Alumni Spotlight: CodersClan

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As part of a new series aimed at highlighting our alumni, we are kicking off the new UpWest Labs Alumni Spotlight with our feature of CodersClan. CodersClan participated in batch #6 of UpWest Labs, and found themselves sitting comfortably with their new Trello integration in the #1 spot on Product Hunt today. We sat down with Dror Cohen, CEO and co-founder, to get the inside scoop. Check them out and join the conversation!

What is the most challenging part of running a company, specifically CodersClan?

I think it’s really easy to lose focus, especially in the beginning. But that’s something that remains a challenge even two years after we started. When you don’t work on the most important thing, you just burn money with very low yield, so you always must ensure that you are working on the most important thing, and you have to check yourself very relentlessly.

Seems like a lot of pressure to have to always make the right decisions about where to dedicate your focus. What happens six months from now if you discover that you made a series of wrong decisions about where to focus?

Well we’d be very bummed, but one thing that always helps us focus is trying to answer a specific question. We don’t build stuff just because one of us thinks this is something we ought to build; everything we build is intended to answer a question. So, if six months from now we discover we built something that was a mistake, but it has answered one big question we had, we knew it was not in vain because it moved us in the right direction. It’s not binary; obviously we check ourselves daily, not once every six months. The most important thing, and something we have become more disciplined at over time, is to refrain from trying to answer too many questions at one time.

What is the main question that CodersClan is focusing on right now?

First of all: Is there a significant need for a product like ours that allows the customer segment of project managers, teams leaders, and other core leaders within a company to outsource code tasks in a seamless manner and in a way that is most natural to how they work? When we first built CodersClan, we thought that most of the customers would be software developers like ourselves, but then we realized that developers are of course not interested in paying money for someone else to write their code. We’re not the regular developers that like to work in companies, and we realized we needed to be very precise about our target customer to ensure that our hypothesis about what the customer needs is right, and only then can we feel confident that we are building the right product. So the first thing we did was start out with messaging; a clear and concrete message. Then, once we had some initial validation, we started with a very basic product just to materialize the concept in the most basic way, which means a lot of manual job and not providing the most polished experience. But close enough to the concept. Then, we slowly built the product. If we take our new product Board, for example, we started with the most basic messaging of outsourcing code tasks directly from Trello, Jira, Asana and we put a very vague image which is completely different from what the product first looked like. The product itself now looks different from the initial message, but we found that it was effective in communicating our intent to the customer.

What information did you need in the first place to determine that the new product you’re offering, Board, is the next obvious iteration that adds more utility to developers than they were receiving before?

We recognized that one of the biggest obstacles in outsourcing code tasks is the stage in which the user needs to think critically about how to clearly convey their task to developers on the other side of the world.  The form on our website is a notable improvement to the process but it’s still so difficult. When we started seeing Trello and Asana links posted as tasks on CodersClan, we realized that our clients really love project management tools. When they work within their teams, they can very easily create tasks. They like to manage and track their progress. So we figured that if we could enable them to use the same workflow that they use internally without having to learn an entirely new platform, that could be something very interesting that would help us address the friction point of getting tasks completed outside of their core team.

So you have users that were just posting tasks directly from their Trello boards into CodersClan?

Exactly, this idea came from customers saying they work primarily with project management tools and, we thought it would be great if we built something that would allow them to take advantage of a workflow they are familiar with.

Were you able to reach out directly to some of theseusers that originally posted a link to their Trello boards? How did they respond?

Yes, we reached out to the users that gave us the initial feedback, and most of them have downloaded it and so far we’ve been getting a very positive response. The best thing about our new Trello integration is that the idea came from our users. CodersClan isn’t a company–it’s a community. We wouldn’t have a company without our community.

What’s the next iteration in the pipeline? What are the next questions you’re trying to answer as you’re launching Board?

The main question is whether we can deliver the actual service – a group of 3rd party or freelance coders who actually build and write software. We must be confident, as we grow and scale, that we’re still able to provide a consistent and high level of service as the demand grows.

What are the restricting factors that need to be addressed to ensure that quality remains consistent? What are the things that are difficult to scale?

What’s nice about CodersClan is that the community is a very powerful tool. You can drive your community to do and participate in great things. We’re considering building layers of meritocracy and incentivization. Similar to Stack Overflow, Coders that can be promoted to become moderators to go over tasks, ensure they’re well written, give feedback to customers, and even provide quality assurance to solutions. These contributions will ultimately lead to improved reputation or reduced fees (or both).

It sounds like you’re taking some of the best practices that have been successful for StackOverflow, or Fiverr in the context of meritocracy–basically, people who do good work will be validated by the community and earn more opportunity, which is an incentive for everyone to do good work.

How do I know that the work that’s been generated for me is actually considered good work, so that I don’t have to come back and ask for corrections? How are you able to ensure that the customer is getting what they expect, especially if they don’t know coding and don’t know what to expect.

As coders, we know how important it is to get something that works. We also know how easy it is to get someone who isn’t so good to build something for you. This is actually one of the core reasons that we created CodersClan.  We’ve built a highly-curated layer of dedicated coders–an elite subset of our community that has been accepted to join teams of coders that have solved several tasks on CodersClan with a very high satisfaction rate and great reviews, in addition to coders who have proven themselves on other platforms. Coders who wish to join these teams have to connect their StackOverflow account so that we can retrieve useful data such as how many points they have accumulated and the type of questions they’ve solved. For example, we’ve identified coders who’ve solved hundreds of javascript questions on stackoverflow, we can say with greater confidence that these are very good coders. We can therefore provide them access to dedicated tasks and ensure that the customer gets a fast and top-quality service.

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