Koder DApp Aims To Fix The Bugs In Coding Team Recruitment

Innovation | September 6, 2018 By:

Koder, a startup that allows anyone to hire highly-skilled freelance coders and reward them with a bounty, has released its free mobile DApp.

Here’s how it works: a customer downloads the app and creates a task by defining specs and programming skills. Koder’s algorithm then invites its network of thousands of coders to perform the requested work. They will be paid a bounty reward when the task is completed. Koder takes a small percentage of the bounty as a fee.

Elmer Morales, founder and CEO of Koder, immigrated with his family to the US from Guatemala at age 5 and settled in Los Angeles’ South-Central neighborhood. He taught himself software development, which led him to leadership roles in software engineering at Microsoft, American Express and Accenture. At those, he saw coders sometimes billed out at $600 per hour, even if they were just attending meetings or reading a specification. Morales also noticed that one or two coders typically did most of the work on behalf of a much larger team and knew there was a better way.

“The hourly billing model in software development is broken. It means low-performing coders get paid regardless of what they complete and that’s just plain robbery,” Morales said. “For top performers, we sometimes solve problems in the shower ,and that’s not billable time. The bounty model we introduced rewards coders for their problem-solving skills and speed.”

Bounties have been historically offered by large companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook as an incentive to encourage highly-skilled coders to fix security bugs and find vulnerabilities in their software. Koder has worked with BMW, Uber, and dozens of startups.

Elmer Morales talked with Block Tribune about the project.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: Your app requires someone to put out a firm number. What happens if the estimate is way off?  Can they re-bid?

ELMER MORALES: Customers can increase the bounty’s reward amount if no coders are interested. When the customer is drafting the bounty specs, our app provides a suggested range that is based on the type of code being developed and specs of the bounty to give customers some guidance.

During our private beta, we found that there are some entrepreneurs that don’t have much experience so they come with unrealistic expectations. We’ve gotten bounty requests to clone Airbnb and Uber’s tech stack in just a few weeks. This is obviously ridiculous as these companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars and several years building out their platforms. To prevent this, we have a decentralized review process in place that ensures every bounty meets certain guidelines and provides a fair opportunity for coders.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: Similarly, what if the coder discovers there’s way more work involved. Is there any recourse?

ELMER MORALES: The specs of a task are available to coders upfront before they accept the invitation so they usually have a good idea on what it’s going to take to finish the task. If they misinterpreted the specs and find that they can no longer complete it in a timely fashion, there is a way out and our algorithm will invite other coders to the task.

We don’t allow customers to add new specs in the middle of a bounty as this would introduce a moving target for coders. Customers are able to provide clarification or request small cosmetic changes but anything new will have to be addressed with a new bounty, just like in SCRUM and other software development methodologies.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: You taught yourself coding. Any resources you recommend to those looking to follow a similar path?

ELMER MORALES: I’m happy to see there are a plethora of options these days that offer different styles of learning.  For me personally, I find that programming books or video training courses are best because I am able to go as fast as I’d like or go at a steady pace if it is a topic I don’t quite understand.

I’ve seen some good content on YouTube but the paid courses offered by Pluralsight and Udemy tend to be better structured and worth the investment. I would definitely stay away from coding bootcamps though as they tend to cram numerous technologies in a very short period just to check off a list.

Regardless of what method you choose, it’s always good to challenge yourself while you’re learning and work on real projects as this is where you’ll gain the most skills. Whether it’s building a free website for a family friend or just attempting to re-create your favorite app, I’d practice what I’m learning to fast-track the process.

Of course, once you learn the basics, download the Koder app and attempt some coding challenges to see how you stack up.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: What did you do to generate millions in revenue while in private beta?  What improvements did you make in the final iteration of the app?

ELMER MORALES: During the private beta, in exchange for putting up with buggy software and helping us build the right platform, we offered customers a deal that was significantly better than the options available to them – outcome-based pricing instead of hourly billing and highly-skilled coders backed by our own. This meant they were guaranteed results for every dollar they spent and the coders were backed by our own coders, meaning members from our team such as our CTO or I would personally step in and roll-up our sleeves if a coder failed to deliver. This made it a no-brainer for them.

In this public beta release, we continue to offer outcome-based pricing and even more highly-skilled coders. We enhanced the product by adding support for commits, bug tracking, we improved the algorithm that identifies the best coders and we automated the vetting process using a new proprietary coding challenge engine.  Some of these things were done manually before and are now built-in, making Koder a true software development platform.

BLOCK TRIBUNE:  How t do you do to measure the effectiveness of the coders on your app?

ELMER MORALES: Coders have to pass a series of code challenges for the programming skills they’re familiar with, they can’t just say they know Solidity or JavaScript like they would on a paper resume or on LinkedIn. They also need to reach a certain level within that skill to be invited to bounties.

Our app uses a proprietary algorithm known as ‘Koder Rank’ which measures a coder’s performance and ability to deliver over time. It looks at dozens of data points such as the number of commits they make, how fast they’re committing code from the time they start a bounty, the number of bugs filed on their code and various other metrics. This ensures we’re always prioritizing the best coders for the task, not simply relying on who’s available and “on the bench” like a consultancy would, or relying on who bids the lowest price like existing freelancer marketplaces.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: Are there any other applications you envision using this software for beyond finding coders?

ELMER MORALES: The opportunity within software development is massive and some of the top consultancies are doing tens of billions of dollars in revenue a year. Unlike the majority of freelance marketplaces that offer writing, design, financial experts, admin and other white-collar services, we are the only one focused exclusively on software development. This gives us an advantage to build the best tools for coders, the best vetting process, and ultimately the best new way to get software done.

With that said, we designed our platform from the ground-up to be flexible and potentially support other industries in the future so licensing our technology is something that we may entertain down the road.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: Is this app mostly targeting large businesses with big budgets? Or can a small business also make use of it?

ELMER MORALES: Quite the contrary. While large businesses use Koder to replace consultancies or expensive contractors, Koder was designed to support small tasks posted by entrepreneurs and startups. There is no minimum spend or subscription required to use the Koder platform. It is truly a la carte and on-demand. During our private beta, we served a lot of startups who didn’t necessarily need or have the budget to hire a full-time CTO or coder. Many of them use Koder as their software engineering department to build their minimum viable products (MVP) or prototypes.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: Is there a testing period for work produced by the coders hired in order to determine that their work has been done correctly?

ELMER MORALES: In fact, the Koder platform handles the entire software development lifecycle. When coders are done, they are able to make commits and include screenshots, screencast videos, etc. to show customers the completed work. Customers are able to test and verify, our app gives them an opportunity to indicate which specs have passed and which specs have issues. Any issues or discrepancies are treated as bugs and are assigned to the coder. They are given the opportunity to fix any bugs and restart the review process again until all specs have been met.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: How much of the workload is handled by your India branch office?

ELMER MORALES: Our India team is pretty small (7 people) and consists of coders primarily working on different parts of the Koder Platform and quality assurance.  We don’t offload any of the bounties to our India office, they are routed by an algorithm to the coders on our network.