The end of the road

After 4 years the time has come to shutdown Codehire.com.

Codehire.com started as a jobs board built by my old agency, Codefire. The goal was to provide a dedicated tech jobs board in Australia.

In 2013, having had enough of running an agency, I teamed up with Nathan Hockley to give Codehire a go full-time. The goal was to change the way companies find and hire coders. In its first year we staged the Codehire Cup, an Australia wide programming competition aimed at showcasing Australia’s best coders.

The event was quite successful in that we raised some good sponsorship (most notably a $20k main sponsorship from Bigc0mmerce) and had some great press. But quite quickly we noticed a disconnect between expectations of the contestants and of the sponsors.

Most of the sponsors were interested in hiring great talent. And what better way for these companies to meet great coders than with them all in the same place? Seemed like a great idea…until it wasn’t.

The flaw in our plan was that most of the contestants were already gainfully employed and not competing to find a new job. At the final, when contestants were approached by some of the sponsor companies it wasn’t always well received.

So, after the Cup, Nathan and I decided to focus on the jobs board elements of Codehire but began to investigate some ideas around vetting or testing of coder applicants.

Testing coders was a fairly new concept but a couple of other companies were already on the scene (Hacker Rank and Codility). After a few iterations and having read about the trouble Hacker Rank had had with this concept we abandoned the idea.

It was at around this time that Nathan migrated to Canada to be with his long term partner. Of course, I fully supported him in his decision but we both knew that this would make continuing to work together difficult.

So, Codehire stayed as a jobs board. Employers could buy job ads but few did and we didn’t promote it very heavily. Instead, most of our jobs came from aggregating listings from other boards and most of our traffic from organic search or from our Twitter feed.

I moved on to other pursuits that took me to New York and back again and am now VP of Technology at Sydney based startup, Expert360.

While Codehire has continued to exist albeit not very lucratively, it now requires quite a lot of work to keep it going and the time has come to shut it down.

Lessons learned

Although not my first rodeo, I learned some valuable lessons from Codehire.

Firstly, trying different ideas while you’re trying to find the right “market-fit” is totally fine but do them quickly and move on swiftly if they fail. With Codehire we had trouble making decisions about what direction to take and didn’t have clear objectives when trying a new product idea. Furthermore, we took too long to execute on these ideas which made gauging their efficacy really hard.

Secondly, running a startup part-time while you earn money from a full-time role seems like a good idea because it seems less risky but actually it can be really limiting. There was very little pressure for Nathan and I to make things work with Codehire — unlike many startups where your remaining cash forces you to move quickly. We were both gainfully employed and the incentive to keep things moving on the Codehire front was really very low.

Flirting with startup ideas, building prototypes and so on can work out of hours but you have to be really motivated. If you find an idea that resonates with customers then commit and go full-time.

Finally, the tech world is an ever changing beast and what might have been true 4 years ago probably isn’t now. Developers seem to be finding roles less and less via jobs boards (at least traditional ones). Companies like Hired.com are dominating because they broke these moulds. I just don’t think a traditional style jobs board for tech makes sense anymore.

Developer testing is another area that I think is continuing to change. In a hot market its a lot to ask a developer to do long and involved take home tests, especially in small, lesser known companies who compete with Google and Facebook. Developers will often decline a role if it requires a take home test. Personally, I find pairing with a developer during the interview process not only more valuable but also more palatable to the candidate.

So thats it for the Codehire story for now. Some of its legacy will live on through the Youtube channel, Debugging Diversity and of course the Runtime Blog.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on our story.