hires.
The company, which is still bootstrapped, has already broken even, with enough leeway to invest its revenue for growth. “We maintain a lean and agile approach, so we rarely develop anything that we can’t sell immediately,” Sitompul said.
Agile model of hiring
Besides providing a quick, practical test, Algobash’s remote testing system helps companies efficiently screen many applicants from different regions. “In Indonesia, companies often have to screen a lot of applicants at once, so they face a scaling problem. Employers in [smaller countries like] Singapore, in comparison, often have the room to interview and test candidates one by one,” Sitompul said
The platform also helps aspiring coders. Applicants who do not pass the test can join competitions and take coding courses on the platform to improve their skills. Algobash attracts up to 200 participants to its weekly online coding competitions, which offer small cash prizes.
Algobash also offers a video-based interview service that helps companies automate first-round job interviews HR departments can pre-record common questions, such as what attracted them to apply for the job. Applicants’ responses would be recorded via webcam for the prospective employer to view later. Wardiman said this feature was inspired by digital job interview providers like HireVue and Jobma and it has been well-received. The company says that other coding test providers do not offer this feature.
“Startups don’t just recruit programmers, so we want to develop an agile product that can be used not just for IT recruiting,” Wardiman said.
Competitions, sponsorship deals
To grow its fledgling business, Algobash needs to attract a sizeable talent pool to use its platform and also expand the number of companies hiring from this pool. The company intends to hold an annual large-scale coding competition to attract skilled coders and bring prospective employers on board as event sponsors. It plans to organize the first coding competition this month.
“We offer sponsorship deals at low prices to attract employers. By attracting many sponsors, we can build up a large prize pool. This large prize pool will attract talent. This way, sponsors get access to the pool of talent joining the competition and get a taste of our platform’s features. Hopefully, they become paying users that way,” Sitompul said.
Algobash’s competition will include a special prize for female coders to boost gender diversity in the coding industry. “Among Indonesia’s software engineers, only 22% are women. We want our platform to beat that ratio,” Sitompul said.
In April this year, Algobash organized a women-only competition called Kartini Koding Challenge. It featured a math quiz for high school participants and an open category coding challenge. Wardiman said such initiatives are important because they give women more opportunities to test and showcase their skills and help them gain confidence to enter the industry. “In our annual competitions, we plan always to include a women’s category and award,” she said.
Growing the business and community
At present, Algobash earns all its revenue from corporate clients that subscribe to coding test and video interview services. At a fee of IDR 50,000 per candidate screened and a minimum subscriber commitment of IDR 900,000, Algobash’s services are cheaper than its US competitors’, which cost 2–3 times more. For companies not looking to hire software developers, Algobash offers a more affordable package without the coding tests, with access only to the video interview platform and some basic screening functions, such as multiple-choice questions for candidates.
According to Wardiman, Algobash aims to grow its pool of coding talent to over 30,000 users and increase the number of companies subscribing to its service by five times, to 200 by the third quarter of 2022. It also hopes to gradually extend its remote tests to cover skills besides coding, such as finance or Excel skills.
Sitompul said Algobash remains focused on the B2B segment now but is taking its first steps into B2C this November, with the launch of a new computer programming course for beginners, with fees starting at IDR 150,000. It intends to ramp up B2C user acquisition through programming courses in the future when it receives external funding.
While the company is looking for investors, Sitompul said that it is not in a hurry and wants to hold out for a good fit. In particular, it is keen to work with investors who share its vision of empowering and equipping the broader community of coders locally.
“We realize that without external funding, our growth will be slower,” he said. “But right now, our mindset is that if there are more software engineers in Indonesia, our growth will be better, so we want to focus on developing our community. We want to focus on approaching impact-based investors because we want to work with investors who care about nurturing more coders.”